Gerard Baker of the Times of London confirms that in a snap poll held after the first Obama/McCain debate in Mississippi on Friday, the Democrat nominee proved the overwhelming favourite among women while the Republican held a significant margin among men. The columnist puts this down to the fact that McCain looks firm on foreign policy while Obama appears sharper on the economy.
This of course goes right to the heart of conventional wisdom on this presidential race, namely that if it comes down to the economy, McCain will not be the next president of the United States, while if the security of the United States comes under substantial threat, Obama will be left standing on election day.
I would humbly submit that it is factors beyond the control of either camp which will be definitive in this race and while they may respond as best they can this will not influence voters as much as their perception of which candidate is best suited to dealing with those problems.
As we witnessed after a bruising battle for the Democrat nomination, appointment of running mates and even the first debate, one thing is clear — the bounces are nowhere near as compelling as those occasioned by news on the economy or issues which affect the security of the United States.
When the issue of South Ossettia raised its head and dominated the headlines it was the McCain camp which benefited from Russian aggression in dealing with Georgia. The more protracted it became the better for the Republican candidate. In turn, the meltdown on Wall Street has proved to be an enormous bonus to the Obama camp with a strong swing to the Democrat in the polls.
Very little of that can be attributed to the campaigns being run this time out, while an enormous amount will be sourced to the perception of US voters on how historically these parties deal with these issues. In terms of McCain, the fact that George W Bush is to deficits what Moses is to religion has not been missed during the economic disaster plaguing the country right now.
As things stand there is no way back for McCain unless an earth-shattering event of global proportions were to be unleashed on the planet. Two present themselves and would occasion major uncertainty should they occur prior to election day. The first would be an attack on Iran, where McCain has been rattling sabres recently, and the other is Pakistan where the US has been carrying out cross border raids from Afghanistan to attack terrorist strongholds. With the appointment of President Zardari and the increasing anger at this intrusion in Pakistan, Pakistani forces clashed with US forces this week.
Both issues have the potential to become major focal points prior to the election and start the swing back to McCain. Of interest is the fact that the Afghanistan delegation to the UN this week tried to call upon the international community to increase support in their battle against terrorism but could scarcely muster a hearing with the global financial panic going on.
Accordingly, in terms of this election, if there is going to be a war it’s going to have to be the mother of all confrontations to shift US focus from their economy.
Where’s Saddam Hussein when you need him?