Presidential Race Maps Writing on the Wall

George W Bush's Approval Ratings: A Problem for McCain?

Posted Oct 13, 2008 at 4:24 AM by Maurice Berger

An ABC News/Washington Post national survey released today--indicating a +10% lead for Obama--has another piece of bad news for John McCain: 51% of registered voters think McCain as president would lead the nation in the same direction as the profoundly unpopular Bush, as persistent a problem for McCain as experience has been for Obama." Given the president's historically low approval ratings, is the damaged Republican brand too much for McCain to overcome?

The "Experience" Issue

Posted Oct 12, 2008 at 1:28 AM by Maurice Berger

Just how much is the issue of "experience" a factor in this election? On the surface, McCain's relative experience versus Obama's relative youth might seem like a plus for the Republican. When voters are anxious, they often inflect their own sense of instability onto the nation, and vice versa. And when voters feel unstable, they sometimes go towards the candidate they perceive as more familiar and experienced (thus, American voters do not vote out incumbent presidents in time of war). Sometimes during exceedingly difficult times, however, voters turn against the status quo--the fateful  1932 victory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt comes to mind--especially as they grow more familiar and comfortable with a "riskier" candidate who espouses dramatic change. Indeed, it was not until the last week of the 1980 campaign, another trying economic time, that Ronald Reagan wrapped up the election, having convinced millions of voters through a calming and commanding debate performance that he was not the right-wing extremist some feared. The present-day economic meltdown, and the anxiety it engenders in voters, has created an opening for Obama. In recent weeks, he has emerged as the reassuring candidate by appearing level-headed in a time of crisis, a quality communicated through his thoughtful and measured debate performances. Whether the Democrat will finally seal the deal with American voters may depend on three factors: [1] if he continues to be seen as the candidate who can best handle the failing economy (given the tendency of voters to blame Republicans for the present-day economic failures, Obama has a decided advantage in this regard); [2] if undecided or wavering voters can get past their anxieties, uncertainty, or prejudices about him; and [3] if the economy--and not another pressing domestic or international event--remains the number one issue on election day.

The Experience Question

Posted Sep 16, 2008 at 2:44 AM by Maurice Berger

On the experience question, Rasmussen reports (9/15) the following numbers: "Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters say John McCain is prepared right now to be president, and 50% say the same thing about Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Biden. Forty-four percent (44%) say the man at the top of Biden's ticket, Barack Obama, is ready, but 45% say he isn’t." On Mccain's running mate: "Over half of voters (52%) say McCain’s running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, is not prepared to be president, but 33% disagree"

Tightening Race: "Crisis" Management?

Posted Aug 13, 2008 at 6:43 AM by Maurice Berger

As if to underscore the closeness of the national race, a new Pew Research poll, suggests that Obama's national lead over McCain has disappeared. The race is now a statistical tie, with Obama barely edging McCain, 46% to 43%, down from the eight point lead held by Obama in June and a result consistent with most other national polls. According to Pew, the Republican base is getting behind McCain. Another key finding: McCain rates considerably higher than Obama on the question of leadership: In contrast to June polling, "An even greater percentage of voters . . . now see McCain as the candidate who would use the best judgment in a crisis, and an increasing percentage see him as the candidate who can get things done."

The aspect of voter response concerning "crisis management"--in a survey taken over the past few days--begs the following question: Is the military conflagration between Russia and Georgia making voters nervous, and thus less likely to take a chance on a younger candidate with relatively little military and foreign policy experience? Is the McCain campaign's effort to paint Obama as a self-involved "celebrity" contributing to voter perceptions of McCain as the more serious candidate, better able to handle a crisis? To what extend does Obama's race and the perception advanced by some of his critics that he is "different" or even un-American play into voter anxieties about him? Will McCain's recent gaffes and misstatements ultimately undermine his message of stability, good judgment, and leadership?