Change is an effective mantra in elections following two consecutive terms by one party in office. That is especially the case when the current officeholder is unpopular and the economy is weak. Barack Obama has that as a tremendous advantage in this race and recent polls breaking his way show it, but there are some significant factors that could still lead to his undoing.
When you look at the unpopularity of the current administration, the financial crisis that has overshadowed all other issues, the fawning media and the promise of a charismatic young figure offering change, it would appear this race is over. In fact, it would not be surprising if that candidate were leading by twenty points by now. Prospects are certainly looking good for an Obama win at this time, but there are a few factors that can still work in John McCain’s favor. Obama’s liberal voting record, his far left associations and the fact that Democrats control the Congress could all still cause trouble for Obama.
Obama is spending significantly more in my state of North Carolina than McCain, so I see a lot of Obama ads. One I saw several times this week was incredibly reminiscent of some Bill Clinton ads from 1992. I remember the Clinton ads because even though I opposed him, I was impressed by how good and how persuasive they were. Bill Clinton sat in what looked like could be a living room, or perhaps a large homey office, with natural lighting, and talked directly to the camera. He told voters that he was for a middle class tax cut and for “ending welfare as we know it.” I couldn’t argue with either of those ideas. I knew enough about the Democratic party at the time to know it was pretty unlikely that would happen, but I had to admit it sounded good.
When Clinton promised those things, the economy had already begun, and was maintaining, a steady recovery. That didn’t stop him from referring to it as the worst economy in 50 years, though, and the nation bought it. Now we have an economic situation that both candidates agree is one of the most dire our country has faced. In spite of the fact that Democratic policies are largely to blame, the unpopular sitting Republican President and his party are going to be saddled with the majority of the blame. Those in the media will ensure they are, regardless of whether or not they are deserving of it.
In the Obama ad I have seen many times this week, he is sitting in a setting very similar to the one Bill Clinton used in 1996. Also like Clinton, he talks directly into the camera and promises tax cuts for the middle class. Will this approach be as effective for Obama as it was for Clinton?