A week to go until the election and Barack Obama’s lead continues holds steady. McCain has tried a variety of tactics, but nothing, except picking Sarah Palin, has ever given his campaign a bounce. Is it really because voters want this nebulous thing called change and believe that a lifetime pol is the wrong person to bring it? Or is McCain just painfully uncharismatic compared to Obama? Maybe the sky has opening and finally the voters are rejecting cynical, negative “Rovian” politics in favour of the uplifting Obama campaign (a popular one among supporters).
Or maybe it’s just the economy.
Michael Barone, in a column for US News & World Report, thinks it’s housing:
I noted long ago in the introduction to my 1994 Almanac of American Politics that George H. W. Bush’s percentages declined between 1988 and 1992 by the greatest amount in southern California and New Hampshire—places that had “a spectacular collapse of residential real estate values” between those two years. You couldn’t go to New Hampshire in the run-up to the 1992 presidential primary without hearing people tell you how the house that used to be worth $350,000 was worth only $210,000 now. I concluded that the economic factor most important in voting behaviour was switching from short-term income to long-term wealth. These Pennsylvania numbers tell me that I was on the right track but that the explanation is a little more complex. High-income, high-education voters in the suburbs of big metro areas, my hypothesis goes, are preoccupied with long-term wealth accumulation—and react sharply against the Republican Party when their wealth is suddenly sharply diminished when there is a Republican president. Modest-income, modest-education voters in less affluent surroundings, it seems judging from McCain’s relatively good showing in Pennsylvania outside the heavily populated southeast, react much less sharply, because they have never expected to accumulate all that much in the way of wealth anyhow, consider themselves reasonably well protected by the existing safety net and feel free to vote (as more affluent Philly suburbanites have done in better times) on the basis of their opinions (conservative in their case) on cultural issues. The affluent are less afraid of the tax increases that Obama promises them than they are shocked by the negative effect on their wealth from the collapse of the housing bubble and the sharp decline in stock prices.
Barone is specifically talking about Pennsylvania politics here, but it could apply in a host of important battleground areas (Columbus-area Ohio, Florida, Nevada). The external force of the housing market (and the stock market) has certainly been good news for Obama and his supporters, though if he wins, they’ll no doubt revel in their “mandate” and the vindication of their new approach to politics. And then in 2012 it will all be the economy again.
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