Obama Supporters: Don’t Get Complacent

Obama seems to have found a resonating message as the economic troubles continue.  The polls have stabilized, slightly in his favor, and match where he was prior to the conventions.  Most of the polling sites that collate the status of the state races – Real Clear Politics, Fivethirtyeight.com, and Pollster (among many others) have Obama a Electoral College winner anywhere from 273 to over 300+ electoral votes (270 needed to win).  In fact, I can’t recall any of the polls showing McCain as a winner in the Electoral College.

It’s unfortunate,  as the Democrats did in the summer, I believe with this slim lead, there might be thought that Obama can now easily bring the election home.  But there are a lot factors to give pause and really should continue motivate the grass root efforts to elect Barack Obama president.

The biggest is that Obama has been enjoying a resurgence in the polls and many have equated to handling the economic message better than his opponent.  The common theory is if the election is based on the economy, Obama should win.  However, McCain and the GOP are very shrewd politicians.  They will continue to adjust and refine their message for maximum impact at the polls.  Much of McCain’s rhetoric over the last several months has initially come from the Obama campaign.  These include the message of reform and change.  There is a two-pronged strategy of usurping Obama’s message.  First, the Obama campaign tends to recognize what resonates with voters.  If McCain can grab on to that message, he will gain some of the advantages that Obama receives.  Second, if McCain takes the same strategy as Obama, he blunts Obama’s argument and makes it another decision point in the race.  We’ve seen some of that on the economic message that McCain continues to refine.  This includes support of the $700B bailout, changing his philosophy on the status of the economy, and even the reform/regulation factors that should be part of the long-term solution. Bottom line: don’t misjudge McCain as being ‘out of touch’.  He will regain his footing.

To me, everything else being equal, this will drive the conversation and keep the race close.  Obama supporters need to continue to press the message that Obama is proactive and McCain is reactive to strategies in this election.

However, there are other reasons Obama supporters must continue to donate, volunteer, and push Obama’s message out.

Racism/Bradley Effect – As a commentator mentioned this morning, this is the 800lb gorilla in the room.  There are people who will not vote for Obama because of his race.  As sad as that is and difficult for someone like me to understand, it is the case.  One can only hope that the polls reflect this racism and it’s the reason why the election is close when everything is favoring the Democrats.  However, there is something called the Bradley Effect that may come into play too.  It is greatly debated whether it exists, and if it did/does – whether it will affect this race.  I say will  because the Bradley Effect is not known until the election ends.  The theory goes that, to not seem prejudiced, folks being interviewed for a poll will claim they are voting for the minority candidate, even though they have no intention of doing so.  Several examples have been cited including the Governor’s race in California with Tom Bradley and the New York City Mayor’s race with David Dinkins.  Both showed the minority candidates with much better poll numbers than how the race ended.  Bradley lost and Dinkins won by a smaller percentage.  The ironic part is that, if it is true, seems to affect races in the Northeast more where racism is less tolerated than in the South.  This could be a factor in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and maybe New Jersey.

Another factor that may change the course of this race is the Democratic Congress.  As Congress takes on the bailout package for Wall Street, all eyes will be on the Democrats running both Houses to push legislation through by Friday.  Unfortunately, the proposal by Secretary Poulson and supported by the Administration is lacking in a lot of detail.  Further, the Democrats very much want to include help for the average American, as well as Wall Street.  It should be noted, that McCain and Obama agree with that philosophy.  However, with a potential recess on Friday for the Congress and the many issues that may come up, there are a lot of pitfalls that McCain and the Republicans can point to when the package is complete.  This can include railing against the final outcome, demonstrating nothing got done, or didn’t provide support to the average American.  The problem is I do not believe that the Democrats can come out of this as a net positive. The best hope is break-even with a significant chance of hurting themselves in the Congressional and Presidential races.  Be sure, no matter what is agreed to – even in a bi-partisan way, the GOP will pick at what the Democrats didn’t accomplish in the bill.

The debates are also a cause for concern.  This is a huge wild card in the race.  Neither candidate is great, but the general feeling is McCain has a slight edge as a debater.  This could be good or bad.  If he really is a better debater, he can take control of this race.  Obama had agreed to push the economic debate to the third and do Foreign Policy up front.  His theory is he can once and for all put to rest concerns about his experience, he will gain immensely.  I think this is a mistake.  Whoever wins the first debate takes control of this election.  There is tremendous upside for Obama, but if he doesn’t do well – the polls will swing again in McCain’s favor.  I think taking the safe path of the economy may have been smarter.

These are the biggest concerns for the Obama campaign.  They control the football right now, early in the third quarter.  They are up by three points and driving down the field.  However, one mistake and the McCain can take the football down field for seven and take the lead in the election.

Bottom line. Donate, Volunteer, Talk!  We’ve got to keep pushing out Obama’s message and continue to believe we are the underdogs.  Because, at the end of the day, Obama is the underdog – I don’t care what anyone says.