Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Too Close to Call

By Alan Caruba

As someone who gives praise to a merciful God for the invention of the Internet connection to my banking information, I will not pretend that I understand much about the arithmetic of polls except that they seem to be wrong a great deal of the time.

There are so many variables regarding how a poll is conducted, the respondents, the nature of the questions asked, and the fact such things are then quantified and expected to be “accurate” in any sense of that word has got to qualify as a miracle.

To put it another way, people change their minds all the time. The candidates are essentially pitching their message at this point to the great, messy mob of “independents” and “undecideds.”

So here’s what I am thinking. I am thinking the race is so close that everyone involved, the candidates, their campaign teams, and the media mob pursuing them do not want to admit that it’s a toss-up.

The other day John McCain positioned himself as behind Barack Obama, telling a crowd that they had to turn out on Election Day and drag their Aunt Sarah to the polls with them. It was a passing statement and many candidates find it advantageous to suggest that they are battling to “come from behind” and need their followers to make a special effort.

Years ago, I used to assist the Republican committee in my little hometown. The town had been solidly Republican for decades, but then lots of young Democrats began to move in. One evening it was obvious that the only Republicans left were about a dozen of us sitting around in the mayor’s living room. All this talk of Red States, Blue States and Purple States is really a discussion of who has moved in or out.

The fact is that Obama is ahead in dollars and television commercials. I can’t remember the last campaign ad for McCain I’ve seen in the New York tri-state area.

I suspect that the GOP has had more than its share of problems getting the rank and file to pony up some bucks for McCain and other candidates. Since the base is definitively conservative and since the Republicans in Congress were spending as fast as the Democrats, the party is dealing with a lot of disaffected members.

Disaffected, but not suicidal. Even if they didn’t send money, that doesn’t mean Republicans won’t show up on Election Day. Most like what McCain is saying and, in the end, it is votes that matter.

Finally, the notion is beginning to circulate among the cognoscenti that this financial meltdown has occurred far too conveniently just before the election. To the extent that such things can be manipulated, the financial crisis could not have come at a more advantageous time for the Obama campaign.

I would bet that the financial crisis is the “October surprise” that people always talk about as affecting campaigns just before Election Day.

What I find more interesting, however, is how swiftly the stock market seems to be rebounding. The government opens the spigots of the Federal Reserve and, within a week or so, everybody has concluded that the problem has been solved.

Too close to call is my take on the campaign. Stay tuned.

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