Robert Novak

Clearly, Obama has not yet closed the deal with the people to accept a young, inexperienced African-American as their president. Obama had virtually clinched the nomination when white working men in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia poured out to vote and carried their states comfortably for Hillary Clinton. It was not because of unalterable affection for her.

Obama's difficulty in reaching the 50 percent mark reflects an overwhelmingly white undecided vote at 10 to 15 percent.

These were target voters for Obama when he ventured into the war zones to demonstrate his mettle as a future commander in chief. He looked good, sounded good and committed no serious gaffes. But sitting by the popular Gen. David Petraeus and disagreeing with his military judgment may not have been the way to win over undecided white working men.

The toughest interrogation of Obama was CBS anchor Katie Couric's in Jordan last Tuesday. She asked four different times whether the troop surge he had opposed was instrumental in reducing violence in Iraq. Each time, Obama answered straight from talking points by citing "the great effort of our young men and women in uniform." That sounded like the old politics. He would have sounded more like a new politician if he had simply said, "Yes, the strategy did work." That would have infuriated anti-war activists, but not enough for them to drop Obama.

Several Democrats I have talked to noted that recent Democratic presidents got elected with a minority of the vote and also that McCain is further below the 50 percent standard than Obama. But McCain, running a flawed campaign in a big Democratic year, is dangerously close. He still could back in unless Obama closes the deal.


Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
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