Submitted by C. Evelyn
Over the last few weeks we have witnessed a meteoric rise by the Obama/Biden ticket in the upcoming US election. With less than a week to go before Election Day, many pundits in the media and elsewhere have counted out any possibility of a McCain/Palin presidency. Some polls have shown Obama leading by up to 8 points in certain battleground states and presently CNN is predicting Obama has 286 Electoral College votes, well over the required 270 needed to clinch the presidency. At the risk of sounding like a pessimist, I warn the many die hard Obama supports that its not over by a long shot. There are a number of factors that if combined could quite easily lead to us waking up on November 5th to McCain as the president elect and de facto leader of the world.
In the primaries, quite to the surprise of many pundits, Obama a first term senator and virtual unknown was able to defeat former first lady Hillary Clinton. One of the factors that allowed Obama to defeat the more seasoned Clinton was the impact of the youth vote. In the primaries, youth turned out in unprecedented numbers to support their candidate of choice. Inspired by his youthful image and his talk of change, young voters played an instrumental role selecting a new face in an era when for twenty years, the presidency has been controlled by two families. As we look forward to next week Tuesday, there is a distinct possibility that the youth may not turn out in their numbers. Already from the statistics we have from early voting, it appears that youth have not taken advantage of the opportunity to vote in as large a proportion as they did in the primaries. History also presents the precedent of past elections (Gore in 2000, Kerry in 2004) where youth seemed energized behind a candidate but on Election Day did not translate that energy into voting. If youth do not come out in great numbers on Election Day, Barack could lose one of his major constituencies.In many of the polls in key battle ground states Obama leads McCain by up to 10 points. This morning, yahoo’s poll average gave Obama 51% to McCain’s 43% (unsure 6%). While this seems like a comfortable lead, I posit that this race is much closer than many polls suggest. Need I remind you of the New Hampshire primary where Obama 24hrs before the primary, was leading Clinton by a significant 11% yet still lost the primary. In this case, what happened in New Hampshire and in many of the later primaries, was that those voters who were unsure broke towards Clinton when it mattered most in the voting booth. Should this happen on November 4th the race becomes a lot tighter Obama 51%, McCain 49%. Now if we keep in mind that most polls have a +/- 3% margin or error, it is feasible to imagine McCain winning a state where Obama commanded an 8 point lead. If this happens on a national scale McCain can still win. (In this equation, the current economic crisis which favors Obama is not considered.) One sub factor which I do not wish to dwell extensively on is the issue of race or the so called “Bradley effect” which could possibly favor McCain. In this scenario, many white voters may tell pollsters that they support Obama for fear of seeming racist or may support Obama but fail to pull the trigger in the voting booth.
As paradoxical as this may seem, Obama’s present commanding lead in the polls benefits McCain. A lead like this in the polls may act to encourage McCain supporters and those who are anti-liberal but not necessarily Republican (Libertarians for example) to come out in their numbers to support McCain for fear of having a Democratic President, House and Senate. If this occurs in key battle ground states, it could give McCain the much needed boost he needs to get catch up to Obama. Similarly, Obama’s lead could lead to overconfidence and complacency on the part of his supporters which causes many of them not to vote since in their eyes Obama has already clinched the presidency. If this happened in key states like Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania it could be a route to a McCain presidency.
In Barbados, our former Prime Minister is known for saying that the only poll that counts is the one on Election Day. As shown, polls can be misleading or have unintended consequences on the population. On the evening of November 4th I look forward to watching with a cold Heineken in hand as the results come through on CNN and I truly hope that Americans elect Barack Obama the next POTUS.