I said it three weeks ago. And I've been sensing it ever since Sen. Barack Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination two months ago. Where's his massive lead in the polls? Democrats score higher than Republicans on generic polls this season. And why wouldn't they, given the destructive impact of the Republican Bush administration on our nation's economy, military prowess, and strength as the world's leader? Nonetheless, Senator Obama has failed to pull convincingly ahead of rival Sen. John McCain, and some daily presidential tracking polls show them dead even. As I wrote way back in July:
Taking all these caveats into account, Obama should still be ahead by 10 to 15 percentage points at this moment in the contest. It is a tight race, when it should have been an easy sprint for the Democratic nominee.
Now, the New York Times's David Brooks is asking, "Where's the Landslide?" He attributes Obama's problem to his aloof demeanor:
There is a sense that because of his unique background and temperament, Obama lives apart. He put one foot in the institutions he rose through on his journey but never fully engaged.
Perhaps that's a factor. And it is well put by Brooks, an eminent scribe. But it's not THE answer, IMHO.
THE answer is that the far-left wing of the Democratic Party nominated a charismatic unknown, who has turned out not to be ready for primetime politics. His impeccably choreographed jaunt through the Middle East and Europe last week produced an 8-point bounce in the polls that lasted for about eight seconds.
The boost from his trip was wide, but it wasn't deep. And since Obama clinched the nomination, he has alienated important segments of his young, liberal base by flip-flopping on a range of issues from offshore oil drilling, to government surveillance to gun control and abortion rights.
Why can't Obama hold on to a credible lead in the polls? Because the Democrats nominated an off-the-charts liberal and the United States is a moderate-to-conservative nation. As he changes positions seeking the support of independents and alienated Republicans this fall, he turns off the far-left base that got him the nomination in the first place.
Does this mean I believe McCain will win in November? No. The Republicans, in turn, nominated an incredibly weak candidate (who does not energize the Republican base), who until last week had run a poorly executed campaign. But it does mean this race is still the Democrats' to lose, and so far, they're doing a pretty good job of doing just that.