On the last day of campaigning before the US Election tomorrow, our reporter Ben Cohen gives his personal overview of the presidential campaigns.
The Election hasn’t even happened yet – no one has lost, no one has won – but one might be lulled into thinking otherwise after hearing the Republican party’s premature blame game over the past few days. Rule number one of running an election campaign: avoid party in-fighting.
Yet unfortunately for the Republicans, the gloves are off before the polls are even open. The quarreling has already reached the very top of the party with the McCain camp accusing Sarah Palin of being a “rogue”. This has come in reaction to Palin increasingly doing things her own way, as she attempts to show off her individual qualities in order to boost her chances of leading the party after the election.
Most pundits are already calling this the election that Bush Jr. has worked eight hard years to lose, making it near impossible for any Republican to pull back a victory from the clutches of defeat, be it McCain or any other candidate.
Another crucial factor that has made it difficult for the McCain-Palin camp is the current economic crisis, which was caused by a lack of Government regulation. At the moment, there is no hiding the fact that decreased regulation is the very same thing that Republicans have championed since Reaganism hit the country by storm.
However, the election isn’t quite a forgone conclusion just yet. Most polls give Obama around an 8-point lead. Sure, this is large, but there are still over 10 percent of registered voters yet to decide on a candidate, and it is these undecided’s that can and will decide the election.
Furthermore, one must remember that this is a country that elected Bush into office…not once, but twice (whether this actually happened in 2004 is admittedly still debatable). How did this happen? Well, Bush effectively won election to office on the back of a campaign focused purely on large minorities – that when added together – make up just enough numbers to get him across the line.
Bush – and by Bush I mean Karl Rove – knew better than anyone at the time, just how polarised a country America really is. He didn’t bother to mould his policies to satiate the north-east and west coast liberal leaning states. He didn’t need to. He knew that if he could just get his core target of conservatives to polling stations then he would win. He was right.
In simple terms, Bush appealed primarily to religious conservatives and neoliberals, Gore and Kerry appealed primarily to liberals, the country was split and at the time the US had more right leaning voters than left. That was that.
Now there are a number of reasons why the McCain-Palin camp can’t take a leaf out of Bush’s book and pull out the same trick. Firstly, Bush has alienated a portion of his own core constituency in his years in office.
Secondly, McCain just isn’t conservative enough, as simple as that. Palin certainly is – which is a major reason why she is on the bill – but with her multiple gaffes and non-existent foreign policy experience, even some among the far right see her as a dissident.
The crux of the problem for the Republicans is still Senator Obama. America is currently looking at the first President since JFK who holds the power to truly unite the country. A tough ask for anyone, let alone an African American whose name sounds phonetically similar to the man held responsible for September 11.
The Obama-Biden camp has already achieved more than Gore and Kerry did in 2000 and 2004 respectively. They have been bold, and have preached to voters who hold views vastly different to the Democrats core liberal elite and have distanced themselves from Washington. Furthermore, Biden as choice for running mate has had a positive effect. His holds an impressive foreign policy resume, and enough experience to cancel out Obama’s relative inexperience in the minds of many voters.
Obama has ushered in a campaign that has promised change and bipartisanship. So far it has been a message believable enough to bestow upon his campaign an attractive and inclusive feel. Whether he turns out to fulfill his promises of uniting the country can only be tested in time; but the signs are good. He beat Clinton at her own game, attracting more women voters and has successfully rallied young voters to his cause. Now he plans to beat McCain at his own game.
Crucially, for McCain to win, he needs to get key swing voters like Hispanics, Jews and independents on his side. Yet, recently there has been a slow warming of these very minorities to the Obama-Biden camp. If McCain does indeed fail to attract these swing voters – as it is very much looking like – then he has just fallen on a double edged sword of his own making, as in his very attempt to attract them he has alienated members of the Republican core of religious conservatives and Reagan voters that both see McCain’s policies as too liberal for their liking.
In short, the Republican party is suffering. The old bag of tricks that Bush employed in 2000 and 2004 no longer works. What is needed to have any chance of winning this election is to have a united Republican party that gets behind McCain and Palin in one single act of solidarity. Yet what is occurring is the polar opposite. What used to be fissures in the party emerging from 2006 are quickly widening into black holes.
Furthermore, what used to be the Republicans’ strength – seemingly unlimited campaign funding – has deserted McCain, as Obama splashes out on the most expensive campaign in history, with his ads reminiscent of a Hollywood blockbuster and his clever use of the internet. So while you cannot underestimate just how polarised a nation the US is, this very fact might just be about to change.
What do you think?
If you agree with Ben, or disagree, get commenting below.
Who do you think will win tomorrow and what changes do you think will come into play; both in the US and the rest of the world?