27 June , 2008
Can Obama Do It?
By Dr Nayyer Ali
Barack Obama made history by being the first non-white person to capture the nomination for President on behalf of a major political party. It is a remarkable event, and it is difficult to imagine what other nation on Earth could have such a turn of events.
Obama is the son of a Kenyan Muslim father and a White American mother, who divorced when he was two years old. He was raised by a single parent, and traveled the world, even attending kindergarten in Indonesia. He has a Muslim half-brother in Kenya, and his middle name is Hussein, of all things. On top of that, his last name rhymes with the instigator of 9/11. To imagine that such a person would be within striking distance of becoming President is remarkable.
But can Obama actually win the Presidential election? In the earliest polls he has a small lead over McCain, 49% to 43%. How that will actually end up in November is anyone’s guess. But Obama comes into the race with a number of advantages.
As a candidate Obama is extraordinarily good. His speaking style is inspirational, even when the substance can be vague, and his ability to energize people is quite obvious. John McCain, on the other hand, is a rather poor campaigner, and won the Republican nomination only because all the other choices were so awful to Republican voters.
Obama also has a massive fundraising machine on the Internet. He has raised almost twice as much money as McCain, and this money advantage is likely to persist. Obama is relying on a massive number of small donors, while McCain has relied on the traditional large donor Republican base. But Obama’s base is much deeper and broader when it comes to money.
The overall mood of the country is extremely anti-Republican. Bush has an approval rating under 30% and is deeply unpopular, so much so that McCain will not campaign with him in public. In three recent special elections to House seats, Democrats won in districts that had been safely Republican for decades. There is a major chance of a Democratic landslide in the House and Senate races this November. McCain would have to battle past all that. There are even Republicans who are openly supporting Obama, and refer to themselves as “Obamacans”.
On the core issues that concern Americans, Obama’s views are much more in line with the mainstream. Obama wants US troops out of Iraq as rapidly as possible, which is exactly what the vast majority of Americans think should happen. In addition, Obama’s views on healthcare are much more in common with Americans than McCain’s, who basically says that we should make insurance cheaper for the healthy, and let the sick go uninsured. Obama also has significant support among blacks, young people, and the highly educated.
So could Obama lose this election? Is it possible? Yes, but for that to happen McCain would need a substantial segment of voters for whom race is an issue. These voters tend to be over 50 and white males. However, McCain cannot rely on them alone to tip the election. Most of them would have voted Republican anyway. What he needs is that segment of normally Democratic voters who switch to McCain over the race issue. This is likely to be a modest fraction of the electorate, but if even 3% of total voters switch is based on this, it would turn a 52% to 48% Obama win into a 49% to 51% loss. However, if Obama is running 10 points ahead otherwise, then this small but crucial voting bloc would not make the difference.
A win for Obama would be a huge positive for America’s image around the world. It would instantly wash away the stench of the Bush years, and probably do more to undermine the Al-Qaeda rationale for attacking the United States than anything else has done. Obama is in fact Osama’s worst nightmare.