Exclusive: Obama’s Poll Numbers Are ‘Slip Slidin’ Away’

by PAM MEISTER August 21, 2008
Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away ~ Paul Simon
As both the conventions and the election get closer and closer, so do the poll numbers. The latest Reuters/Zogby poll (taken over the last week) shows John McCain leading Barack Obama by five points (46 to 41). And according to Gallup, the two candidates have tied within the past few days.
But back in June, Obama was well ahead of McCain by 15 points.
According to historic precedent, the stars favor Democrats this year as a sitting president’s approval ratings usually have a large impact on whether voters will pull the lever for the same party’s candidate. Currently, President Bush’s ratings are hovering around 30% - hardly anything to write home about. (Yet considering job approval ratings for the Democrat-led Congress are less than half that, Bush looks like he’s the head boy, beating out Nancy “Save the Earth” Pelosi and Harry “Oil Makes Us Sick” Reid.) Still, precedent is precedent. Until 2008.
It’s shocking when you consider that Obama has received just about the biggest media build-up in the history of our nation. And with so many well-informed Hollywood celebrities unafraid to show their backing of The One™, the public was sure to follow suit. I mean, if we aren’t afraid to imitate Jennifer Aniston’s hair, surely we aren’t afraid to imitate her politics.
In other words, once he became the presumptive Democrat nominee, the election was his to lose.
So what the heck happened?
Some are implying that racism is rearing its ugly head. Chris Matthews of Hardball fame on MSNBC…yes, Hardball…surely you’ve heard of it? Nearly 200,000 American adults view it nightly. (I knew you’d be impressed.)
Anyway, Chris Matthews had this to say the other night about the voters’ reluctance to embrace Obama:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this.  Isn't he [McCain] handing out permission slips to vote against Barack?  "Inexperience" is my favorite.  Because you could have all kinds of problems with Barack Obama: ethnically, politically, culturally, class—I don't know what the adjective is for class, but "classily."  And you can have every problem in the world with Mrs. Obama. But you could hide it all under, not hide it all, you could present it all under one word: "you know, I've got nothing against him.  He's a bright young man with a quality education, interesting new ideas. But he's not quite ready yet." And that's a fair critique which covers all your reasons for opposing him.
Isn’t it nice the way Matthews slipped the word “ethnically” in there and then posited that McCain is giving the rest of us a great excuse not to vote for his opponent? Layman’s interpretation: “Gee, he’s seems to be a nice guy, but he’s not black experienced enough.” You stay classy, Chris.
Meanwhile, the grownups are looking at the man behind the myth and finding that, like that mythical emperor with a notoriously skimpy wardrobe, Obama comes up short in more critical ways than the color of his skin. I know this conversation may not help Michelle Obama’s kids, but they already know their father. The rest of America is just beginning to get acquainted with him. To wit:
  • When Russian tanks rolled into Georgia last week, using its concerns for the South Ossetians as excuse (out of true desire to help them or as a way to set an example for the West while punishing a former satellite state? The jury is still out), Obama happened to be hitting the surf in Hawaii. While his vacation turned out to be ill-timed (something he couldn’t have predicted), his somewhat muted reaction to the conflict – a brief statement in the beginning of the week – stood out in stark contrast to McCain’s daily statements with a “fluency…[that] lends an aura of commander in chief.” Americans took notice: a poll this week indicated that they think McCain is more qualified to deal with Russia on the rise than Obama by a two-to-one margin.
  • When it comes to the price at the pump – and the security issues related to buying oil from Middle Eastern countries that don’t necessarily have our best interests at heart – Obama’s initial reactions were telling. In one early interview on the topic, he said, “I think I would have preferred a gradual adjustment. The fact that this is such a shock to American pocketbooks is not a good thing. But if we take some steps now to help people make the adjustment, first of all by putting more money into their pockets, but also by encouraging the market to adapt to these new circumstances more quickly; particularly U.S. auto makers.” In other words, like Jimmy “Malaise” Carter’s suggestion back in 1977 to put on a sweater and quit complaining, we should make do with less while countries like India and China continue to demand more. Opposed to drilling at home, Obama also made the absurd claim that keeping our tires inflated properly and getting regular tune-ups would save as much oil we could get if we were to drill right here in the U.S. McCain, on the other hand, is adapting to changing circumstances by reversing his stance on offshore drilling (from no to yes) and even claimed he would continue to “examine” the case for drilling in ANWR.
  • When it comes to the possibility of a nuclear attack, Obama’s position couldn’t be more different than McCain’s. As my colleague Joel Himelfarb pointed out last week, “In the wake of Russia's invasion of Georgia, McCain reiterated his support for the just-signed U.S.-Poland missile defense system. By contrast, a spokeswoman for Obama's campaign gave an equivocal answer suggesting that the system might not work - a mantra that arms-control-advocate foes of missile defense have used to disparage every such proposal for the past 40 years.” Considering Russia’s latest moves, including freezing all joint work with NATO in Georgia, is this such a good position?
I could go on, but there’s only so much memory on my computer.
Regardless of what morons like Chris Matthews want you to believe, the “inexperience” moniker is not a “permission slip” to vote against Obama because he “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills.” The American people deserve a more serious look at both candidates than all of the cheerleading on one hand and race baiting on the other by the media.
The time for grandstanding and hyperventilating over “hope and change” is over. The American people are ready for a serious discussion about the important issues of the day. Are both candidates ready to provide them with the answers they need to make an informed choice on November 4th? And is the media prepared to take off their rose-colored glasses and put facts before ideology?
Pam Meister is the editor of FamilySecurityMatters.org.

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