Thursday, December 25, 2008
Counting the Votes
It’s all about strategy.
On January 8, the votes will be counted in the American presidential election, and the results announced. Unforeseen Contingencies predicts Barack Obama by a landslide, with over two thirds of the votes.
What predictive powers! ... (Ho hum.)
It’s more interesting that I first said "Obama by a landslide" on 4 July of this year, before he even had the nomination, and consistently said so ever since. What’s interesting about it is what it says about Obama.
Barack Obama spent 4 July in Butte, Montana, attending Independence Day celebrations there and campaigning. By an ironic quirk, nearly all the presidential candidates from both parties had already visited Montana prior to its primary - the last in the nation. Until now no candidate ever visited Montana; its three electoral votes are meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Better to spend valuable campaign time where it matters. But with every other state racing to outdo the pack with an early primary and so gain relevance, Montana suddenly found itself the last primary, and the last chance for candidates to "grab momentum" by winning a state...hence visits by everyone still in the race, and some not.
OK, but that was June. What the heck was Barack Obama doing in Montana in July? He didn’t do any vacationing, only a campaign stop. Why Montana? There's no reasonable scenario where its three electoral votes matter. And Montana is generally assumed (for reasons that escape me) to be a safe state for a Republican presidential candidate. The most likely answer: he already confident that he's going to win, and is now trying to run up the score. Obama had already showed himself to be smart and strategic, and his 4 July campaign stop should have been a wakeup call for everyone.
Not long after, the Obama campaign opened a number of offices in Montana, and began organizing creditable campaign. The McCain campaign, on the other hand, failed to open its offices as planned (at least two weeks late, for unexplained reasons, the delay announced with a lot of bravado about winning in the endgame), and gave other signs of being poorly organized. In my view, Obama by a landslide was obvious at that point.
It's not that Montana is a bellwether, it certainly is not. And Obama's bid to win Montana ultimately failed (he can blame Sarah Palin for that) although a similar strategy won him Indiana, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and other potentially red states. It's that intelligence, competence, and careful strategy win, and despite the whining and excuse-making of many Republicans, Obama demonstrated he has these to spare.
When the votes are finally counted, Obama will have 365 of them. As President, he’ll have a chance to put intelligence, competence, and strategy to work on something other than job-seeking. So how does UC call this outcome? Much as I disagree with Obama's apparent political philosophy, I think there's some reason to believe that - well, he has the potential to be another Reagan: flawed, but one of the few presidents of late to arguably leave things better than he found them.
Why? Explanation soon.