We are talking about a Super Bowl-size audience as more people than ever turned to the Vice Presidential debate last Thursday. Who won? It apparently depends upon who was asked and how the question was phrased. CBS and CNN both had overnight polls and both claimed that Senator Joseph R. (Joe) Biden, Jr. won by a landslide. But pollster Frank Luntz assembled a large group in St. Louis, about half of whom had voted for President George W. Bush and the other half had voted for Senator John F. Kerry in 2004. That group overwhelmingly felt that Governor Sarah Heath Palin had won the debate. These were all undecided voters and a number of them said they were now inclined toward the McCain-Palin ticket on account of her performance.
While that debate drew an unprecedented audience, it is doubtful that many voters will cast their vote based upon their evaluation of the Vice Presidential candidates. One thing which may help Senator John S. McCain, III is that 55% in the CBS Poll believe that Governor Palin is qualified to be President, should that become necessary. The percentage had been much lower in a previous CBS Poll.
There is now less than a month before voters cast their ballots in the Presidential election. Senator Barack Hussein Obama has a significant lead at this point. In fact, no Presidential candidate equally far behind as McCain a month out has won the Presidency. Obama, upon that basis, should be breaking out the champagne. But Obama is not, in light of the Bradley Factor. That refers to the gubernatorial campaign in California during which the Mayor of Los Angeles polled far ahead of the Attorney General of California. However, when the votes were counted Mayor Tom Bradley was defeated by 50,000 votes. Respondents to polling firms wanted to be politically correct by saying that Bradley was their candidate. When they got into the privacy of the voting booth they voted the other way. Obama worries about the Bradley Factor because in several primary contests he over-polled the actual result.
It may not only be the Bradley Factor which has caused the Obama camp to pause. Former Clinton advisor Dick Morris believes that Obama has peaked too soon. He has forecast that Obama support will begin to decline in another week and that by election day the race will be dead even again. Of course, Morris is not always correct in his analysis. He thought McCain's move to suspend his campaign in order to work on the bailout was "brilliant." It turned out the public viewed this as somewhat of a gimmick. McCain's support declined each day from the time he suspended his campaign.
University of Virginia political guru Professor Larry Sabato said normally Obama could expect to be elected given the current circumstances but given this volatile year any day could produce a game changer, so voters should not draw any conclusion yet.
Fourteen percent of the electorate is said to be undecided. Should that group break strongly toward one candidate or the other it could produce a landslide for Obama or a very close election with McCain having a slight edge. And then there are the Congressional elections. Voter outrage may continue through November 4. If so, how would it translate in the elections? Would voters turn out of office those who supported the bailout? That is unclear. Or could voters resent those who voted no on the ground that something had to be done and they rejected that opportunity?
Before all this turmoil I had suggested that we might have some surprises on Election Day. It is impossible to know how exactly the outrage on the part of the electorate will translate into votes. We do know that the Democrats have a superior ground game (voter ID and turnout) just as the Republicans had a superior ground game in 2004 which resulted in that party gaining four Senate seats. Now on paper the Democrats appear to gain a minimum of five Senate seats. That is unless voter outrage changes that outlook.
Pack a good picnic brunch and prepare for an all-night marathon election night and the morning after. Unless we have a landslide in the making we are likely to have a marathon election with many confusing results. Why not? Think of what already has happened this year.