National Review Online: Eight Keys to 2008

National Review Online (9/24/08)

Eight Keys to 2008

Will race sink Obama? Surveys this year have repeatedly shown that voters prefer a “generic” Democratic presidential candidate by margins of seven to twelve points. But they are apparently just not sure about Obama, as he has failed to consistently exceed 50 percent in the polls. His race may be the reason for at least part of this shortfall: The Gallup poll last December showed that 5 percent of Americans would not support a well-qualified black candidate. A Pew Center poll found that 6 percent of voters said they were “less likely” to support a black person, while 5 percent of respondents to an ABC/Washington Post poll said that they were “entirely uncomfortable” about having a black president. If only partisan Republicans were refusing to vote for a black candidate, that wouldn’t be a problem for Obama, as he wasn’t likely to get many GOP votes even if he were white. But the anti-black vote is spread almost evenly across party lines, greatly complicating his task.

The problem for Democrats is that the last two elections were decided by less than three points, and this year is that close, so even a small racial vote could tip the balance here. As of September 14, the average of national polls complied by showed the horserace essentially even. Assuming that undecided white voters will break heavily against the black candidate in the privacy of the voting booth, Obama is actually behind right now. As my former boss, CNN Analyst Bill Schneider used to say, any black candidate below 50 percent in late polls in a two-way race is extremely vulnerable.

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