You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

More Cork Popping

Noam Scheiber is trying to displace me as the office grinch, and in this case I'm going to let him. Still, I want to clarify my little item about cork-popping. I took note of the Pew poll, showing Barack Obama ahead by sixteen points, because it is a reputable poll, and if it shows Obama ahead by that much, then he must be enjoying a significant margin, if not that large. I would never suggest (nor would the Pew people) that Obama is going to win the election by sixteen points, but I think that on the basis of that and other polls, Obama supporters can feel pretty confident that he will win by three or four points.

What I look for is whether Obama is getting 50 percent or more in national and swing state polls. If there is a Bradley effect in this election, it will take the form of undecided voters going overwhelmingly for John McCain--not of voters who said they were for Obama turning out to be closet McCain supporters. In 1982, the Field Poll of October 27 showed Democrat Tom Bradley ahead of Republican George Deukmejian by 47 to 41 percent. Deukmejian won by 49 to 48 percent. The disparity was probably due to underestimating the rural turnout (in opposition to a gun control initiative backed by Bradley) and to undecideds breaking sharply for Deukmejian. In the 1989 Virginia gubernatorial race, black Democrat Doug Wilder didn't do as well as the polls predicted, but here, too, most pre-election polls had him leading with less than 50 percent. So if Obama is at 50 percent or better in the polls, Obama supporters can take heart.

I mention the Bradley effect because I think, too, that McCain and Sarah Palin's attack against Obama for advocating "spreading the wealth" and for "socialism" and for pronouncing the civil rights revolution a "tragedy" because it didn't deal with the distribution of wealth is aimed ultimately at white working class undecided voters who would construe "spreading the wealth" as giving their money to blacks. It's the latest version of Reagan's "welfare queen" argument from 1980. It if it works, it won't be because most white Americans actually oppose a progressive income tax, but because they fear that Obama will inordinately favor blacks over them. I don't doubt that this argument will have some effect, but I suspect it's too late and that worries about McCain and Republican handling of the economy will overshadow these concerns.

Looking at the states themselves, I don't see McCain catching Obama in Virginia and Colorado. Virginia, after all, elected an African American governor 19 years ago. The Northern Virginia voters, who elected Doug Wilder, now overwhelm the old George Wallace voters from rural South and Southwest. And some of these voters are now backing Democrats like senate candidate Mark Warner. Coloradotoo, is a state increasingly dominated by college-educated voters who will not be swept away by McCain's cryptic arguments about socialism. And nor will the voters in Philadelphia and its suburbs who should give Obama a sufficient margin to carry the state. With Virginia, Colorado, and Pennsylvania in his pocket, it really won't matter if McCain can create a backlash in Ohio or Florida or North Carolina. He will have already lost the election.

--John B. Judis

Be sure to check out Scheiber's response here.