Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pre-election post-mortem

Any doubt that Barack Obama will be the 44th president of the United States should now be erased. Behind in every poll, there is pretty much no way out of this for McCain barring Osama Bin Laden suddenly showing up in federal custody and a 5,000 point rise in the stock market over the next week. David Frum and David Brooks have seen the writing on the wall and essentially began waving the white flag today. Meanwhile Obama got 100,000 to turn out to support him in Denver.

Before the last of the ticker tape touches down at Obama HQ on election night I expect lots of analysis to be offered on where McCain fell short and how Obama proved triumphant. Sarah Palin will be discussed ad nauseum. More than anything, in the context of a likely overwhelming Democratic victory, will be the discussion of what it all means with the term "realignment" widely bandied about.

Such talk will be ridiculous. Four years ago the voters returned George W. Bush to office along with a Republican Congress in an election that saw the heaviest turnout since 1968. You don't go from that to being a country full of Democratic sycophants overnight. The country will simply be voting for a change, as Mark McKinnon points out:
There is a fundamental question we always ask in political polls. Is the country headed in the right direction or off on the wrong track? Whenever the wrong track number is over 50 it spells trouble for the incumbent party. The most recently recorded number is the worst in the history of polling. Only nine percent of respondents think the country is headed in the right direction. I know what you’re thinking. “Who are those nine percent?”

So, by this measure, John McCain should be polling at about nine percent. And yet, Schmidt and company ran a good enough campaign that McCain went into the Republican Convention tied. And came out of it ahead. The only real surprise in this race is that it was ever close.
Quite simply, McCain took on an opponent that ran a near-flawless campaign while fighting against the gale-force headwinds of a deeply unpopular president from his own party, profound economic uncertainty, and a deeply biased media. Meanwhile, success in Iraq has helped send national security, McCain's signature issue, near the bottom of top voter concerns. Hey, sometimes that's the way the cookie crumbles.

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