Barack Obama headed toward the finish line of his two-year-long campaign for the presidency with a growing lead over John McCain in national polls and a commanding advantage in funds. Obama’s lead this week averaged more than seven points, with some polls reporting a double-digit spread. Support for McCain running mate Sarah Palin continued to erode, with 55 percent of respondents to the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll calling her unqualified. Obama raised a staggering $153 million in September. Flush with cash, Obama flooded swing states with campaign workers and TV ads, and took the fight to McCain in “red” states, including North Carolina and Virginia, where polls showed Obama leading.
Obama was further buoyed by the endorsement of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who called Obama “a transformational figure,” and said he was very troubled by McCain’s selection of Palin and by his campaign’s insinuation that Obama was connected to terrorists. Portraying himself as an underdog, McCain sought to rally working-class voters to his side by portraying Obama as an untested and untrustworthy “socialist” who “believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs and opportunities for all Americans.’’
What the editorials said
“We have known Obama since he entered politics a dozen years ago,” said the Chicago Tribune. “We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass, and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions.” This is the first time in the Tribune’s 161 years that we have endorsed a Democrat for president. But Obama is “ready,” and at this perilous moment in history, we need a man who seeks “consensus,” not partisan “savagery.”
As a POW and a veteran member of Congress, John McCain “has demonstrated the grit, energy, and determination that the present challenges demand,” said The Columbus Dispatch. With Congress becoming even more heavily Democratic, we need a president who is committed to cutting the swollen federal budget and reducing the runaway national debt. Having sacrificed so deeply himself, McCain has “unmatched moral authority” to “call on Americans to make sacrifices.’’
What the columnists said
Imagine a Republican who broke a promise to take public financing and “instead dealt the post-Watergate campaign financing system a blow from which it will never recover,” said Rich Lowry in National Review Online. Then the Republican raises $600 million and “out-advertises his opponent” by 4–1. Everyone would call it “obscene.” Yet when Obama does it, “everyone stands back in admiration.”
Republicans are experiencing “a disoriented fit of pique,” said Thomas F. Schaller in the Baltimore Sun. In its “disgusting robo-calls and television ads,” the McCain campaign is insisting that Obama is a dangerous man with terrorist friends and a mysterious past. On the stump, Palin is differentiating between “real America”—where people are patriotic and hardworking—and everywhere else. Guess what millions of “real” Americans are doing while all this sleaze pours forth? “Writing checks to Obama.”
A McCain comeback is not impossible, said Steve Kornacki in The New York Observer, but the electoral map makes it extremely unlikely. Polls show him trailing by nearly 10 points in Iowa, Virginia, Colorado, and New Mexico, all of which President Bush won in 2004. To win, McCain has to take at least three of these states, and keep Obama from winning a single “red” state where the Democrat is now running either ahead or slightly behind, including Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Missouri. Barring a major game-changer, McCain’s chances are dim.
First-time voters support Obama by a whopping 73–26 percent. Yet they are notoriously unreliable and, without them, Obama’s lead shrivels to a mere three points, according to the ABC News/Washington Post poll. But Obama hopes to buttress youthful enthusiasm by maintaining a constant presence on television while fielding an enormous get-out-the-vote operation. “McCain,” said Evan Tracey, who monitors campaign spending on television ads, “is in a shouting match with a man with a megaphone.”