6 August 2008

In Depth: Neck and Neck in the Polls......... How?

For all his popularity, his 'celebrity' that the Republicans have been mocking of late, the obvious appeal of his message of change in a country that is sick and tired of it's incumbent government and the fact that approval ratings for the President and his VP are at an all time low, how is Obama not ahead in the polls?

It should be that Obama should have a comfortable lead coming up to the DNC with so much in his favour. Many people say that the election is Obama's to lose. So why do the polls show a tie? Given a closer look there are many reasons one could state for this but I'll restrict myself to four: 1) the economy 2) the message 3) the 'unknown' factor 4) race.

The economy is looking grim and having an impact on peoples daily lives. Although the McCain campaign's ad blaming Obama for the economic situation is as untrue as it is outrageous it does play on existing fears. The democrats left a stable economy, eliminated the deficit of the previous Republican administration and even created a surplus, all of which the current administration has reversed. US debt is in the trillions, oil is at over $4 a gallon and the housing market is on the verge of collapse - this should play into Democratic hands. But as Dick Morris on RealClearPolitics has stated, a bad economy may actually damage Obama's chances. Obama hasn't focused on economy in the way that Bill Clinton did when facing a similar challenge. Clinton's experience as the Governor and Chairman of the National Governors Association meant that he could wear the label of 'expert' and the public would buy it. Obama doesn't have similar experience to back up his economic credentials.

Lets face it the last time Obama tried to launch himself using an economic forum voters chose the other Clinton. People are worried about where this current economic crisis is going to lead. The public are unsure about his ideas on raising taxes and not convinced by his assurances that it won't affect them. In times of such instability people are nervous of going with the new guy.

The message was once an optimistic ideal from a youthful candidate that inspired; now people want details, how? When? Where? The message is still as potent as ever but what Obama needs to do is build on that with substance. People want to believe but they also want proof. It's almost ironic that in a country where religion is prominent, faith is not enough. Obama needs to keep his message on song and in line with his core principles. "Change" is bringing the punters in, Obama now needs to keep them.

Of late, however, Obama seems to be flip flopping around, contradicting himself and leaving voters puzzled as to where he stands on certain key issues. Obama needs to tighten up and get on point and prove he's more than just a message, that he has substance and can deliver where it counts.

Obama has the charisma and the image, now people want to know the man. We've read the books and heard the speeches and yet to most people he remains something of an enigma. Other candidates have been easier to pigeon hole and easier for the voters to identify with. McCain is a military man, his whole campaign is tied up with that identity: forged in battle really should be his campaign slogan. Bill Clinton was a good ol' southern boy with his easy charm and his saxophone. George W Bush was a regular Joe, the kind of man you'd have a beer with. But who is Obama? He can't be as easily placed as the rest. This makes voters unsure of him, if they can't define him they can't define his motives and his reactions. Obama is many things: a man whose rise rather than his role has defined him, son of a black father and a white mother, brought up in several different countries, the community man and the intellectual, the man who shoots hoops with his mates, the family man, Christian with a Muslim father, religious without a definite church. All of this actually makes him typical of an increasing number of people in America but it does leave them wondering where to put him.

And Race. We would love to think that this isn't a factor. That people would look at the man and his stance on the issues and judge accordingly. But, and I hate to write these words, that just isn't the case. In the last few weeks we've seen both campaigns flinging accusations over who brought race into it. But race was always a factor, until recently it was the elephant in the room, it was there but no one wanted to talk about it. The sad fact of the matter is that there are some people out there who won't vote for Obama because he's black.

That being said there are 89 days until the election, plenty of time for things to change, plenty of time for the Obama campaign to tighten up their message get on point and reassure those with doubts.

But then this is the nation that elected George W Bush........twice.

By Beth Connor

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

not surprising... too much of a good thing?