The (Interim) Results of Negativity

As I wrote previously, when you throw mud you had better make sure that your aim is true, and that you are pretty clean yourself.  The McCain/Palin ticket cannot make either claim, and the results are in.  An Washington Post/ABC Poll has Senator Obama now leading by 10%.  This would be the official “I told you so”.  There are perhaps other reasons why the Republicans are doing poorly, like the fact that Senator McCain’s message is not well received by a majority of Americans, or that he is viewed as part of the old guard that caused many of the problems we faced today.

Here is what we can expect for the next few weeks: intense campaiging by both sides, with a change of the message on the McCain side.  As they can read polls as well as anyone else, they have probably already realized that mud slinging hurt them.  Unfortunately, their latest approach is unlikely to work either.  Senator McCain is proposing additional tax cuts.  A change in the message at this point will demonstrate what Republicans often accused President Clinton of: waffling.  While these times do call for some amount of flexibility to react to changing economic circumstances, Republicans break out the same old tune to all problems: tax cuts.  That’s not flexibility – that’s a form of intransigence to play to their base.

Meanwhile, Senator Obama has rolled out his own plan.  While he has already discussed middle class tax cuts, and that message hasn’t changed, he is now discussing something more valuable to Americans in distress: protection from being evicted from their homes.  If overdone, this policy could be abused by people who have many homes, or who really have no intention of paying their fair share.  But if administered judiciously, the policy provides for a limited period of relief for those who need to either renegotiate the terms of their loans or simply pick up and start again.

The wisdom of such a plan is this: banks don’t really want to foreclose right now.  Flooding the market with distressed properties harms neighborhoods, and makes it increasingly difficult to actually recover equity.  That is what has happened in central California and other places.

Showing vision and poise in the face of a serious global financial crisis is the sign of a true leader, and that will earn Barack Obama a slightly larger bump in the polls than he has now, probably another 2 to 4%.  But we can then expect the race to tighten slightly at the end of the month.  I predict nationally that Obama will win with an 8% margin, nationally.  This says nothing about the electoral college count.  I’ll leave that to others.

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