DUSTY RHOADES: Can the Dems Still Manage to Pull Off Another Defeat?
Barack Obama continues to lead in the polls. Honorable John McCain's angry, fear-based style of campaigning is failing to gain traction. Things are looking very promising for the Democratic nominee.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that many Democrats are feeling a sense of impending doom.
The fear that's being discussed in hushed whispers around the Democratic campfire is that of the "October Surprise," the last-minute game-changing shocker that swings the pendulum abruptly. The term originally came to prominence after the 1980 election, when charges surfaced that the Reagan campaign had met with the Iranian government in October to delay the release of American hostages until after the election. (No actual evidence has ever surfaced for this charge.)
The last October Surprise came in 2004, when Osama bin Laden released a taunting videotape a few days before the vote. John Kerry has blamed this appearance by our post-millennial bogeyman for a last-minute surge of fear that put George Dubbya Bush over the top. Personally, I blame John Kerry for letting the vote get close enough for that to make a difference, but that's all water under the bridge now.
Nevertheless, some Democratic commentators have fretted that another OBL video might swing frightened voters back towards John McCain. Because, after all there's nothing that will turn more voters Republican than a reminder that after seven years of Republican rule, this murdering scumbag is still running free.
Other worried Democrats were waiting for the other shoe to drop in last week's debate. Would there be some huge bombshell by McCain or some glaring gaffe by Obama?
They needn't have worried. I confess, I've apparently misread public opinion on the last two debates. I regarded them as narrow wins for Obama, but polls have shown an overwhelming positive response to his debate performances. So take it with a grain of salt when I say that I thought Honorable John got his head handed to him Wednesday night. He may have, in the public's eyes, actually done much worse.
McCain invoked "Joe the Plumber," a fellow whose actual name, according to McCain, is Joe Wurzelberger. Joe had come up to Obama at an event and expressed concerns that his taxes would go up because he was about to buy a business for $250,000. Honorable John professed to have great concern for Joe the Plumber, mentioning him no less than 15 times. "Hey Joe, you're rich! Congratulations!" McCain sneered at one point.
Of course, this is from a guy who doesn't think you're rich until you're making $5 million a year. But if John McCain cares so much about Joe the Plumber, one would think he would have bothered to get his name right. Turns out his real name is Joe Wurzelbacher, not Wurzelberger. I guess when one has seven houses, one gets used to referring to the help by their occupation: "Honey, the third-floor toilet in the guest cottage is backed up. Call Joe the Plumber." ... "OK, what's his last name?" ... "Who cares?"
And, as it turned out the next day, JTP admitted that since $250,000 was what he was going to spend for the business, not what he was going to be taking out of it, at least immediately, he would actually be helped by Obama's proposed tax cut. Good move there, Senator McCain. Hope the foot that you just shot yourself in gets better real soon.
From Joe the Plumber, McCain lurched into a discussion of former Weather Underground bomber Bill Ayers, now a college professor in Chicago. The McCain campaign, like the Clintons before them, is trying desperately to hang this sad old '60s relic around Obama's neck.
Problem is, when it comes to Ayers, there really is no there there. One living room meeting years ago, and belonging to the same board, do not make Ayers and Obama co- conspirators in some right-winger's fever dream of a plot to destroy America. Plus, no one really cares about the '60s anymore. Everyone seems to know this except John McCain who, when Obama suggested they talk about the issues, stubbornly veered straight back to Ayers.
CNN, as is its custom, had a focus group using those little twisty knobs to indicate approval or disapproval, with the graph of the results at the bottom of the screen. When McCain pulled his "No, let's talk some more about Bill Ayers," McCain's approval took a nosedive.
In the end, the post-debate "snap polls" had Obama as, once again, the clear winner. McCain needed a knockout; instead, he swung wildly and missed. So, if there is going to be an "October Surprise," it didn't come on Oct. 14.
This is not to say that something isn't going to happen in the remaining weeks that costs Barack Obama the election. This is the Democratic Party, after all. Its members have shown themselves to be absolute geniuses at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. But their time for doing that, and Honorable John's time to pull off an October surprise, is running out.
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes, and practices law in Carthage.
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