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The Pope of Hope is losing

Back from my holidays in Morocco and Spain (it was fun, thank you – we sorta followed the ‘Moorish Trail’), and lo and behold! Barack Obama no longer seems to be in the lead. As the electoral college polls over at the (pro-GOP) Realclearpolitics.com and (more neutral) Fivethirtyeight.com websites show, John McCain has closed the gap. Obama needs to get worried.

The reasons why Obama is losing? It ain’t rocket science:

  1. He has not been able to convince voters that he’s made of the right stuff.
  2. People doubt him.
  3. He’s black. (Well, sorta.) Which doesn’t help, not in the USA anyway.
  4. They’re Americans; they can’t handle the truth!

In short, the four reasons that have been toiling in the back of my head ever since Obama became the Democratic candidate-in-waiting.

It also proves another thing: The Media have blown Obama’s candidacy way out of proportion. While the M Crowd was busy salivating over a black presidential candidate, they completely seemed to miss out on the fact that, according to the polls, many voters didn’t share their blinding enthusiasm.

There were some political junkies in the national press corps who were largely able to keep their Obamania-levels low. Kudos to Ben Smith and Glenn Rush, both of Politico.com, Mark Halperin of Time’s The Page, and Jake Tapper, the main man of ABC’s Political Punch.

Okay, so what’s next? It’s going to be Obama week, all week. First, he announces his pick for the veep slot. Sure, he might have offered it to Hillary, like even Ralph Nader predicted – but what, Bubba, if she turned it down, with an eye on 2012….?

Questions, questions. Anyway, Obama will be announcing his pick, which is sure to lead to at least 48 hours of Obamanews. Watch for nasty attacks from right-wing quarters, in an effort to divert Obama’s limelight.

Then, after the veep announcement, the Democrats will hold their convention. Yet another 72 hours (or so) of across the board Obamanews. Watch for nasty… Oh well, you get the drill.

Will it result in a bounce for Obama? Nope. Yes, he’ll give a grandiose speech and The Media will remind you for several days how incredibly special it is to have the First Black Candidate for the presidency, and that it’s history being made, etcetera, and so on.

But because of reasons 1, 2, 3 and 4, the bounce – if there is one at all – will be minimal. If Obama doesn’t close the deal before the end of September, the Clinton Wolfpacks will smell blood. Obama’s shining light will fade, especially if McCain does manage a small bounce.

Because then The Media’s big story will be “John McCain, The Comeback Grandpa”. And that would constitute Reason 5.

  1. “He’s black. (Well, sorta.) Which doesn’t help, not in the USA anyway.”

    Ahem…well, I’ll just say this, man, and I’m being completely honest here – not excusing my own country and its past record, of which I am intimately aware.
    Fact is, though, I used to think of race relations in the US in a mostly negative light – until I spent four months living in your country. And then suddenly I remembered some of the downsides of my six years living in Italy. Liberal, enlightened Europe indeed.

    I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin.

    And if you think it’s just the media trumping the historic nature of Obama’s campaign, well, you haven’t been to the South in a while. Which you should. My invitation stands 🙂

    I would say that of the reasons you point to, numbers one or two are most relevant. People who weren’t going to vote for Obama on the grounds of race, weren’t going to vote for Hillary either. And the leads Obama was showing at the tail end of his primary showdown were never realistic. As you have pointed out before, this is going to be close. Always was. Democrats have this nasty habit of thinking their candidates deserve to win by acclamation, and it ain’t gonna happen. Like it or not, they will always have a hill to climb, and besides, landslides in presidential races are unlikely at any point in our near future. Dems better have the stomach for it, or the reason #5 you’re alluding to will indeed very quickly become the story.

    Morocco and Spain, nice. You lucky bastard, get to go on a real vacation 🙂 Got any pics?

  2. I’m sorry, Joel, but race is the foremost reason why Democratic strategists and activists fear that Obama might lose the election. In just about every story coming out of Denver that has anonymous high-up Democrats talking about Obama’s prospects, race comes up. It is a very real fear.

    The other side of the medal, though, that it’s all unfounded, nothing substantive. No American in his right mind is going to answer on a questionnaire, or on the phone, that he/she will not vote for Obama because of the colour of his skin.

    It is the Biggest Unknown, the most Blinding Blind Spot in this election, and it must be driving Team Obama crazy because there’s nothing they can do about it.

  3. Maybe, maybe not. The stories I’ve been reading give a host of other reasons. Yes, they acknowledge that Obama needs to prove he’s “one of them,” which speakers at the convention have been striving to emphasize. But it’s not just skin color, although undeniably, and blatantly, that is present.
    Face it, people know very, very little about Obama. Democrats didn’t even know who he was until summer 2004 – at which time he didn’t even hold national office.
    In that context, his race, religion, his being different can be exploited, yes – he’s a completely unknown quantity. But it’s not as dull as saying “he’s Black.” Remember, for a while Conny Rice was spoken of very highly as a candidate for the GOP – before the stench of the current administration disqualified anyone associated with the Bush years.
    It’s ideology – Obama’s not just Black, low-info, “undecided” voters (the stupidest people on the planet, remember) wonder if he’s also too radical, he may be Muslim, he may be too liberal, elitist, etc. Coded attacks based bluntly on his race may be effective in Southeast Tennessee or the North Georgia piedmont, but again, those are hardcore GOP votes anyhow. They wouldn’t vote for Clarence Thomas, either, but most Conservatives would. Obama’s definition problem runs far deeper than skin color.

    Also, you’re right in saying Americans would hesitate to give that answer. Which is another point I was making -your “in the US” addendum. I don’t think it’s fair. I’m pretty sure across most of Europe plenty of reasonable people would have no problem fessing up to race as a concern. That is, if there were nonwhite candidates up for major office there.

    Just my two cents, man. Looking forward to the ol’ man speaking tonight.

    cheers,

    J

  4. Wow, Obama +13 in NM. That’s awesome. We’re definitely seeing some sustained movement in the West. Which encourages me, since long-term I intend to make a home there.

  5. Don’t worry, you’re right; if a guy from Moroccan descent rose to the challenge to become prime minister of the Netherlands, there’d be a lot of racism here too.

    But when I say “the USA”, I’m referring to the history the US has with racial relationships and tensions.

  6. Okay, that certainly is fair. Coin has two sides, though. Black voters are excited and motivated, so the electoral map is as unpredictable as it’s been in my lifetime.
    Clinton’s speech was interesting last night. Wonder what Obama will have to say at Mile High?

  7. We already know that the man is good in doing speeches. There’s a chance that he will be able to introduce himself to a much bigger audience now that he’s the Democratic candidate.

    But still, and even with the speeches, he’s got a lot of ground to cover.

    On the other hand, it strikes me that the Repugs are resorting back to ‘old’ talking points: Obama is a liberal, a socialist, a commie, he’ll raise taxes, etc. etc. Perhaps they’re running out of talking points.

  8. Let’s hope. It was encouraging seeing the Dems actually willing to go on the attack, all the while maintaining an overall positive veneer. I found Kerry’s speech particularly poignant, considering he used language they would have scrubbed from his own speeches four years ago.
    But they got a fight on their hands for sure. McCain will not go down easy.

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