since 1960. “Voters are scared about their economic futures and have decided that Sen. Obama is Mr. Fix-it. [He’s] no longer the candidate of the young, the well educated and minorities. He is now virtually the candidate of the ‘all’,” says Peter Brown, the institute’s assistant director.
That means Joe the Plumber and other voters who eight years ago rejected Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry as too “elite” are leaning toward Obama, which also hurts McCain and his attempts this week to cast Obama as a socialist. “McCain has cast himself as the protector of the common man and woman and in the final days we’re going to see a battle for white, middle class working Joe’s who need to be protected from a socialist who would spread the wealth around and basically tax them out of business. I don’t know how that message will be received in these two or three states where it’s really essential that it be played,” says Larry Berman, a University of California, Davis political scientist.
Tanner thinks that McCain should have been able to get more traction this week with his arguments against Obama’s tax policies’ impact on 95% of Americans. “Right now McCain is behind 14 points in a Wall Street Journal poll on the tax question, which is pretty amazing for a Republican. They never lose on that issue,” he adds. Tanner also senses that the public doesn’t really understand or identify with Obama’s positions and are making more of an anti-McCain/anti-Bush choice than a pro-Obama choice. Of Obama’s growing lead in the polls, he says, “I think this is a ‘We Need Something Different’ kind of primal scream.”
Win or lose, Skinner says that Obama has set a new bar for presidential campaigns and his top down-bottom up strategy will be mandatory study for future candidates. “Obama has employed his grassroots community activist training and gone national with it. They’re not giving up any territory or writing off any segment of American society and I think it’s showing up in these polling results,” she says. “Even if he loses it will be the campaign to be studied because it changes the dynamics. You can campaign nationally, be at the top and the bottom and connect the two.”