Do we have to wait for Nov. 4? Couldn’t we just hold the election now? I don’t think I can take much more of this.
In most campaigns, the political pendulum swings from side to side. Moods change. The momentum shifts.
In this campaign, the pendulum doesn’t just swing, it slams back and forth. One day a candidate is on top of the world, and the next day he is headed for Palookaville.
It was only about a month ago that John McCain looked doomed because he couldn’t remember how many houses he owned. The story dominated the news, late-night talk shows and even comic strips.
McCain looked not just rich but daft. Americans will accept one of those traits in their president, but not both.
So what happens? McCain picks Sarah Palin as his running mate, and nobody cares how many houses he owns. The pendulum swings to the hockey mom!
She has never met a foreign leader? So what? How many foreign leaders are actually worth meeting?
She energizes the Republican base! She can draw the Wal-Mart moms! She is so energizing, in fact, it is not clear who is at the top of the ticket and who is at the bottom.
In Palin’s interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson, he brings up the small fact that McCain doesn’t want to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Palin does. So how does Palin feel about that?
The traditional script says the vice presidential candidate gives in to the presidential candidate. The script says that Palin should say she has had differences with McCain in the past, but now she is part of a team and McCain is the head of that team and it is her job to make sure his agenda gets enacted.
Except she doesn’t say that. She says that McCain is wrong and that she is going to get him to change his mind. “I’m going to keep working on that one with him,” she says of ANWR. “We’ll agree to disagree, but I’m gonna keep pushing that, and I think eventually we’re all gonna come together on that one.”
The base is electrified. Finally, a vice president it can trust: one who isn’t that thrilled with John McCain, either.
This, preceded by Palin’s great speech at the convention, causes the pendulum to swing to the Republicans.
And then the economy tanks.
On Sept. 15, Black Monday, the day the stock market has its worst loss since the Sept. 11 attacks, McCain goes on the campaign trail in Jacksonville, Fla., and says, “The fundamentals of our economy are strong.”
And then the bloom starts to fade from the Palin rose. Maybe she isn’t so in sync with blue-collar families, especially those who can’t afford tanning beds that may have cost as much as $35,000. True, Palin bought that tanning bed and had it installed in the Alaska governor’s mansion at her own expense. And the Indoor Tanning Association sent out a press release defending the purchase by saying, “In the bleak winter months, many Americans experience vitamin D deficiency, and the best way to manufacture vitamin D is through exposure to UV light.”
But it turns out you can also get vitamin D by eating things like salmon. Which is why bears in Alaska don’t need tanning beds. They just go down to a stream and scoop up some vitamin D. And how come tanning beds cost that much anyway? Do they come with an upstairs and a downstairs? Or a Prius?
Maybe these questions will be explored at the debates. I almost forgot about the debates. They really might swing the pendulum.
The Republican National Convention averaged about 34.5 million viewers per day, and the Democratic National Convention averaged about 30.2 million viewers per day.
But the debates blow these numbers away. The three debates between George W. Bush and John Kerry in 2004 averaged 53.4 million viewers. And that was small potatoes compared to the most-watched debate in history, the one between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in 1980 that drew 80.6 million viewers.
So anything can happen. Charlie Cook of The Cook Report calls these swings “momentum shifts,” and Timothy Noah of Slate calls them “game-changers.” And Noah says there may be “four or five more transformative events between now and Nov. 4.”
I don’t think I can stand it. Couldn’t we just all vote now and get it over with?