Tuesday, September 16, 2008

State of the Race - My Perspective

As Obama slowly gains back ground in the polls, I'd like to take an opportunity to reflect on the state of the race as I see it and where we are headed as we approach October.

With the pick of Sarah Palin, John McCain cynically selected a politician who he knew would give an instant charge to the evangelical extremist base of his party. Seeing his chances of winning ever-dwindling, he chose a woman who he hoped would re-ignite the culture wars, divert attention away from the big issues (like the war and the economy), and distract the American people from McCain's own inadequacies as a candidate. For a week or two, it worked; most Americans didn't know Sarah Palin, and as we oft tend to do here in America, judged the book by its cover and deemed it attractive and good humored. Subsequently, we saw McCain's stock rise, taking his first real lead in this race basically since it has started.

A few weeks out of the RNC, however, things are slowly coming back to Obama's favor. Sarah Palin's fav/unfav continue slide (45/44 today, 52/35 on 9/11) and even conservatives are turning on her. Some polls showing Obama coming back in the polls (and he is within a point or two on nearly every major aggregate, from pollster.com to realclearpolitics.com). What's going on?

Americans woke up to the collapse of the financial system yesterday only to turn on the television to hear John McCain repeating for the umpteenth time that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." After a barrage of smears and lies, the media has finally woken up and taken the McCain campaign to task for its reckless disregard for the truth. The Obama campaign has hit back hard, refuting illegitimate claims with sensibility and good humor, as well as continuing to press it's positive message of change.

I don't think we're out of the water yet, and I won't be comfortable until Barack Obama takes the electoral college on November 4th. But I do think we've hit an important turning point in the race, where the Obama Campaign has an opening to seize the economic message, steer the conversation back to the big issues, and once again make this campaign about Obama versus McCain and not about Palin, hockey moms, lipstick, moose, and the like.

I also think that most of the polls we are seeing are significantly underestimating Obama's advantages. Let me briefly explain why. These polls are usually of "likely voters." That means they are calling people who have voted in elections before. However, the Democratic Party has out-registered Republicans going into this cycle by about 11 million voters. These new voters on the rolls are not going to be counted until they show up on election day, and their turnout could make the difference in this campaign. Furthermore, these polls only call land lines. That means young people like myself, many if not most of whom only use cell phones, are never polled. Ditto for lower income people who do not have phones. By most estimates, both of these groups are going to show up in historic numbers at the polls in November, and again may give Obama a significant advantage unreflected in current polling trends.

Finally, it was encouraging to note that in the month of August, Obama's campaign raised the largest amount of money in one month, ever - $66 million - including contributions from 500,000 new donors. His campaign has received individual donations from over 2.5 Million American citizens. This is a stunning and revolutionary achievement in campaign financing. Instead of being beholden to the ultra rich and Political Action Committees and lobbyists- the people underwriting John McCain's campaign - Barack Obama is powered by the diffuse interests of ordinary Americans. The average campaign contribution to his campaign is only about $68. Even poor people are giving $5 or $10 to this campaign because they know Barack Obama is a different kind of candidate who is going to represent us, the American People, and not the Special Interests in Washington DC.

There is a lot of work to be done between now and November 4th. I hope that if you are on the fence, you are beginning to understand why John McCain is unfit to be commander in chief, and why Barack Obama is offering the change we need. If you are an Obama supporter, I urge you to please get more involved, by reaching out to your friends and family and making sure they are well informed and registered to vote, and by volunteering for the campaign in your local community, whether by fund raising, going door to door, or making phone calls. Every single American has the ability to own a part of this campaign and become a part of this historic movement for change. I encourage you to stand up and make your voice heard!

Have a wonderful day, and God Bless.

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