16 July 2008

Difficult Times for Barack Obama

I can't escape from the feeling that Barack Obama has had a difficult few weeks transitioning from primary to General Election mode.

His dive toward the centre ground has alienated some of his most passionate grass root supporters, many of whom see his vote to offer immunity to telecoms companies involved in warrant less wire tapping as a grave betrayal.

His shifting stance on NAFTA has alerted many in the main stream media and his wavering opposition to the 'surge' strategy in Iraq has raised the biggest question over his head - is he capable of being Commander in Chief.

A recent study has shown that, by a considerable margin, Americans feel John McCain is most ready to be Commander in Chief of the US military forces.

There have also been reports that the 'merging' of the Clinton campaign with Senator Obamas own operation has not been going as smoothly as had been hoped. Many of Clinton’s supporters, and more importantly, her donors have been resistant to opening their wallets and cheque books to Senator Obama.

What’s more, Obamas campaign and supporters have been cool to the prospect of helping to pay of some of Hillary Clintons campaign debts - some $20m. Reports have suggested that Obama and his supporters have raised little more than $100k towards the cause. Obama has not been helping the efforts by appearing indifferent to Senator Clintons pleas for help - at a joint event last week, Obama had to sheepishly return to the stage after forgetting to ask for fundraising help for Hillary Clinton.

Politico.com has this week reported that senior Capitol Hill Democrats are becoming frustrated with the Obama campaign and its inability to communicate effectively with them or find ground to work together in a constructive manner. Many congressmen and women have complained that Senator Obama has turned up in their districts with little or no warning - ruining the opportunity for vote winning photo shots.

Then there was that infamous New Yorker front cover portraying Barack Obama dressed in Muslim clothing and his wife, Michelle, in full terrorist gear. Yes, it's satire... but it still won't play well.

To add to all these difficulties, the money does not seem to be rolling in to Obamas now public finance-less coffers as had been anticipated. John McCain seems to be easily keeping pace with Obamas fundraising efforts meaning he will surprisingly be able to compete in key marginal seats.

After what amounted to a glorious coronation of Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee, with Hillary Clinton taking every opportunity to gush about his candidacy, the campaign setting up the prospect that Obama may be able to spend money in the region of $500m and McCain making a number of gaffes, the contest remains mystifyingly close.

In a year where nearly every historical marker points towards oblivion for the Republicans, the two candidates are separated by approximately 3 points. This is despite the historical nature of Obamas candidacy, his ability to control the media cycle at will and McCain leaping to occupy right wing Bush ground as fast as he can.

So only a matter of weeks in to the General election cycle, and it seems it won't be all plain sailing for Senator Obama. But bets to get the mistakes and the flip flops out the way early. Right?

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