This John McCain wisecrack sums up Barack Obama’s problems as well as anything I’ve seen: “Taking in my opponent’s performances is a little like watching a big summer blockbuster and an hour in, realizing that all the best scenes were in the trailer you saw last fall.” Obama was able to tap into a lot sentiment in the country in favor of turning the page on the Bush administration, moving beyond red state versus blue state, and transcending race. His early opposition to the Iraq war was crucial in the Democratic primaries. But once he drew people in, Obama didn’t have a second act. There wasn’t any there there, and what substance there was undercut key parts of his narrative (that he had moved beyond race and the old left-right divide). Jeremiah Wright was devastating. “Bittergate” was devastating. The trip to Europe, I suspect, was on balance not very helpful. And pro-choice absolutism isn’t going to be very helpful either.
When you dig into some of this polling data, it seems that Obama’s liberalism is starting to moblize conservatives while either his feints to the center or inability to effectively hit back at McCain is starting to annoy the liberal Democratic base. That’s frankly not a very good place for the Democratic nominee to be. One also wonders to what extent independent voters are aware that Democrats control Congress and are consciously looking for divided government. That said, there are still several potential game-changers yet to happen in this race, neither candidate is at 50 percent, Obama had a lousy summer in 2007 as well, and there will come a time that McCain is subject to all the spending constraints of the public financing system while Obama is not.
To put things another way, as I’ve said before, if the Democrats can’t win this presidential election, they should really consider disbanding as a political party.
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