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Shipp: Is expected an Obama landslide an illusion?

POSTED: November 5, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The early voting lines lengthen as Nov. 4 approaches. The finger-pointing becomes angrier. The Republican blame game grows louder. The polls, one by one, highlight double-digit divides between first-place Barack Obama and lagging John McCain.

Gov. Sonny Perdue and several other Republican notables have dropped from sight. The odor of roasted lame duck is in the air.

Nearly every sign points to an Obama presidential victory -- not just an ordinary win, but one of historic proportions, a sweep, if you will.

One poll even shows Obama ahead in Georgia, and hardly anyone expects incumbent Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss to reach the magic 50 percent-plus-one mark that would spare him a runoff against Democrat Jim Martin.

If everything is going so swimmingly for Obama and his Democratic buds, why do I have this odd feeling that the October surprise won't come this year until Nov. 4? Why do I have a nagging sense that the Obama ship may be headed for the rocks, that his touted easy voyage to a runaway triumph is a myth created by cable television and big newspapers?

I am not quite gutsy enough to predict that Obama will not win the White House, but I do believe his election may be one of the closest in history, even closer than the Bush-Gore battle of 2000.

You see, I don't subscribe to the sentiment espoused by the New York Times and MSNBC: That America has all but discarded racism, that a new generation has shed the curse of the previous ones, that race doesn't mean much to many of the newbie voters. The polls seem to bear out this thesis; only a small percentage of voters say race matters. That's what they say. But what will they do?

I wish I believed TV commentator Keith Olbermann and big-time columnist Frank Rich. They claim Sarah Palin is trying to play on the small-town prejudices of Middle America to win votes for Palin-McCain ... I mean McCain-Palin. They say Sarah is wasting her time.

I think Keith and Frank are wrong. The Nov. 4 election ought to tell us. When the ballots are counted, we ought to have a good idea of whether:

  • The race card still trumps all other cards, including the GOP's stupendous malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance at government's highest levels. Race remains a major factor in public life.
  • Young people have at last decided to vote in large numbers. Obama is depending partly on the youth vote to help him win. The political graveyard is filled with unsuccessful politicians who were sure that the young and still idealistic would turn out en masse. They never have. Will they now? 
  • Minorities, blacks and Hispanics, have come into their own as determinants in a national (or even state) election.
  • Barack's votes from women will offset his negatives with older white men. We shall see.

My uneasy feelings about the Obama campaign may be misplaced. They may be traceable to an earlier piece I wrote in this space. I said I thought Obama's resume was too thin for an applicant for president.

Sen. McCain managed to minimize my fears by choosing a running mate who thinks the three branches of government are dead limbs left from an arctic storm. However, she is happy to have $150,000 worth of high fashion to wow the dudes back in Wasilla. That new red leather jacket really looks cool on Sarah. How much did you say that cost? Think of Palin moving up to president, and you will see how much better Obama appears.

Another solid clue that I may be misjudging the presidential election: Perdue, the GOP's leading light in the Peach State, has gone to ground. He has hardly been seen since he was sighted in Calhoun flying a state helicopter at state expense to become certified with state patrol pilots as a helicopter pilot.

Whether the state constitution requires a governor to fly a chopper is uncertain, but one thing is definite: Perdue has miscalculated the state budget so badly that our schools and colleges will be feeling his desperation cash cuts long after he has departed.

He also has ordered padlocked the state's war veterans' home at Milledgeville. He figures to save a few more bucks there. Perhaps that is why he is not out beating the drums for John McCain, who has special appeal to vets.

In any event, I am a member of a dwindling minority who still believe Obama is a long way from a landslide next week in his quest for the presidency.

Clip and burn this column if I am wrong, and don't remind me of it. I already owe a steak dinner to a state senator. I bet him last year that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee.

Bill Shipp's column on Georgia politics appears Wednesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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