Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Slip Sliding Away

John Demetriou (of Boatang & Demetriou) here backs up, with rather more conviction than I dared put in, the line of thought with regard to the betting on the US Presidential Race that I outlined a couple of weeks ago.

I wrote that before John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate, a shock development which at the time looked like a wild gamble on his part; in American sporting terminology, a "Hail Mary pass".

My initial reaction to the selection was that it would benefit the Democrats, citing Palin's lack of experience and extreme social views. Ten days later, and I don't think I could have been more wrong. Democrat supporters have thrown everything including the kitchen sink at Palin. It has failed to bring her down, and has perhaps been counterproductive, since it has been so easy for the Republicans to interpret their attacks as attacks on the ordinary American.

Palin doesn't just go to bat for the Republicans' conservative base. She is one of the Republicans' conservative base. This isn't just "someone [the undecided voter] would prefer to have a beer with", as in 2004. This is "[the undecided voter] made good". The 'Hail Mary pass' is looking increasingly like a masterstroke, which the Democrats did not anticipate and are going to struggle mightily to counter.

Demetriou writes in his betting post:

I will set out my stall right here, and absolutely state without doubt that Obama will lose. Come and insult me and lob tomatoes and rotten veg at me if I’m proved wrong come November.

I am now inclined to agree with him. Two weeks ago, although I thought the odds on McCain (7-4 against) were too long, on balance I still thought Obama just about the likeliest winner of another close election, and so I did not risk any money. The arrival of Palin onto the scene has tipped the balance by giving the religious right and social conservatives confidence in the GOP ticket where it was lacking before.

Demetriou gives 4 reasons for believing that Obama will lose come November - None of which, incidentally, reference Sarah Palin except perhaps indirectly. I cannot see a way to completely refute any of them. Race will undoubtedly be a factor, eager as some liberals are to wish it away, although it is worth pointing out that to some extent it works both ways (see for instance this article). The "safe bet" or 'better the devil you know' factor is another that works in McCain's favour, particularly in this time of economic uncertainty. It is something of an irony that this may give the GOP the push they need to win this election.

The title of this post was inspired by the Paul Simon song, whose lyric runs "the nearer your destination, the more you're slip sliding away". If only the election had been any time between the withdrawal of Hillary Clinton from the candidacy race in June and the present moment, the Democrats would surely have overcame. Unfortunately there is still another two months to run, and right now the Democrats can't seem to win whatever they do. If they stick to the issues and keep it clean, as Obama clearly hoped to do in the beginning, they appear weak and look for all the world like repeating John Kerry's 2004 failure. If they go on the attack, particularly against Palin, they are painted as nasty bullies, kicking a personification of the same people they are hoping will go and vote for them in November.

I'm a pessimistic Obama supporter right now. I'd love to be proven wrong, but I'm standing next to Mr Demetriou unless something dramatic happens to change the race once again. If something doesn't transpire, the polls are going in only one direction from here on out, and the Democrats have blown it again.

1 comment:

Patrick Vessey said...

A thoughtful piece, Ian, and I tend to agree with your prognosis.

Not only is McCain/Palin a pretty strong ticket anyway (not that I'd vote for them), but I'm struggling to see how it could go wrong.

Although the HuffPost type lefties are running a hard campaign in an attempt to smear Palin, I think that even if they succeed it wouldn't unduly worry the GOP. Such an eventuality would result in a fair bit of sympathy for the Republicans, and I suspect that somebody like Joe Lieberman would step into McCain's number two slot, adding to the Democrat confusion.

It's going to be an interesting couple of months.