Feature

Why Obama isn’t trouncing McCain

If this is a Democratic year, why are polls so tight?

Theoretically, the presidential campaign should be Barack Obama’s to lose, said The New Republic Online in an editorial. Obama has “dominated the airwaves and front pages” for weeks, John McCain has made a string of blunders, and in painful economic times “voters invariably turn to Democrats.” So why do polls say the Republican McCain is still “in the game”?

Obama has lost his “laser-like focus on the economy,” said Jennifer Rubin in Commentary’s Contentions blog, and let the other side steer the debate toward story lines that hurt him, such as the success of the surge in Iraq and “the arrogance meme.” If Obama wants a bigger polling lead, he’ll have to steamroll the harmful stories with a “clear and believable economic message.”

That won’t be enough to shut out McCain, said Nate Silver in the Los Angeles Times. His reputation as a moderate will win over some independents and even Democrats, no matter what Obama does. That’s the price Obama pays for running in a Democratic year—his party’s liberal base got the candidate it wanted, but conservatives had to “compromise” by rejecting right-wingers for someone with broader appeal.

That might explain why, said Michael Barone in National Review Online, “the balance of enthusiasm has been in favor of Democrats and Obama” for most of the year. But recent polls suggest something is eroding enthusiasm for Obama—maybe the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s rantings, maybe Obama’s new views on Iraq. So Obama won’t benefit from a huge Democratic turnout after all.

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