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.
Saturday, October 30, 2004
A Kerry Voter Switches to Bush
This morning in synagogue, a friend came up to whisper to me that, at the last minute, “they” had changed “their” mind and voted for George W. Bush (instead of John F. Kerry as “they” had planned) for president while otherwise voting a straight Democratic ticket. I understand that this person had never previously voted Republican in a presidential election.
(Please note that I am using the gender neutral pronoun “they” to define one individual because this person did not want me to reveal even this person’s gender.)
This person decided to vote for Bush because the president “knows the difference between good & evil,” having the sense to understand that Saddam Hussein was worse that a mere “barbarian” (as Senator Kerry has described him) but a moral monster, akin to Hitler.
But, this person cautioned, please don’t tell anyone else how “they” voted because this person felt it would be “too embarrassing.”
Now, I wonder, especially in the wake of the release of the Bin Laden tape, how many others will, in the quiet of the voting booth, isolated from the Bush-hatred which pervades our urban areas and college towns, recall the president’s steadfast leadership in those terrible days after 9/11. How many will observe, as does my friend, that Bush understands the difference between good and evil, and decide to vote for him?
In today’s “NEW YORK TIMES,” David Brooks writes, “Many people are not sure that [Senator Kerry] gets the fundamental moral confrontation. Many people are not sure he feels it, or feels anything. Since he joined the Senate, what cause has he taken a political risk for? Has he devoted himself selflessly and passionately to any movement larger than himself?” (Click on the title of this post to get the full article–link requires registration.)
I hope that most undecided voters and wavering Kerry supporters are like my friend and see the crucial difference between President Bush and Senator Kerry. The president understands the moral confrontation we face while the Senator constantly equivocates.
If my friend’s last-minute decision to switch from Kerry to Bush is any indication, a substantial percentage of the few undecided voters who remain could shift to the president. As could many voters who currently plan on voting for Kerry.
My friend’s concern that I respect “their” anonymity is perhaps another sign of hidden strength for the president. Perhaps a sign of what GP’s Philadelphia friend called “the Frank Rizzo factor.” Like my friend, they fear the “embarrassment” of advertising their support for a “controversial” leader because they assume their friends would mock them — and possibly ostracize them — for choosing a man they have so vilified.
My friend’s choice of anonymity says much about the sorry state of political discourse in our country. And it goes to the heart of the initial results of my “experiment” — the intolerance by supposedly open-minded people of those individuals with “politically incorrect” views.