Sunday, August 10, 2008

In Microcosm

induction (in' duk shun) n. the inference of a general law from particular instances.

For the eleventh straight day, Gallup informs us that the 2008 presidential race continues to be a statistical (if not, as it has often been, an actual) dead heat. For its part, the Rasmussen Report notifies us that the race breaks 45 percent for Barack Obama versus 43 percent for John McCain.

Rasmussen also does us the favor of pointing out that as of today, 87 percent of Republicans intend to vote for McCain, while Obama would garner the votes of 80 percent of Democrats. But the most interesting thing that we can gather from the Rasmussen data concerns each campaign's momentum.

For the first five weeks after clinching the nomination, Obama was at 46% support each week and at 49% with leaners. Over the last four weeks, his support has been down a couple of points in both measures.

The reverse was true for McCain. He was at 40% in the poll for the first five weeks after his opponent clinched the nomination (generally at 44% with leaners). Since then, the presumptive Republican nominee has done a bit better. His support grew to the highest level yet recorded for the week ending August 3. It will be interesting to see if McCain can maintain that level of support as the Democratic National Convention approaches.

The bottom line is that Obama's lead has declined from the 5-6 point range for the first five weeks and has fallen to the 1-3 point range for the past four weeks.

Clearly, something is afoot (and Hillary Clinton knows it.)

If I may make an unwieldy segue from the facts to the truth, the problem with Obama's stalled momentum may have something to do with an observation I made last week. While I blog for sport, I work a day job to pay the bills. In said day job, I had occasion to speak with a woman named Chris (with no quotes, as this is her real name - although I should ask if that's short for Christine.) In her day job, Chris is a chemo nurse, which definitionally makes her smarter than the average bear as she is responsible for mixing and administering toxic drugs to cancer patients without causing undue injury.

Chris is a single mom to two teenagers, and has leaned Democrat for most of her adult life. On the matter of Barack Obama however, her party allegiance wavers. With no prompting from the suave Republican sharing lunch with her, she commented that "Obama's lack of experience is a problem," looking forlornly into her plate of grilled vegetables as if to underscore the point. Her other comment was to the effect that "John McCain is a good man."

And therein lie Obama's problems. First, images of Himself before slobbering Berliners aside, Americans are only able to really perceive Obama from an oblique. If we try to look at him dead-on, he disappears (or more precisely, he sublimates into a vapor under the most exiguous scrutiny.) And what we are able to see - namely, his patent lack of any discernible qualification - does not commend him to the leadership of the free world.

Secondly, Democratic smears to the contrary, John McCain is indeed a manifestly "good man." His essential demeanor is such that he cannot be painted as a religious zealot, a power-mad warmonger or a mumbling booby. McCain is everything that he appears to be, and what we see pleases us. It makes us as secure in him as he is in himself.

Liberals know as much, and they exhaust themselves trying to make reference to McCain's age (never mind the fact that 100 years ago, William Howard Taft won his presidential contest against William Jennings Bryan at the ripe old age of 51 - when the life expectancy of a white male was 49.9 years) or his computer illiteracy (as if he needs to send text messages to his BFFs in Congress.) Right-thinking Democrats are doubtless embarrassed by these affronts, and by the fact that they have settled for what Garrison Keillor would otherwise describe as "a fifty-dollar [or more rightly, a $500 million dollar] haircut on a fifty-cent head."

All of which explains Chris' electoral diffidence. It also informs the disparity in support for each party's presumptive nominee. To be sure, more than a few Democrats are less than enthused by their candidate (see NObama Network, Chicagoans Against Obama, Tom in Paine and for evidence to that effect.) Whatever happens in Denver and beyond will likely hinge on the degree to which Democrats like Chris acknowledge or deny their "voter's remorse."

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