Pendulum swings towards McCain
Deaglán de Bréadún
Only a couple of weeks ago I would have said Barack Obama was going to win the US presidency in November. John McCain by contrast looked old, tired and very much yesterday’s man. But since the two conventions I have changed my mind and I’m putting my money on McCain at this stage.
There are four reasons why I have changed my forecast: 1) It was obvious from the Democratic Convention that a significant number of Hillary Clinton supporters were still unhappy; 2) Obama’s speech to delegates, polished as it was, did not live up to the hype; 3) McCain turned a negative into a positive when Hurricane Gustav delayed the start of the Republican gig: he visited an emergency centre in Mississippi and behaved like a President, full of soothing reassurance, whereas Obama basically issued coments to the media (in Dublin, Ohio!); 4) The Sarah Palin nomination was a master-stroke.
I couldn’t agree less with Charles Krauthammer’s analysis in today’s Irish Times. The man just doesn’t get it. Palin connects with the electorate on all sorts of levels. The hockey-mom; anti-corruption campaigner; gun-toter; anti-evolutionist; anti-abortion; woman-who-made-it-to-the-top; highly-effective public speaker; elegant appearance; etc.
In one fell swoop, McCain has garnered women’s votes; the gun lobby; the chip-on-the-shoulder-I-hate-Washington blue-collar vote; hard-pressed parents juggling kids and career; and the religious right. And for all her strange taste in children’s names, Palin is a natural politician.
Of course anyone who recalls the civil rights struggle in America in the ’60s with Martin Luther King and the Selma march would love to see an African-American in the White House. Obama is a charismatic candidate with a wonderful smile whose personality is strongly reminiscent of John F. Kennedy at his best.
But he has little administrative experience and what he stands for is not entirely clear. One imagines his people must be in a tizzy at the moment, figuring out how to deal with a McCain campaign revitalised by the Palin factor. Presumably Obama will try to capture some of the right-wing ground now held by the Republicans. Bill Clinton’s former advisor Dick Morris called it “triangulation”.
There is a certain irony in the fact that the people choosing the next leader of the free world are in many cases so provincial. Many Americans do not even possess a passport, but they still get to choose the leader who will dominate the international stage for the next four to eight years. Given the level of interest in the election here in Europe, perhaps we should also demand the right to choose! Meanwhile the latest poll shows McCain edging ahead.
Deaglán de Bréadún, Political Correspondent, The Irish Times and author of The Far Side of Revenge: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, recently published in a second edition by Collins Press, Cork www.collinspress.ie