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Posted by on Oct 6, 2008 in Politics | 25 comments

Why McCain Will Win

Yes, I know, that’s probably a surprising headline, but if you give me a chance to explain myself we may have a new point of discussion. Earlier I talked about how the McCain campaign’s choice to bring up Bill Ayers would not be a wise decision. I stand by that analysis. The media is going to address the question of why McCain is talking about it more than the relationship itself. There is also a common narrative being woven that the worse the economy does, the better it is for Obama. Polls would indicate that there is some truth to that as well. But beyond all of the excitement and bloviation, I believe that the history of American politics has a more consistent lesson for us.

The country is in trouble right now – on a number of fronts – and people are frightened. Rightly so, I say. Not only is our economy on the rocks, but international news presents a host of goblins we may need to confront in the years to come. You certainly don’t need me to list them for you. And when the country is in trouble, voters turn to what they know and trust from the past. Certainly John McCain has some exposed flanks on past issues, but the fact remains that he is the face of what we’ve known and trusted for generations. He’s the war hero and the experienced Congressional leader who has walked the admittedly grimy halls of Washington for decades. He knows his way around the place and has seen administrations – both good and bad – pass in his wake.

Obama raised expectations of excited voters to record highs, it’s true. But he also remains the unknown element. He is, in some fundamental ways, “the outsider” to the American psyche. He is neither wholly black nor white on the racial radar. He is a Christian who was raised – in part – in Muslim climes. He has that familiar face but with the funny name. He’s not what we’re used to seeing. And in a number of these crucial swing states, people who may be reluctant to say things which could be perceived as racially charged to pollsters still have a sliver of doubt in their hearts. The day will come when they have to step into the voting booth and pull that lever. Will they take a chance on what they do not know and can not fully relate to?

I will not be at all surprised if the aging, experienced populations of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania find themselves in significant portions unable to cast a vote for the unknown on Election Day. The pollsters may go in on the evening of November 3rd telling us that these crucial states hold a thin majority for Obama, but when we awaken on November 5th, I will be equally sanguine in seeing that they wound up voting for what they know rather than what they hope for. In fact, as the day of reckoning draws near, I will not be shocked to see the polls taking a last-minute turn in McCain’s direction.

This is not in any way a statement that I am supporting Senator McCain over Senator Obama. I will be casting my vote for Bob Barr this fall, and I’ll sleep all the better knowing I’ve done so. Neither of these major party candidates inspires any confidence in me that they will be wise stewards of our fiscal health. But having watched American elections first-hand since Nixon’s initial victory, I’ve seen this movie play out enough times before. The way things look in early October is rarely how they wind up after the polls close. If you think John McCain is out of this race – and I may be wrong – I believe that a shock may still be in store for you. We are creatures of habit as a nation, and our habits in hard times do not run in the direction the current polls indicate.

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