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Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright or not, the race is over

By Griffin · October 15th, 2008 · 1 Comment

According to Mike Allen at Politico, John McCain’s advisors are practically begging him to attack Barack Obama on his relationship with Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and several top campaign officials see a sharp attack on Wright as the best — and perhaps last — chance to rattle Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill. ) and force voters to rethink their support of him. But McCain continues to overrule them, fearing a Wright attack would smack of desperation and racism, the officials said.

With McCain unlikely to budge, GOP officials are hoping groups outside of the campaign will finance an ad attack on Obama-Wright ties. It is unclear if any conservative group has the cash to bankroll a serious effort, however.

For the record, if I had “the cash to bankroll a serious effort,” I would give it to them.  That’s how confident I am that the race is over, and neither Jeremiah Wright nor Bill Ayers will save John McCain.  To get an idea of what Republicans think would be the magic bullet to stop Barack Obama, here’s one of the sharpest of the independent ads they can’t get funding for (it starts ten seconds in):

If only that ad could be seen every night on every network by every American, John McCain would be our next president. Or so the logic goes. Likewise, if only John McCain was more forceful in pushing Obama’s ties to Bill Ayers, America would wake up and see that they’re about to send a socialist, Maoist, militant, terrorist-sympathizer to the White House. More logic.

But here’s the reality: Every man, woman, and child in America has seen the Jeremiah Wright clips. We’ve seen the Bill Ayers links. We’ve all gotten the e-mail– repeatedly– informing us that Barack Obama hates our flag, was educated in a madrassa, and wants to personally kill each and every American soldier with his bare hands. But here’s the thing: We don’t care. Let me repeat that. We, the American people, do not care.

This anecdote from a Republican consultant speaks for itself. Here’s his reaction after screening “a no-holds-barred” independent attack ad to a focus group in the Midwest (all emphasis mine):

Reagan Dems and Independents. Call them blue-collar plus. Slightly more Target than Walmart.

Yes, the spot worked. Yes, they believed the charges against Obama. Yes, they actually think he’s too liberal, consorts with bad people and WON’T BE A GOOD PRESIDENT…but they STILL don’t give a f***. They said right out, “He won’t do anything better than McCain” but they’re STILL voting for Obama.

The two most unreal moments of my professional life of watching focus groups:

54 year-old white male, voted Kerry ’04, Bush ’00, Dole ’96, hunter, NASCAR fan…hard for Obama said: “I’m gonna hate him the minute I vote for him. He’s gonna be a bad president. But I won’t ever vote for another god-damn Republican. I want the government to take over all of Wall Street and bankers and the car companies and Wal-Mart run this county like we used to when Reagan was President.”

The next was a woman, late 50s, Democrat but strongly pro-life. Loved B. and H. Clinton, loved Bush in 2000. “Well, I don’t know much about this terrorist group Barack used to be in with that Weather guy but I’m sick of paying for health insurance at work and that’s why I’m supporting Barack.”

I felt like I was taking crazy pills. I sat on the other side of the glass and realized…this really is the Apocalypse. The Seventh Seal is broken and its time for eight years of pure, delicious crazy….

The fact that the consultant is so utterly blown away shows how deep in denial Republicans are about Bush, the economy, and McCain’s chances in November. There are only two numbers anyone should care about in this election: 1) How many Americans believe the country is on the wrong track; and 2) Who do Americans trust to handle the economy.

As for the first one, there is a unique dynamic in this election that a lot of people are missing. Typically in an election, you have one candidate telling everyone how great things have been for the last four years and one candidate focusing on the negative. But this year, you have two presidential candidates, both essentially running against the incumbent party, both telling their supporters that the country is on the wrong track (and they’re the person to fix it). Because of this, you get numbers like these from the most recent ABC News/WashPo poll:

Given the global economic crisis, a record 90 percent of registered voters say the country is seriously off on the wrong track, the most since this question first was asked in 1973. At 23 percent, Bush’s job approval rating has fallen below Nixon’s lowest; it’s a point away from the lowest in 70 years of polling, set by Harry Truman in early 1952. Bush’s disapproval, meanwhile, is at an all-time record – 73 percent.

As for the second one– who do Americans trust to handle the economy– it’s bad enough that John McCain has to carry the weight of the badly damaged Republican brand. But it can’t be overstated how badly he hurt his campaign by his erratic behavior in September, his flailing response to the financial crisis. He hasn’t helped himself either with a strategy of virtually ignoring the middle class, both in plans and rhetoric, and hoping their economic problems go away by November. Meanwhile, Barack Obama has been tempermentally steady, has pushed a consistent message, and is promising middle class tax cuts and health care relief that far outdo McCain’s (non-)plan. As a result, you get numbers like these:

As first evident in an ABC/Post poll three weeks ago, Obama holds the reins on economic woe. Registered voters trust him over McCain to handle the economy by 53-37 percent. Obama holds his largest lead yet, a remarkable 30-point margin, in better understanding the economic problems Americans are having, 58-28 percent. He leads McCain by about as much, 59-31 percent, in trust to help the middle class, and by 11 points on taxes, two prime points of contention in the last presidential debate.

So here’s the stark reality in this election:

1) 90% of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track;

2) By a margin of 20-30%, Americans trust Barack Obama more than John McCain to handle the economy; and

3) John McCain is doing absolutely nothing to change perceptions about #1 and #2, instead focusing on Bill Ayers and (perhaps later) Jeremiah Wright.

There are 21 days left before this election, and every day that Republicans spend focused on anything other than changing #1 and #2 is a day wasted. Nothing they do or say outside of those two points will have any real effect on anything. And that’s why I would happily contribute to any of these anti-Obama attack ads that Republicans see as the magic bullet– ads that will, in reality, do nothing but help Barack Obama run out the clock.

Which brings us to the final and most important point. As steep as John McCain’s climb is on the wrong track and economy numbers, they don’t even begin to compare to this:

Obama leads John McCain by 10 points among likely voters, 53-43 percent, in this ABC News/Washington Post poll. Though every race is different, no presidential candidate has come back from an October deficit this large in pre-election polls dating to 1936.

So for John McCain to be the next president of the United States, he will have to overcome the largest deficit of any president since the year he was born, and he’ll have to do so in an election where he’s being badly outspent, badly out-organized, badly out-advertised, and badly out-messaged… with the most unpopular incumbent president in polling history, a country that is desperate for new (non-Republican) leadership, an electoral map and shifting demographics that overwhelmingly favor Obama, a vice presidential running mate who has become a devastating political liability… oh, and he would be the oldest man ever elected to a first term. Oh, oh, oh, and that ABC News/Wash Po poll that shows a ten-point national deficit for McCain is two days old. CBS News released a poll today that shows McCain down 14.

In other words, the race for president is over. The size of Obama’s win still matters. It will determine how strong his coattails are, and whether it will pull Democrats like Al Franken (D-MN) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) into the Democratic Senate majority. But John McCain’s advisors can relax. Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright or not, Barack Obama will be our next president.

Tags: Barack Obama · Democrats · John McCain · Republicans

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