Back in late January/early February, right after my Rudy exited the race for the Republican nomination, I found myself in the unusual position of being undecided in a political contest.
Given my commitment to conservative ideas, it seemed I would end up supporting former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as I was closer to him on the issues than I am to his then-rival from Arizona. Not just that I didn’t think John McCain acquitted himself particularly well in the only debate held after Rudy’s withdrawal and before the California primary. As I put it in one post, his “persistence in claiming Romney favored a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq makes him look like a rank amateur as do his broadsides against Wall Street.”
There was just something about John McCain which made me confident in his ability to lead this nation.
I’m more confident now that I made the right choice then. While I still have some quibbles with the Senator’s campaign, on the whole, he has done a pretty solid job, especially in challenging Senator Obama to go to Iraq and see firsthand the situation there and inviting his rival to face off with home him in a series of town-hall style debates. His record has impressed a number of centrist voters who might otherwise vote Democratic. Above all, he has a keen understanding of the most fundamental issue facing our nation at the present time.
As I reflect on my own decision this year, voting for a candidate more for his character than his ideology, going with my gut in choosing between the two leading Republican candidates, I wonder how many Americans will end up going with their gut when they vote this fall. They may find themselves disposed to voting Democrat because they favor the party out of power as I found myself disposed to voting for Romney because I appreciated his position on the issues, but choose the Republican candidate because they have greater confidence in John McCain’s ability to lead than they do in Senator Obama’s.
With most polls showing at least ten percent undecided, such gut-voting could swing a close race to John McCain. Recall that even as the media heralded Obama as the Democratic nominee in the last months of the campaign, he only managed to win about 40% of late-deciding Democrats. It seems to follow that he’d win an even smaller percentage of late-deciding voters in a general election.
Of course, much of what I’m saying now is little more than speculation, but my experience this year has caused me to wonder to what degree Americans vote on the issues and to what degree they vote on other factors. Given that most Americans do not follow politics as closely as do most partisans and those who read blogs such as this one, they may well have different criteria for evaluating candidates than we do.
My sense right now is that the dynamics of this year favor the Democrats. From all the trends we see it does seems they’re going to do quite well. Yet, when we watch Obama’s performance, the signs point to his defeat.
The presumptive Democratic nominee changes his position of issues from one day to the next. And he keeps changing his story about his relationship to his former pastor and other controversial figures. Advisers have been resigning from his campaign on a regular basis because of their questionable statements and/or associations.
The more we learn about Senator Obama, the more it seems people voting with their gut will choose the more substantial, experienced alternative. No wonder the Republican has a chance to win in a year such as this.