Campaign '08: An Empty Race Run on Personality?
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You have all read the latest polls by now, I'm sure, and know that the race is currently anywhere from tied to McCain being ten points ahead. This is a somewhat surprising development to those of us who had thought this race couldn't be lost because of the political fundamentals: a terribly unpopular Republican president, a Republican party in disgrace, a failing economy, a useless expensive war and an elderly, warmongering candidate from a bygone era. It was hard for me to see how even the Democrats could lose an election under those circumstances, even if they ran an inanimate object with a piece of algae as a running mate. But the built in advantage has disappeared. The race is back at parity, and it's a letdown, particularly after all the months of excited talk about expanding the map, landslide and realignment etc. The race can certainly still be won, but the playing field is different than most observers expected.
For a time it was considered an act of heresy to even suggest that running a campaign purely on the basis of when you "came to Obama" might not hold up over the long haul. (And that's not to say that running the campaign on "the sisterhood of the traveling pantsuit" would have been any more successful --- the same problems existed for Clinton.) Democrats decided to take their shoe-in and turn it into a nail biter because they wanted a huge symbolic victory for either African Americans or women. I took pride in that --- it's a bold gamble. But I've never thought there wasn't a cost.