Thursday, August 21, 2008

All that glitters


The pattern is now getting pretty clear. Democrats nominate a liberal candidate who tries to obscure his tendencies and , for a while, he is successful as long as he is perceived as none of the above. Bill Clinton was a master of obscuring his liberal credentials and displaying a “third way.” Barrack Hussein Obama, who reads a mean teleprompter speech, lacks this finesse.

Voters in the Great American Middle, now the largest group, have been slow to warm up to Obama, despite the press hype and the unprecedented campaign war chest. His strongest support - among young voters - is eroding from loss of enthusiasm as he runs to the middle and reverses himself on many issues, showing to the idealistic that he is indeed what Rev. Wright, his ex-mentor, said, simply “a politician.” Obama ran best as an unknown commodity that could be a vague template for anyone upset about something that wanted “change.” The more familiar he becomes, the more restricted his audience is.

Polling data now show a sharp drop in Obama’s numbers in battleground states. “Likely voter” polls from some leading firms show McCain up in national polling. But more worrisome for Democrats is the pattern of consistent Obama slippage in virtual all battleground states. McCain now has small leads in states rated as leaning Obama by many groups just a month ago. Obama is having difficulty with white voters, male voters, rural voters, independents, and blue-collar voters. Moreover, the “enthusiasm” index is also shifting and the Republican base is getting motivated, as shown by fund-raising numbers, polling data on who says they are likely to vote, and antecdotal evidence from endorsementsof social conservatives and other third-party groups that hestitated to get on the McCain bus up until the last six weeks. The dilemma for Obama as he tries to recast himself (some of us believe that his entire campaign has been a PR stunt) is that his efforts at broader appeal run against the anti-liberal instincts of the voters he must reach. Every effort to appeal to them hurts his standing with his base. It also undermines his ridiculous claim that he is a “new kind of leader,” not another politician.

The dynamics of American politics have not changed enormously, despite the hype this year. The public is still self-identified conservative over self-identified liberal by two-to-one. Both groups are smaller than the middle however. The Democratic Party rules have tilted their process seriously toward activists and their organized special interest groups in the primaries and caucuses. This makes the traditional Leftward lunge to get the nomination a much more dramatic and obvious fact than it ever was in the past. It also makes coming back to the center far more difficult for a Democrat, especially one with a very liberal voting record, radicial associates outside the mainstream of American politics, and frequent gaffes that give us a glimpse “behind the curtain.”

The Democratic Convention will be a studied effort to obscure their policy positions and their Leftist nature. There will be the inevitable “bump,” but do not expect it to be significant or long-lasting. Even four or five to one TV media blitzes and the most biased media coverage in decades was not enough for Obama in Democratic primaries in big, battleground states. He did not “close the deal” with large parts of his party’s base and it is stretching it to think that he will be more successful with undecideds or moderate conservatives.

We are seeing real progress in Iraq and real new threats from old enemies in the world. Obama’s credibility gap as a potential Commander and Chief is growing with every crisis. If he slides too much to the Right, which ironically is now the virtual sole custodian of national defense and security issues, Obama’s idealistic new comer flock will start getting more disillusioned. Look for a Nader bump to go into the 4-6% range in many more urban areas, enough to affect the election results.

The main culprit in the economic slowdown is now widely and correctly viewed as energy prices. Obama’s unwillingness to embrace the “all of the above” approach is hurting him on the economy in a major way. Some polls now show McCain ahead among voters on the generic “economy” question. Whatever the dissatisfaction and worry over economic issues is with a segment of voters, few except the diehard liberals seem ready to believe that Obama’s “change” has much “hope” of solving anything. His anti-free trade pronouncements and protectionist rhetoric threaten the most vital part of the American economy right now, exports. Most people know where the new orders are coming from that they are working on at their jobs. Reducing those orders or creating obstacles for new ones is not going to be helping the average employee.

Lastly, the “Messiah” complex arising from Obama’s over-the-top rhetoric and gaffes, like the revised Obama Presidential seal, have made him the object of ridicule or at least humor to most. He does not handle this very well and seems often to display a political “glass jaw.” We have all known such shameless self-promoters in our own lives and Obama more and more seems to be a characterture of the vain and self-centered conman. A Pennsylvania voter was quoted this week as saying, “I don’t like his commercials — it’s like he thinks we’re stupid,” No surprise, since he really thinks that you are stupid. See San Franciso “bitter” remarks.

I predicted that Obama would implode in the final round of primaries and he lost 9 out of 14 states and all of the big ones. Many political experts concede privately that if the Rev. Wright tapes had come out two months earlier, he would not be the nominee. He will, however, be the nominee and the sense that he is overexposed and overhyped will keep growing as more people figure out who is really is and what he really wants to do.

The main innovations and contributions that Obama has made to politics is a modernization of the process of running for President and the more complete utilization of the tools now available to candidates. Besides writing a best seller about himself, his achievement list is short at best and this is likely be the only enduring contribution he makes to American politics.

The election looks more and more like the Dukasis debacle for the Democrats. This year they can only blame themselves.

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