Sen. Barack Obama recently established a victory over Sen. Hillary Clinton in what can arguably be described as one of the most bitterly-contested and emotionally-charged primaries in recent times; America is clearly at a major transition point in its history (Garrett, 2008). A man of color versus a woman – it couldn’t have gotten more unprecedented than that. With final nominees of both Republican and Democratic parties preparing to clash for the ultimate showdown, it’s no longer a matter of “if” but “when” the competition gathers some real steam.
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This paper attempts a bold study into the chances of either Obama or McCain in becoming the next President of the United States. In order to understand the present situation, the author has presented a “prediction roadmap” on how things should materialize in coming months ahead. To mark the introduction, the aim of this essay is to prove that Barack Obama’s “change” formula just might prevail over an experienced John McCain’s promise of stability (“Obama BluePrint for Change”, 2008).
An outline of major ideological differences between John McCain and Barack Obama
Apart from sharp contrasts in their background (Vietnam veteran vs. civil rights lawyer) and age (71 vs. 46), it would seem that John McCain and Barack Obama have almost nothing in common in their political agenda (Klein, 2008). That leaves plenty of room for debate in the run-up to the November elections. Here is a summary of the biggest differences likely to crop up when the candidates meet for debate:
- Iraq problem: McCain, himself being an ex-serviceman was an enthusiastic supporter of the Iraq invasion, and continues in the tradition of Bush to advocate further presence of US troops in Iraq (“Campaign issues, McCain”, 2008). Obama, as records suggest, not only opposed the war in its early stages, but his main poll plank calls for immediate and unconditional withdrawal of US troops from occupied territory (“Campaign issues, Obama, 2008”). This populist platform is in accordance with recent surveys which suggest that more than 2/3rd of Americans want the troops to return home (Terkel, 2008).
- Economic vision: Both candidates have their own differences in several issues of economic importance; e.g. tax cuts. While McCain favors tax concessions for “middle-class Americans” (“Campaign issues, McCain”, 2008), Obama wants working class citizens to be beneficiaries of any such policy (Obama Blue Print for Change, 2008). The Obama camp has gone to the extent of labeling Republicans as nothing but a party of “corporate lobbyists” (“Obama Blue Print for Change”, 2008).
- Energy crisis: With international crude prices hovering at $135/barrel, the issue of oil crisis is one of the most sensitive ones in current political scenario (Carlile-Alkhouri, 2008). Both candidates have their own speculations on tackling the problem. McCain has already proposed measures like tax cuts on gasoline in summer holidays while opposing bio-fuels because of the global food crisis (“Campaign issues, McCain”, 2008). Barack Obama in contrast, has called for reduced energy dependence on oil-rich Middle-East countries, supporting funding research on bio-fuels (“Campaign issues, Obama”, 2008). In addition, Obama also wants to encourage “innovation” in the energy sector (Campaign issues, Obama, 2008). McCain’s vehement opposition to the Bio-fuels program, coupled with additional measures such as exploring the Arctic Sea Environmental Zone for crude oil is a sure-shot recipe to anger environmental groups (Eilperin, 2008).
- Health care: Whereas McCain opposes any plans for Universal Health Care calling it financially unsound (“Campaign issues, McCain”, 2008), Obama, in his “change” manifesto, has renewed calls for this program touching a sympathetic cord with “47 million Americans who cannot afford health insurance” (“Campaign issues, Obama”, 2008). How he lives up to his promise, will be brought up to scrutiny by the McCain camp.
- Gun control: Both McCain and Obama have professed different perceptions on the issue of gun control, and its future implications for fundamental rights of American citizens (the 2nd amendment). Obama who received an F++ rating from National Rifle Associations (NRA) for his stance on protective gun control measures (“Gun Control Kills”, 2008) has come under sharp criticism from the veteran who accuses him of pandering to the far-left, liberal constituency (Bumiller, 2008). Considering that it’s still not clear whether conservative Republican voters are ready for a Black President (and not liberal Democrats as was seen in the Primaries), Obama will have to be prepare himself for heated debates on this sensitive issue.
- Issues that may prove disastrous for McCain in the long run: McCain, in order to improve his score with a traditional vote-bank has fallen prey to some controversial issues like opposing “Roe vs. Wade”, the “landmark decision of 1973” which gave women the right to abortion (“Associated Press”, 2008). This could overturn the support he’s looking for from hard-core Hillary Clinton backers (“Associated Press”, 2008). A large part of Hillary’s support comes from feminist organizations, LGBT groups and libertarians. Obama, on his part, is staying in their good books; a move which could translate into millions of voters.
Feminist organizations are not the only ones getting riled up on McCain. Despite his assertions of being a “centrist” (“Campaign issues, McCain”, 2008), he openly supports controversial measures like the introduction of a bill which would privatize social security benefits for Seniors (Wallsten, 2005). This basically envisages that workers who were born after 1950, would be asked to divert a portion of their retirement benefits to private institutions which in turn, would invest that money into stock and bond options (Wallsten, 2005).
It is abundantly clear from above points that between Obama and McCain, Obama is not the one touching “sensitive cords” of voters on issues which directly impact their day-to-day lives. These points illustrate some of the most common political differences between McCain and Obama in the run-up to the US presidential elections. As can be seen from general trends, one thing that emerges is the direction in which these candidates appeal to their respective votebanks. According to a Rasmussen poll study, McCain finds appeal with middle-class voters having an annual income between $40,000 to $75,000 whereas Obama scores higher among voters with an annual income less than $40,000 and more than $75,000 (Rasmussen Poll Study, 2008). These demographic trends will continue to play a decisive role in enabling the emergence of the winning candidate.
It doesn’t take a cinch to concur from above data that Barack Obama’s poll plank will have an instant appeal for college-going, young Americans whereas McCain intends to preserve his conservative middle-American vote base.
Current standing of both candidates in different election stages
As of June 3, 2008, various poll agencies like Gallup and Rasmussen have come to their conclusions on the current popularity/standing of both McCain and Obama. Data from Rasmussen’s overall assessment of both candidates offer a whopping 63% chances for a Democrat as against 37% for a Republican (Rasmussen Reports, 2008). The Democrats are trusted in 8 out of 10 main election issues, including Economy (Rasmussen Reports, 2008). Data from Rasmussen Markets report offer Barack Obama up to 94% winning chances in the 2008 elections assuming such unbelievable results can sway in either direction when one considers the limited sample size of 1600 (Rasmussen Reports, 2008).
Other significant highlights of this poll report offer some interesting perspective on the current trends in voting. Even though at a personal level, McCain is considered the more popular Presidential candidate (51% against 48% for Barack Obama), the Republican party might have to lose ground because of a strong anti-incumbency factor among the current breed of American voters (Rasmussen Reports, 2008). What these polls basically suggest is in order to consolidate his different image from the outgoing President, McCain has a lot of homework at hand!
State-by-State analysis of opinion polls
Also, according to Rasmussen Poll studies, state-by-state comparison of opinion polls offers an interesting mix of results. As was seen and witnessed during the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama has a huge appeal among voters in liberal states such as New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Wisconsin, Washington, Connecticut, Wisconsin, New Jersey , Oregon and even California (Rasmussen State-by-State comparison, 2008). These trends have been replicated in “each and every” poll study undertaken by Rasmussen over the last three months (Rasmussen State-by-State comparison, 2008). If nothing awkward happens to the Barack Obama campaign, he’s highly likely to consolidate his position in the liberal states.
As can be verified in the Rasmussen link, Obama has as high as 90% chances to retain his position in some of the liberal states which are strongly behind his candidacy (Rasmussen State-by-State comparison, 2008).
By the same token, McCain is expected to consolidate ground in some of the most traditional Republican states such as Texas, Arizona, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana,. Tennessee, North Carolina, South Dakota and Montana (Rasmussen State-by-State comparison, 2008). Given the absolute repetition in trends over coming few months, Obama’s campaign for “change” may or may not cut ice with conservative Republican voters as much he’d want it to happen. Bottomline: Current election prediction for these states with deeply-entrenched conservative/liberal mindset is unlikely to change for the 2008 elections.
What this basically implies is, the entire climax of 2008 elections will be witnessed in what are known as “swing states” which usually go either way – Republican or Democrat, as had happened in the last 2004 elections (Finnegan, 2008). According to the same chart, a few key states will help decide the future of either candidate in days to come; Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nevada and Ohio (Rasmussen State-by-State comparison, 2008). All these states offer an equal chance for both candidates (Rasmussen State-by-State comparison, 2008).
As can be seen from the Rasmussen poll, Barack Obama has a slight edge (5-10%) over McCain in most swing states except Nevada (Rasmussen State-by-State comparison, 2008). Since, this results are likely to undergo unpredictable change in coming few months, the fate of the entire nation rests on these statistics, and they will have to be referred to at each and every juncture of the campaign.
Historical comparison with current election situation
It’s interesting to note that current political situation in the country is identical in many ways to the early 1950’s. If history is to repeat itself, events that occurred in a distant past can well signal the future of 2008 Presidential elections. To be specific, a well-drawn comparison can be made with the 1952 Presidential elections. The incumbent President Truman back then, faced an identical situation to what President Bush faces today. Here is an analogous comparison:
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- Democrat Truman became President during the events of the Second World War (started with high approval ratings) but as time progressed, he was no longer able to control a huge dip in popularity ratings which almost fell to the 20’s thanks to economic problems in that era, Cold War with Soviet Union and a general feeling of discontent among Americans (Fortier, 2008). Cut back to 2008, and we have an identical situation faced by President Bush who’s witnessing a real nosedive in terms of popularity ratings. In 1952, elections were fought on the premise of “change”. 43% people back then thought that the Korean war was a “mistake” (Fortier, 2008).
- In the run-up to 1952 elections, Eisenhower was projected by Republican party as a candidate for “change” (Fortier, 2008). Among the Democrats, since an incumbent Truman was not able to contest, they placed a dark horse Adlai Stevenson to salvage their image (Fortier, 2008).
Later, at the time of final verdict, the anti-incumbency factor ripped through the heart of the Democratic party who faced their worst defeat in a long period of time (Fortier, 2008). Clearly, voters were not impressed with Stevenson’s rhetorical follow-up on Truman’s legacy (Fortier, 2008).
It goes without saying if historical trends are to be repeated today, Barack Obama has good chances to romp home with a decisive victory. He has that same “youthful flavor” which enabled past popular candidates like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan to win convincingly in their presidential bids (Kitt, 2007).
Reflections on what a Democratic victory can mean for American people?
Barack Obama’s becoming President can open an entirely new chapter in US history on virtually every issue which will matter in coming future of this country. It will have far-reaching ramifications across different levels of society. From the liberal, educated elites to working class Americans, Obama’s call for “change” has become an acid test for the fundamental premises on which the nation stands. Here are a few vital issues that will be affected if this change manifesto sees the final daylight.
- Race: Obama’s nomination as President will send strong, supportive signal to all minorities of the US (Davies, 2008); this may be one of the major reasons for his wholesome appeal – the history of America has been fraught with annals of social discrimination on the basis of one’s ethnicity. It will be heralded as the coming of age for the “Melting Pot”
- Immigration: That Obama is the son of a Kenyan father speaks a lot about his popularity among new immigrants to American soil. In a democratic set-up where the son of a foreign national from a minority community aspires to reach the highest position of commander-in-chief, it’s an encouraging acknowledgement of diversity.
- A new chapter in foreign diplomatic relations: If Obama is really able to deliver what he promised, it will herald a new chapter for US foreign policy. By revising America’s traditional role in the current multi-polar world, Obama has the potential to win hearts and minds of many international observers (Canellos, 2008). Unlike the Bush administration, Obama is extending an olive branch to what the US, traditionally, labels as “failed enemy states” e.g. North Korea, Iran and Venezuela.
Whereas John McCain (and to some extent, Hillary Clinton) did their part in upping the ante against Iran on its furtive missiles program, warning it of “dire consequences” if it didn’t comply with US demands (“Campaign issues, McCain”, 2008), Obama is taking the simple reverse approach – he wants to sit on a negotiation table with the current leadership of Iran, Syria, Libya and several hostile countries in order to resolve international disputes through dialog (“Obama Blue Print for Change”, 2008). His flexibility approach in dealing with hostile States can be compared with actions of some popular leaders in the past e.g. Ronald Reagan, who at the height of the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, successfully negotiated for the release of 52 US hostages in Iran.
According to surveys, many countries such as Russia and China would be only too happy to receive the news of Obama becoming President. In a sample survey comprising 50 Russians, an overwhelming majority endorsed Obama because of his “flexible” stance on foreign affairs (Mamchur, 2008). This is a refreshing piece of news considering that even weeks ago, the Bush administration managed to anger Russians through its aggressive foreign policy. Obama becoming President will do a lot to defuse the present crisis because of his overwhelming popularity among Russians (Mamchur, 2008).
Apart from diplomatic victories, Obama also has the potential to win over international forum experts on a variety of global issues such as the current Sudan (Darfur) crisis, the ongoing civil war in Congo, international food crisis, global warming and many such issues which have been left unresolved by the Bush administration (“Obama BluePrint for Change”, 2008). By virtue of his unique background and superb elocution skills, he can prove to be an excellent diplomat in enhancing US prestige around the globe, not just as a superpower but also, as a valuable friend and ally to individual nations – Obama, is all about a “change” in image and perception.
This paper documents a near-prediction of events leading up to the US Presidential elections, 2008. By virtue of supportive evidence so far mentioned, the candidature of Barack Obama belonging to Democratic party automatically qualifies for a high possibility of selection in the upcoming polls. Obama can win by a landslide in November because he’s already passed the litmus test of beating a formidable candidate Hillary Clinton in the primaries. From this report, it can be clearly seen that he has a sizeable following among many different kinds of constituencies (except conservative belt areas). Most minorities (except, a sizeable portion of the Hispanic-American constituency who are in favor of McCain for his stance on immigration) (Raul, 2008) are expected to vote for Obama (as was seen in the recent turnaround of Black women’s support from Hillary to Obama). Homosexuals (the entire LGBT community), feminists and libertarians are already committed to his young and dynamic vision for America.
The only difficult group for Obama to tackle is the constituency of blue-collar workers from traditional states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia who right now, don’t seem too impressed by his mantra for “change”. However, John McCain’s anti-incumbency factor of carrying over the burden of controversial policies from Bush regime may just help Obama in overriding all small concerns, and perform a repeat of the landmark 1952 elections. Obama’s victory will create an unprecedented impact on US politics; clearly, this is an important moment in our country’s history.
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