If people voted this year on which party’s general philosophy more closely matched their own view of government, John McCain would win in a walk while Republicans picked up seats in both Houses of Congress.Â While the GOP does not now have the standing it did four years ago, conservative ideas still hold sway.Â Voters still distrust government solutions to our problems, economic as well social.Â America remains a center-right country.
Alas that political ideas don’t seem to matter much in this election.Â As Dick Morris put it in his column this week:
But [voters] are more likely just distracted by the financial meltdown all around them. We have never had a presidential race, since 1944, where the contest was not the most important news in the four weeks before the election. (In 1944, the war overshadowed the election much to the frustration of the Republican candidate Thomas E. Dewey).
Indeed, former Bush adviser Michael Gerson attributes Obama’s current standing in the polls to the economic crisis:
In the middle of September, the net favorable rating for each candidate was about the same. By Oct. 7, Obama was ahead on this measure by about 16 points. Did McCain suddenly become a stumbling failure? No, the world suddenly went into an economic slide.
As a results, voters turned to the candidate of the out-of-power party, primarily because he represented change (how prescient his campaign slogan) from the party in power.
This election is not a referendum on conservatism, as some on the left would have it. If it were, the GOP would have a better-than-even chance of winning.Â Given John McCain’s failure to articulate a consistent conservative message of change (from a less-than conservative Administration), his economic message has so far failed to resonate with voters.
At the same time, Obama has, in the debates and his speeches, tried to distance himself from his far-left record, appearing in the first debate “as a moderate Democrat â€” even a David Boren or Sam Nunn.” (Only in unscripted moments does he let his real views slip out.)
As a result, this election seems the most ideology-free campaign at least since 1992, possibly even 1976. People seem to be judging the candidates by their apparent differences from the powers that be in our nation’s capital, not evaluating them by their basic political philosophy.
Should Obama win and govern as his record suggests, we should have that debate four years hence.