In 2008, Obama, who came to national attention by decrying the polarization of Red-state and Blue-state America, had obvious appeal to voters. I think there is a similar, and similarly unquantifiable, factor working for Obama this year: Many voters feel, as an abstract proposition, that it would be a bad thing for American voters to reject the first black president.
Some conservatives complain that there is a double standard, that whites who vote against Obama are accused of racial motives, while blacks, 95 percent of whom voted for him, are not.
I think that's unfair. Members of an identifiable group that has been in some way excluded from full recognition as citizens will naturally tend to support a candidate who could be the first president from that group. In 1960, Gallup reported that 78 percent of American Catholics voted for John Kennedy.
American blacks have suffered exclusion and discrimination more than any other group. And very large percentages of them regularly vote for candidates who share Obama's views on issues.
What's remarkable about our politics in 2008 and today is that most voters seem to be making their decisions based on their assessment of the issues and the character of the candidates.
The fact that some have, at least for the moment, moved away from supporting Obama to opposing him, or remain unsure, reflects not an increasing racism, but the fact that we simply have more information than we had four years ago.
Most of us are disappointed when our candidates don't win. But that's no excuse for phony alibis.
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