Barack Obama's triumphant tour of Europe and our various theaters of war has now come to an end, and he returns to this buzzkill report from the always-respected Quinnipiac poll: Quinnipiac University/Wall Street Journal/ Washingtonpost.Com Poll Finds --- COLORADO: McCain 46 - Obama 44 MICHIGAN: Obama 46 - McCain 42 MINNESOTA: Obama 46 - McCain 44 WISCONSIN: Obama 50 - McCain 39.
Any lead is welcome in the Obama camp, of course, but a different issue is at play in this year's election, namely, the so-called "Bradley Effect," which calls into question the validity of any polling at all, and more on that below.
The above results are for the so-called "swing states," those schizophrenic electorates which bounce between red/blue, Repub/Dem, conservative/liberal. As we all know, we do not actually have a national election, per se; rather, the election of a president essentially boils down to the tallies in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, with a few crucial swing states in play to offset the loss by one of the candidates of one of these decisive states. Almost all the other states (Alabama, Georgia, California, New York, Utah, etc.) really do not need to hold elections at all. A great deal of money could be saved if the two parties would simply stipulate, for example, that California will vote Democratic and Texas will vote Republican. Living in California, I don't think I've ever seen a presidential candidate's ad on TV. I hear about them, if they're especially outrageous, but candidates don't waste their money here. For Obama, California's in the bag and for McCain, he's got less than an ice floe's chance in the Arctic summertime. And despite all the talk of a "50-state" strategy, I doubt seriously that Barack is going to spend a lot of time in Wyoming and Utah.
By doing the sort of superficial research for which bloggers are famous, I have discovered, as I suspected, that all 43 Presidents to date are of just seven nationalities: English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Dutch, German and Swiss. I actually don't know who the Swiss is, but I don't think that really counts as a separate "nationality." Whatever. The overwhelming majority are of the first three British derivations, and even some of the "Irish" are no such thing but Scotch-Irish, which is really UK, not Irish. Like John McCain, for example. The Dutch are easy to spot: Van Buren, the two Roosevelts. Eisenhower's the German. There was one Catholic, as we all know, and all the rest were Protestants, which leaves us with an almost unbroken line of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. No Jews, no Italians, no Greeks, no Poles, no Asians, no Hindus, Muslims or Zoroastrians. Mostly just guys from the Northeast with names like Bush, Wilson, Madison, Lincoln and Adams, and a few Southern crackers like Lyndon Johnson, Carter and Clinton.
Then we got Barack Hussein Obama. The Bradley Effect, as I've noted before, refers to the stunning defeat of Tom Bradley in the gubernatorial race against a nonentity named George Deukmejian in the 1982 California election. Bradley was comfortably ahead in the election eve polls but lost by a slim margin. Pollsters hypothesized that voters were reluctant to answer questions honestly where their real criterion for decision was racially based. However, Obama might take solace from this most recent study of the effect:
"A 2008 study of 133 gubernatorial and Senate elections from 1989 to 2006 found that the effect had largely disappeared by the mid-1990s. It concluded that, 'As racialized rhetoric about welfare and crime receded from national prominence in the mid-1990s, so did the gap between polling and performance.'"But as we've been musing, a nationwide study is not really directly germane to the question at hand. If we look at things from a macro-perspective, Obama has a large lead, as big as 9 points, at the national level. This data point, however, is almost meaningless; it takes into account his huge leads in the most populous states of California and New York. As I've said, California and New York could save money which they increasingly don't have by drawing straws and then sending a representative group of 1,128 (Gallup can give us the exact number) of their citizens to the polls on election day to lock up the electoral delegations for Obama.
The question is whether the Bradley Effect has any residual currency in states such as -- well, not states such as, the states of --Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. If Obama loses all three of these states, he can't win the election. The problem is, he may very well lose all three states because of the Bradley Effect, and if I were going to pick three populous states where such an effect might come into play, those are the three I would choose. It does not surprise me that Hillary Clinton won Ohio and Pennsylvania handily, and doubtless would have carried the day in Florida by a double digit margin if the primary had not gotten derailed.
So anyway -- on election night, I'll be interested, as I am every four years, to see which candidate Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida elect as their president this time. I don't mean to be too uncharitable, but I have not been too impressed with their choices over the last 30 years or so, with a couple of exceptions. I hope they realize the awesome responsibility they carry, not just to their fellow Americans but to the world at large.