04 October 2008
Looking ahead to the last month of campaigning
Until the end of August the polls had Barack Obama on a steady path to the White House. Then John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential candidate and we spent three weeks watching as the Republican machine got into gear and Obama looked to be wrongfooted all the way. However, when the credit crisis hit just over a week ago things began to change again, and now Obama is sitting atop a rather nice five percent lead in the polls. Say what you like, but this election is anything but boringly predictable.
Can Obama keep ahead of McCain as they head into the final straight? That depends on two factors, neither of which are really in his hands. The first is public reaction to the $700 billion financial bailout which the House of Representatives finally passed yesterday. If it is enough to stabalise the situation until after the election, then we can expect that the social issues that dominated for most of last month will come to the fore once again. If that happens then McCain has the advantage because Obama doesn't have any wriggle room over such matters as abortion, since support for them are written into the manifesto.
The second factor concerns those Democrat supporters who just love going off-message and writing their own campaign scripts. It happened with the Sarah Palin baby lunacy, then it continued with the attempt to smear her with the "Sambo beat the bitch" silliness. The Republicans don't go in for counter-productive games like that. Their supporters wait for the line to come out and then everyone uses that theme to hit their opponents with. Seeing the GOP in action is a bit like watching the old Communist Party spread the word: everyone says the same thing because everyone has the same script. Looking ahead, all it would take would be for another over enthusiastic Democrat to come up with a cracked idea and the GOP will bounce back with its rebutal.
There is still everything to play for, so stick around for the final four weeks of the campaign.