A Week Out, Obama and Democrats Poised for Victory
| Tuesday, 10.28.2008, 11:24 AM |   (20344 views)

WASHINGTON, 27 Oct (IPS) - With only one week before the Nov. 4 elections, Democrats are increasingly hopeful that they will emerge next Wednesday with control of the White House and substantially increased majorities in both houses of Congress.

Their presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, has sustained a solid lead ranging of between five and 12 percentage points over Republican Sen. John McCain among nationwide public opinion polls for most of the past two weeks.

He also enjoys statistically significant leads in key 'battleground' states -- so-called swing states that were regarded as toss-ups as recently as one month ago, such as Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, Florida and Nevada. These states were won by Pres. George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, and McCain needs them in order to wrest victory in the all-important Electoral College.

Obama even leads, according to some polls, in North Carolina, a southern state that was considered solidly in the McCain column just last month.

'Certainly, the 2008 presidential contest could reverse direction and result in victory for John McCain,' wrote Charlie Cook, the top political analyst at National Journal, in the weekly's latest edition. 'But at this point, he would have to be the beneficiary of something quite dramatic for that to happen.'

At the same time, Democratic hopes of gaining as many as nine seats in the U.S. Senate -- a goal that seemed far too ambitious at the time of the two parties' conventions in late August and early September -- are now considered possible. Sixty seats would give the Democrats the super-majority they need to prevent the Republican minority from 'filibustering' legislation by enabling them to cut off debate on any bill at any time.

Monday's conviction by a Washington D.C. jury of the Senate's longest-serving Republican, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, on federal corruption charges on his financial documents marks just the latest -- albeit most spectacular -- setback to Republican hopes of denying Democrats that super-majority. Stevens was running for his seventh six-year term in office next week but now looks headed either for withdrawal or almost certain defeat.

Indeed, the situation in the Senate is looking so dire for Republicans that some of the party's leaders are calling for a kind of triage whereby their financial resources should be diverted from the McCain campaign to incumbent Republicans fighting for their political lives.

'In these last days before the vote, Republicans need to face some strategic realities,' according to David Frum, a neo-conservative former Bush speechwriter based at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). 'Our resources are limited, and our message is failing.

'We cannot fight on all fronts,' he wrote in Sunday's Washington Post. 'We are cannibalising races that we must win and probably can win in order to help a national campaign that is almost certainly lost. In these final 10 days, our goal should be: senators first.'

Sixty Senate seats -- combined with an enhanced majority in the House of Representatives -- would virtually ensure approval of the Democratic domestic agenda that is likely to include some form of universal health care coverage; a quick and probably sweeping rollback of corporate and individual tax breaks pushed through Congress during the Bush administration; and a wave of measures to reverse the era of economic de-regulation that began in the late 1970s.

Some analysts -- especially worried Republicans -- are now warning that a Democratic sweep could usher in a period of watershed changes in the way the country does business on a scale that could approach that of the former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal during the 1930s.

Indeed, the McCain campaign itself two weeks ago began featuring off-hand remarks by Obama about wanting to 'spread the wealth' and promote 'redistributive change' to argue that the Democratic candidate is a 'socialist' who threatens the now-fabled 'Joe the Plumber' and the middle class, as well as 'Wall Street'.

Indeed, going into the last week of the campaign, the 'socialist' attack appears to be the most prominent mantra of the McCain campaign, while endangered Republican candidates are stressing that the dangers posed by of 'one-party rule' should induce independent voters who prefer Obama to split their ticket and vote Republican for lesser offices.

But the polls suggest that these Cold-War-evoking attacks have had as little impact on public opinion as ongoing efforts to attack Obama's character, most notably his association with a former 1960s radical who helped lead a violent split-off from the anti-Vietnam War movement and who now teaches education at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

'Perhaps, in the midst of the nation's worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Americans are less susceptible to politicians who offer irrelevant hyperbolic labels instead of solutions,' wrote Matthew DeLong, a contributor to the Washington Independent website.

Indeed, most analysts see the financial crisis as main reason for McCain's decline, noting that he effectively drew even with Obama on the eve of the collapse of the storied investment firm, Lehman Brothers, the event that triggered the ongoing panic in global stock markets.

During the primary elections, he largely ignored economic issues, on which he has publicly confessed he has little expertise, and focused instead on his military background and qualifications as commander-in-chief, a theme he is expected to reprise in the final week of the campaign. As a strong advocate of deregulation since he first came to Congress in the early 1980s, McCain has been unable to distance himself from the policies that are widely blamed for the crisis and that were pursued with great enthusiasm by Bush.

But the economy has not been his only failing. Many analysts fault his selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running-mate, a choice that succeeded in energising the right-wing Republican base, including the Christian Right, but has been particularly damaging to his standing with both independents and a growing number of mainly moderate Republicans who see her as entirely unqualified and unsuited for the post.

In citing reasons for their defection to Obama, Republicans ranging from former Secretary of State Colin Powell to the son of right-wing icon and founder of the National Review, William F. Buckley, have mentioned Palin's selection prominently. They have also complained about the personal nature of the attacks the McCain campaign has mounted against Obama.

'(I)n the last month, the McCain campaign has Palinised itself to make the most of its last asset,' wrote Frum. 'To fire up the Republican base, the McCain team has hit at Barack Obama as an alien, a radical and a socialist.'

While the base responded, he went on, 'there's a downside: The very same campaign strategy that has belatedly mobilised the Republican core has alienated and offended the great national middle, which was the only place where the 2008 election could have been won.'

*Jim Lobe's blog on U.S. foreign policy, and particularly the neo-conservative influence in the Bush administration, can be read at http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/.


Source: IPS News

Jim Lobe*

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