Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Obama qualms

Wandering around Georgetown, DC's political phalanx, it is hard to believe there are two people running in next month's election. "Obama for president" signs adorn every porch, garden and door in the chocolate-box pretty neighbourhood, adding to a growing national perception that the Illinois Senator has this thing sewn up. Television networks are falling over themselves to call states for Obama two weeks before the country goes to the polls. Even Louis's Granddad emailed to say that he hoped the young newspup would be staying up to celebrate. 

Much as I'm loving the Obamamania, and thrilling though it is to be living here at the cusp of a new era in US politics, I'm wary of getting carried away. I'll happily admit that I'm wrong come 5 November, but for now I have an uneasy feeling about the election. Didn't the media all but hand victory to John Kerry four years ago? Even Obama has his doubts, last week warning against cockiness when "the press starts getting carried away and we end up getting spanked". 

Okay so Obama may have a near double-digit lead over McCain in the polls, but that is nationally, which counts for little in an election that can be won or lost in a single district of a single state. Obama's fans take heart from polls showing him leading McCain in states such as Florida, which won the election for Bush in 2000, but even here his advantage is narrow and polls can be wrong. Then there's the Bradley effect, named after the the African-American former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley who lost his bid to become California's governor despite polls pointing to a clear victory, which suggests voters won't admit to pollsters that they don't intend to vote for a black man. 

Astute hacks are already offering their smitten colleagues "just-in-case kits" should Obama's bid collapse. Personally I'm working on the law of sod to decide the victor: at the moment Daddy J is due to spend election night (and my birthday) in Phoenix, Arizona, campaign HQ for McCain and potentially the glummest place on earth come 5 November. But there is talk of DJ being sent to Chicago, Illinois, instead. Surely then Senor Sod will step in to spoil the party for DJ, Obama and the rest of the liberal world? Still, it would probably be less incendiary to blame Sod than to suggest America is hotbed of closet racists. 

(Stop press: as of Tuesday morning Missouri, which has accurately predicted the winner in all but one of the presidential races since 1900 is polling 48%: 46% in favour of McCain....) 

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