Winning and Losing in 24 hours or Less
So pardon me for calling the election on September 2 but within the last day the first polls, showing Obama with 50%+, started showing up. I’ve long held that lots of America’s choose not to decide until after Labor Day. They can’t be bothered to, it’s just not in their blood like us partisan types. Every cycle just as the decidedly undecides starting tuning in to make their decision they use two events to judge the candidates – the convention acceptance speech and the Presidential candidate’s first executive decision on VP candidate. Some of the more serious undecides will watch and listen to everything, others will judge it by how others in and out of the media seems to perceive it. Depending on the year, the undecides may make the difference in a close election or simply pad the margin of victory. Ultimately, I believe turning out the base is the most important thing and by all measures the Democratic base is more enthusiastic this year than the Republican base so I’ve felt for awhile Obama would win and I’ve been looking to the undecides to provide the margin of victory. But that hasn’t been showing up in the polls yet so I’ve seen and heard a lot of hand wringing among Dems I know. It’s a natural reaction to how the last couple of elections have unfolded and I’m sure it will last until Obama takes the oath. But when the story of the 2008 Presidential Election is written, I believe the turning point will be fully encapsulated within less than 24 hours, the night of August 25th and the morning of August 26th.
More Americans tuned in for Barack Obama’s speech than tuned in for the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics and the American Idol finales. He spoke to those who could be convinced, the 70%+ who believe we’re heading in the wrong direction. And they got a speech that knocked down the patriotism attacks while making the attackers look petty, they got policy proposals and soaring and flawless rhetoric, and they got to see a man they could believe could be President. The expectations were high and he still managed to surpass them; he passed the test.
The very next morning, the other shoe dropped. McCain had named Sarah Palin as his running mate and across America a collective, “WHO?” rang out. Over the course of the next 2 days, it became obvious that McCain’s team hadn’t done the most basic of vetting. The choice was instinctual and a political sop to the base. In another year, that might have been okay but not considering recent history like the rush to war and the move to privatize social security, and recalling Republican appointments like Michael Brown, Harriet Meirs, and Alberto Gonzales, it was all too familiar and in 1 fell swoop it undercut McCain’s main argument against Obama and re-inforced Obama’s main line of attack on McCain, that a McCain Presidency would be more of the same.
There are only really two parts to the VP decision as far as the voting public is concerned. Number 1 is the heartbeat question. Are we comfortable with this person being a heartbeat from the Presidency? And number 2 and more importantly, what the choice says about the Presidential candidate. Context is very important. Quayle was an obvious sop to the right as the right was starting to really flex its muscles. But he had been in Congress for 12 years and the Senate for the previous 6 and Bush was a sporty, healthy WASP. McCain is a 72 year who has twice battled skin cancer and Palin is the 2 year governor of Alaska with prior experience as mayor of a town of 7,000. Barack Obama’s choice of Sen. Joe Biden was a serious choice who could easily step in to the Presidency at a moment’s notice. Barack passed. Outside the 28 Percenters, those that absolutely can’t see past their partisan blinders and still support Bush, John McCain’s choice was clearly questionable and no one believes she’s ready to be a heartbeat from the Presidency. So on the first test of a President McCain, McCain failed and he failed the same as Bush, playing to the base and playing politics with the future of America.
On the night of Thursday August 25th, Senator Barack Obama showed America a vision of its future. On the morning of Friday August 26th, Senator John McCain showed America a vision of its past, the past 8 years. Within that short time, John McCain lost the election and Barack Obama won it.
At least, that’s how I believe it will be remembered.