The numbers, considered carefully, make an Obama win look like a safer and safer bet. Herewith a Canadian spectator’s opinions as to why this is and why it’s a good thing.
Why? · Seems pretty obvious to me. Most Americans didn’t pay much attention to the election until the conventions. Then 50 million people watched the big speeches and first debate.
Prior to that, most people had seen pictures and brief film-clips of Obama and, and had been aware of some of the Republican framing efforts: “He’s this young black guy with a Muslim middle name and big ears who gives fiery speeches and whose pastor was a kook. Weird. Maybe dangerous.”
Then Obama delivered a nice even-toned convention speech. And during the debate he was this perfectly normal American politician, saying all the perfectly normal things you’d expect an American politician to say. I didn’t think he “won” the debate, but that didn’t matter. At this point, there are quite a few Americans who’ve just had it with Republicans, and if there’s a mainstream alternative they’re taking it. Once Obama looked convincingly mainstream to 50 million people, I suspect the deal was done.
Why This is a Good Thing · Obama doesn’t have that much of a track record, as the Republicans point out. But we do know two things about him: First, he’s a damn good salesman. Second, he’s an outstanding manager. His built-from-scratch campaign organization went mano a mano with the mighty Clinton machine and won, and is now inflicting severe damage on the Rove-crafted juggernaut, based on effective people mobilization and (in part) smart use of the Internet.
You might push back, saying “It’s not him, he just hired the right experts” and I’d point out that the single most important skill in a successful executive is recruiting and team-building. So chances are Obama would be a competent executive-branch manager.
But it’s that salesmanship that’s the big thing. To the rest of the world, it looks like the US needs to make some fairly heroic efforts over the next few years around economics and energy. If there’s an administration that can sell the package effectively and get the population energized, the problems feel tractable; otherwise not. So I think that writing and speechmaking skills, often dismissed as “mere politics”, are actually real important in picking the 44th POTUS.