October 10, 2008

Is it really over for McCain?

While watching the latest Obama-McCain debate I had the same feeling as FT journalist Gideon Rachman, that is to say that “McCain was a slightly odd mix of avuncular and aggressive. […] I thought he looked a little old.” I was a little bored, for instance, by his repeated “My friends” trope as well as by what I could only describe as a certain condescending attitude towards Obama, and what is worst, the voters.

But, apart from personal feelings, the fact is that John McCain’s campaign—even according to his supporters—is lurching badly. The polls say that Obama is ahead by significant margins. But is it really over for McCain? That is the question the Guardian asked nine prominent US commentators. And their answers are not that obvious, even though, as Elaine C. Kamarck of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University puts it, “we know historically that when people are concerned about their pocket books they turn to the Democratic party.” And though, in addition to this, according to Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution, if McCain were to win this election “it would truly be the biggest upset in American political history.” That is to say that you cannot “have an economic situation this bad, and not expect to throw out the in party.”

Yet, it is still doable for McCain. According to political columnist David Yepsen, for instance,

there are also two wild cards. One is race: how many people can’t vote for Obamabecause of his race. We know it’s out there, but people don’t like to talk about it and it’s difficult to measure. The other wild card is voters under 25, the millennials. There are huge registration numbers out there. The challenge will be to produce those young people. It’s one thing to sign them up. It’s another to turn them out.

A very interesting reading, indeed. Read also what Norman Geras has to say on the topic. He is very pessimistic about MacCain: “Yes, it's over for McCain. The reason is the economic crisis. There is no way McCain can evade the evident fact that this matured during Bush's presidency.”


  1. It's not over because America is at war. If they feel Obama can lead them then it's over. I don't think they're convinced. But if the mood is to get out of Iraq "quickly" then Obama has a shot. I'm not sure about this.

    I'll tell you what though - McCain should show more respect to Obama and avoid calling him "that one."

  2. WIll the war matter to voters? That is the question. I definitely agree with you.

  3. The colour of Obama's skin might be an addditional factor that doesn't show up now in polls - but could come out the day people are called to vote. I agree with Rob when he wonders if the war will matter. Americans' pockets and wallet might matter more. Though it is hard to say.

  4. Man of Roma we both remember when, in the days of the late Italian Christian democratic party (DC), according to the polls, the Cristian democrats, almost every time were to be disastrously defeated, but eventually the election results were puntually a little different!

    It seemed that many voters were ashamed of their vote because of the anti-DC attitude of the mainstream media ...

  5. many voters were ashamed of their vote because of the anti-DC attitude of the mainstream media

    Good example Rob. Same thing could happen now. How many Americans are ready to openly admit they wouldn't vote a candidate because of his skin colour? Not many, but once in the ballot box ...

  6. I think, unfortunately, the color of his skin will be a deciding factor for some. Polls are deceiving: it's easy to say you'll vote for someone and then switch.

    Are the people ready to accept yet another Republican government? Maybe Obama's "freshness" may be what the country needs - although I'm not convinced he represents change in practical terms.

    Who knows? One analyst claims he'll win 300 electoral votes. Wow.

    In a more philosophical light, in my view, Liberalism is not healthy enough yet to take charge. That this election is tight does not reflect well on the Democrats who should be technically rolling over the Republicans.

  7. I just want to add to the race thing that it works both ways: while many whites will not vote for a black man, many blacks will vote because he's black. Neither is a good scenario.

    But the economy will play a huge if not decisive role.