Every time I review the 2008 presidential campaign, I remain amazed at how well John McCain did, given the political headwinds against which he and his party were sailing last fall. To be sure, with the selection of Sarah Palin and the successful convention, he had built up a good head of steam heading out of St. Paul. Problem was, his team hadn’t developed a strategy for confronting unexpected obstacles, nor for dealing with a hostile media. Not just that, he never found a way to articulate a coherent economic message which become particularly important in the wake of the financial meltdown of mid-September (one of those aforementioned unexpected obstacles).
That meltdown and McCain’s showing came to mind again last night as I was reviewing various polls for posts I was working on at the time. According to the NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, the percentage of Americans believing the country was “off on the wrong track” hit a high of 78 just two weeks before the election, with only one in eight voters thinking we were headed in the right direction.
Just look at this pollster.com average of polls to see how the gap between those thinking the country was on the wrong track and those who thought we were headed in the right direction expanded in the run-up to last fall’s balloting:
It just wasn’t a good place for the candidate of the incumbent party to find himself in an electoral contest where the candidate of the opposing party is outspending him while the media fawns all over said opposition candidate and trashes the Vice Presidential nominee of the incumbent party.
Just to serve as a reminder about the nature of Obama’s “mandate.” It wasn’t so much the agenda of his party voters were rejecting, but that of the then-incumbent party that voters were rejecting. Given where we were last fall–and the kind of campaign McCain ran–it’s simply amazing that he broke 40% of the vote, much less the nearly 46% he actually won.