Ever since I noted how late-deciders in the Texas and Ohio Democratic primaries broke decisively for Hillary Clinton, I hypothesized that they could also decided the fall contest. Â And while Obama has surged ahead in some polls this week, the Pew poll, the one which most accurately forecast the outcome of the 2004 election, has the race in a dead heat (article with poll via Instapundit).
This race seems very fluid, with a high number of undecided voters this late in the game, indeed with a good number of voters uncertain about the candidate they currently back. Â I recall how a friend in 2004 went into the voting booth telling me she had intended to vote for John Kerry, but ended up voting for George W. Bush. Â (I had blogged on that when we were a blogspot. Â As the post was lost, but I saved the text, I repost it below.)
Jay Cost agrees with me that late-deciders will be crucial this year: “My intuition is that this group is going to sort itself out late.”
So, the real question is how will they break. Â Traditional wisdom is that they break against the incumbent party, but that wasn’t the case in 1976 and 2000 when incumbent Gerald R. Ford and incumbent vice president Al Gore respectively rallied in those campaigns’ final days.
And in the Democratic primaries this year, Hillary Clinton, having served as First Lady to the most recent Democratic president, could be considered more like an incumbent than Barack Obama, yet the late-deciders broke her way. Â (Or should we consider Obama the “incumbent because he was the frontrunner at the time.)
Peggy summarizes what it may come down to:
The overarching political question: In a time of heightened anxiety, will people inevitably lean toward the older congressional vet, the guy who’s been around forever? Why take a chance on the new, young man at a time of crisis? Wouldn’t that be akin to injecting an unstable element into an unstable environment? There’s a lot at stake.
Or will people have the opposite reaction?Â I’ve had it, the system has been allowed to corrode and collapse under seven years of Republican stewardship. Throw the bums out. We need change. Obama may not be experienced, but that may help him cut through. He’s not compromised.
The election, still close, still unknowable, may well hinge on whether people conclude A or B.
I pretty much agree.
I expect to have more to say about this topic. The optimist in me says that given John McCain’s reputation among independent voters and the wariness, even of Democrats have toward Barack Obama, we may see a pattern similar to that which emerged in the Democratic primaries this year. But, even if late-breakers pull for John McCain, it may not be enough. It wasn’t for Ford or Gore. Only time will tell.