“If the two candidates and the national mood, turned dark because of the financial crisis, continue in place for the next 28 days, McCain will almost certainly lose the election.”

—Sam Donaldson, ABC News / Oct. 7, 2008

Barack Obama will be the forty-fourth president of the United States – at least, that’s what it seems right now.

Recent economic news has shifted several swing state polls in favor of Obama, who’s moved ahead in Colorado, Missouri, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio – many swing states McCain must carry in order to win the election.

Also, Obama is closer to the 270 electoral votes needed to win: Should he add only a few of those states to his column, he will clinch the election.

As Americans largely feel that President Bush is responsible for the economic crisis, many feelMcCain, by extension, is also responsible – and hence, the hugely unpopular Bush is hurting McCain’s chance to win.

 At a 70 percent disapproval rating – a record low for his presidency and the lowest since any other president since Truman, Bush has proved to be McCain’s Achilles’ heel. Despite differences on energy, immigration (among other issues), McCain cannot escape the president’s shadow on the divisive issues of the election year: The Afghanistan and Iraq wars and the economy.

The economic crisis has moved attention away from foreign policy matters, which does not help McCain. Americans feel Obama is the best person for handling the economy and – no surprise – is therefore most likely to win, given the economy is most pressing topic on most Americans’ minds.

Right now, McCain must depend on things beyond his control to win, such as:

  • An international crisis that would switch the argument from the economy to foreign affairs
  • Convincing voters that Obama’s associations (i.e., William AyersTony Rezko) make him unfit to lead

The only area McCain has an advantage over Obama is his foreign policy experience. Unless a situation arises that would allow McCain to display his foreign policy expertise, McCain will not be able to steer focus off the economy.

The tide may also turn if McCain effectively links Obama to Ayers or Rezko – but given that he had the opportunity to confront Obama about these associations on a national stage at the Oct. 7 debate and didn’t means he’s either holding it as a last ditch effort – or he won’t focus on it at all.

 Both McCain and Obama are starting to ramp up the character attacks. They’ve both used Web videos (Obama recently released a documentary on McCain’s link to S&L cheat Charles Keating;McCain has made several Web ads) to try to sway public opinion; however, the effectiveness of these new media tactics cannot be measured until after the election.

New media has proved relevant in instances several instances thus far: For example, Obama used new media to announce Joe Biden as his running mate; bloggers set the agenda when Sarah Palin was introduced to the national scene.

 Overall, however, the mass effect of new media remains to be seen. We won’t know until after the election how effective new media were because these tactics have not been directly linked to votes.

 Despite his brief lead over Obama, McCain has been behind in the polls. Although predicting a winner nearly a month from the election is not unlike calling a baseball game in the sixth inning when the score is 5 to 4, it’s Obama who’s up to bat and has the bases loaded.

–posted by Ryan Curell

Originally posted October 9, 2008 at PolicyByBlog

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