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An unconventional take on the convention season

August 27, 2008

Why their respective conventions might be a mixed blessing for Obama and McCain

The conventional wisdom is that both political parties will experience a bounce in popularity. However, the evidence so far is that the Democratic convention has backfired. Hillary and Bill Clinton have managed to triangulate the situation by nominally endorsing Obama, but all but kicking off their 2012 campaign. At the same time Michelle Obama’s speech, which seemed rather stilted and nervous, has made little or no impact. Although much of the media attention on the PUMA’s is ‘inside baseball’ (i.e. speculation about speculation), it has crowded everything else off the front pages.

However, McCain is by no means in a secure position. Unless he chooses Lieberman or Giuliani he will have locked himself into a convention which gives plenty of red meat to the base, but little to the centrists who will decide this election. It is very possible that after several nights of the ‘scarlet R’ he might actually lose points in the poll. Although McCain should be pleased that he is now neck and neck with Obama, he is stuck in the middle. If he were ten points ahead or behind his strategy would be obvious, but he is close enough for his aides to (wrongly) counsel caution, but not in the position when he can play it safe.

I am still going to go with McCain making an ‘amazing’ choice of running mate rather than Mitt Romney, but even if he does not do this he needs to thrust the few moderates he has (such as Lieberman and Giuliani) out in front. He also needs to make an explicit appeal to the middle grounds and refrain from pandering. I have been wrongly predicting ‘do or die’ moments for McCain ever since last year, and I would still rate McCain as a favourite, but I am worried by Obama’s huge war chest and his superior organisation.

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