it were. “People revert to their normal voting patterns; Republicans vote for Republicans and Democrats vote for Democrats. The lead goes from high to low single digits, but it’s still a lead and there’s not a whole lot of time for things to shift,” he says. Both candidates are focusing on their ground game, which will be crucial as the campaign winds down, particularly in the battlegrounds. “Now it’s all about turnout. What Obama is essentially hoping is that his increase in African Americans and young people and pulling over some moderate votes is enough to offset the increase that McCain can get in his base, the evangelical and anti-Obama vote,” says Tanner. “Whoever can turn out their base better is the winning candidate.”
McCain’s relentless charges this week that Obama’s economic plans will redistribute the wealth of America with higher taxes have made some traction with voters, Tanner believes, but have probably come too late to truly be effective. In addition, McCain’s focus remains on unifying the Republican base, which has never considered him its standard bearer, while Obama has been free to reach out to the middle. The remaining 6% or so of undecideds will probably vote for McCain or not vote at all, Tanner says, but at this point Obama doesn’t need many of them to pull off a win. His bet is that Obama will win by 50% to 48% with about 280 Electoral College votes.
In an infomercial Wednesday night that aired on seven television networks and clearly targeted undecided voters, Obama featured people they could relate to, outlined his plans for the nation, and refrained from criticizing McCain. “He has clearly decided on a closing argument that closes the circle and brings the end of the campaign to where it started: calls for unity, one America, and a new start for the country. Obama’s not putting any new arguments on the table or attacking his opponent. He’s trying to make the best case for himself as a reformer and healer,” says William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
October has come and gone with no surprise–the event in political lore that can dramatically influence the outcome of a presidential election. In 1992, in the contest between President George H.W. Bush and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger was indicted in the Iran-Contra affair. In 2004, Osama bin Laden released a tape that some believe cost Mass. Sen. John Kerry his race against President George W. Bush. But in 2008, the October surprise may be that there was none at all. “The two candidates will live or die with the campaigns you now see. I don’t expect any changes because it will be too late to make a difference anyway,” says Galston.