Obi-Wan Kenobi advises all young conservative Jedis to get a grip on their Force, and put panic aside. At least, that’s the advice coming from the longtime political insider that corresponds with National Review’s Jim Geraghty, who uses the nom de plume of the Star Wars character. With four weeks to go, the current polling doesn’t necessarily portend an imbalance in the Force, and probably doesn’t reflect reality:
“Any pessimism now is dumbness,” he said as he appeared to me recently. “A few weeks ago every swing state was coming McCain’s way and he had a national lead. And some polls showed him four points and six points behind in New Jersey and New York. And now all that has gone away? Politics doesn’t work like that. The American people, even in the midst of an unprecented economic crisis, don’t react like that for any sustained period. Those patterns can reassert themselves.”
Obi Wan talks to other Republicans, and back in July when Obama was way ahead and Republicans gloomy he said that the whole picture was likely to change dramtically by early september and McCain “would have a lead that lasted longer than just convention bounce.”
He says some underlying factors — some new and some old — are still at work and helpful to McCain.
Perhaps I’m more of a padwan, but the rapid shift in polling certainly doesn’t fill me with hope. The swing has been confirmed across several pollsters, although the most recent trends show some bounce for McCain. The last two weeks of financial crisis plays into the perceived strengths of the Democrats, and the knee-jerk response from the electorate has played into Obama’s hands. I’d be inclined to say that polling reflects the reality at the moment, although I’m not sure it will be predictive of the mood in four weeks.
Obi-Wan also misses on another point. He tells Jim that any slippage by Obama in the polls will appear like a catastrophe for the in-the-bag media, and he could get hammered by the appearance of being a loser. McCain has survived spells like this and recovered, and may be the only modern major political figure to do so. However, Obama managed to survive at least the convention bump McCain received. That may have been inevitable, given the financial crisis, but nonetheless Obama managed to turn it around.
Still, I’m more sanguine than most of the conservatives with whom I’ve spoken lately — perhaps from a few more years of following elections than others have. With the bailout bill already passed, McCain can now go on offense against Obama on the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac disaster. McCain also benefits from having taken a leadership role in the bailout debate, while Obama steered clear of taking a position as much as he could. The vast majority of the electorate has only just now started paying attention to the race, and they may like Obama on first blush. McCain still has two more debates to define Obama more clearly for these late arrivals to the race.
If McCain can get the media talking about the real cause of the financial crisis, the collapse of Fannie and Freddie, and his efforts to head it off (and the lack of effort from Obama), then McCain could succeed at resurrecting himself yet again. In the end, with voters livid over the cost of the financial crisis, I somehow don’t believe that they will turn to a man who will raise taxes, spend hundreds of billions more, and has never had a leadership position in his life. I’ve searched my feelings … and I can feel the Force telling me that voters have more sense than that when the curtain closes and they’re all alone in the voting booth.