Senator McCain is facing the roughest hurdles ever encountered by a presidential candidate.
Second-term presidents – other than James Monroe – have been burdened by scandals and crises. Therefore, the US electorate has been, traditionally, reluctant to support a third consecutive White House term for the same party. Thus, Truman was replaced by Eisenhower, Eisenhower was succeeded by Kennedy, LBJ transferred the helm to Nixon, Nixon/Ford were followed by Carter and Clinton by Bush 43rd. The only exception, since 1954, has been Bush 41st, who was elected on the coattail of Reagan, whose popularity was solid enough to withstand Iran-Gate.
McCain is campaigning during the worst-year-ever for Republican candidates. The disapproval rating of President Bush and the Republican Party is staggering, and public opinion polls project a Democratic sweep of State legislatures, gubernatorial races, US House of Representatives, US Senate and the White House. Although McCain is the most non-Republican Republican Senator, but in spite of his frequent squabbling with Bush and with the Republican establishment, McCain has been identified with most of Bush’s failures.
The US “elite” media, such as the NY Times, the Washington Post, the L.A. Times the three major networks, CNN and public radio and TV, have unequivocally supported Obama. The “elite” media heralded McCain during his electoral and legislative confrontations with Bush, but – just like in the case of Hillary Clinton – it turned its back on McCain, once he campaigned against Obama, who is identified with the “elite” media’s Liberal-Dovish agenda.
McCain lost his lead/momentum when the economic collapse became apparent. It is extremely difficult to win a presidential TV debate on a day, when the Dow loses 800 points! McCain campaigns as the economic collapse hurts every voter in the US: hundreds of thousands of home owners are losing their homes, the price of gasoline is constraining voters’ freedom of movement, unemployment soars, bankruptcies have become a routine, the plight of the credit companies is about to add fuel to the fire and the rising cost of food and health services has afflicted the middle class, which is a critical sector on election day.
McCain opposes a pre-victory withdrawal from Iraq, while most constituents express reservations about a continued war in Iraq. While the war does not preoccupy the evening news headlines, and although there is a consensus that the US military performance has improved significantly, the war – which is identified with Republican candidates – is perceived as an unjustifiable and unbearable economic, social and political burden.
Supposedly, McCain confronts mission impossible, as evidenced by most polls. However, there are a number of question marks, which may turn the campaign around:
Is the “Bradley/Wilder Factor” – when black candidates received about 10% less than projected by polls – still viable?
Will public opinion polls cause complacency among Obama’s supporters and determination among McCain’s?
Will conservative Republican repeat the 2004 high turnout, or will many of them stay home – due to their reservations about the Republican candidates – as they did in 1992?
What will be the scope of the “White Angry Vote,” which does not tolerate a liberal-black candidate?
Will the Hispanics vote in accordance with their Democratic-pattern or anti-black pattern?
Will Afro-American and young voters – who ordinarily produce low turnout on Election Day – vote in all time high record numbers?
Will the electorate vote for a solid Democratic government (assuming that a Democratic majority in both federal chambers is guaranteed), or will it vote for a checked-and-balanced government?
Will McCain’s focus on Obama’s credibility, concerning his problematic associations, resonate with Independents?
Does Obama’s inability to surge ahead with a wider gap – in view of the aforementioned significant Democratic home court advantage – attest to Obama’s limitations?
Will “the stretch” of the presidential campaign expose the pitfalls of public opinion polls, allowing McCain to snatch a victory out of the jaws of defeat, as he has done before?