The Democrats are having their flop-sweat moment. Barack Obama should be way out in front. The Republicans are in terrible shape. There hasn't been a more battered brand name since Bart Simpson swallowed a jagged metal "O" from his box of Krusty-O's cereal. The GOP has nominated an old white-haired dude, in Paris Hilton's words, who makes Dick Cheney look like a lambada champion. He'll be the kind of president who will yell from the Oval Office window, "You kids get off my lawn!" The economy isn't roadkill quite yet; it's sort of like wounded roadkill, flopping around, unable to get going but unwilling to lay down and die.
And yet, John McCain is pulling ahead of Obama. The latest Reuters poll has Grandpa Munster up five percentage points over our secular messiah. The Real Clear Politics average of polls has Obama and McCain in a virtual tie. And, according to RCP, if the race were held today and McCain took the toss-up states where he's currently ahead, he'd be the next president.
Yes, it's early. McCain has had a good couple weeks. But these were McCain's first good couple weeks since he secured the nomination. Meanwhile, with the exception of the Jeremiah Wright unpleasantness, Obama has had a good couple years.
The winds at the Democrats' backs are hurricane-force gales, and yet there's Obama holding steady, like a young Dan Rather in his schoolgirl rain slicker, immobile and unmovable.
Ask the typical Obama supporter why this should be so and you'll get a range of answers. Some just stare at the poll numbers the way my late basset hound would look at me when I tried to feed him a grape: with pure unblinking incomprehension. Others act like the guy who sits alone with his shopping bags at the public library, muttering about Fox News conspiracies and how Karl Rove-like aliens are doing terrible things with probes of proctological exactitude. Still others just shake their heads at the racism of anyone who could possibly have a problem with a very left-wing politician with almost no experience, who often sounds like his campaign slogan is: "People of Earth! Stop Your Bickering. I Am From Harvard, And I'm Here To Help."
Perhaps therein lies the answer to this supposed mystery. Indeed, perhaps there's no mystery at all, and Obama's problems are the same problems Democrats always have at the presidential level: He's an elitist.