Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Horse Race? Its the Chess Game from Hell.

Now that Edwards is out I guess I'm that most desirable of commodities a swing voter. Its never happened to me before that I haven't made up my mind long before the primary but in talking to other people IRL and online its pretty clear that I'm not alone in making up my mind on what are, to me, the wrong issues--electability and what the other guy is doing.

I'm no spring chicken and I have a pretty good memory but I can't remember an election that seemed quite this much of a crap shoot in terms of the reasons people give for choosing their candidates and also the reasons they give for choosing the candidate they think the person sitting next to them will choose. Are we setting ourself up for an Edsel moment? And if we are, who are we in that story? The Ford Motor Company which designed a big car just as small cars were coming in, priced it wrong in a sinking market, and failed to grasp what the buyers really wanted in terms of style and other issues. Or the buyer whose excitement was whipped into a frenzy by excellent use of marketing prior to the rollout, only to turn on the product when it turned out to be a cheaper version of what the buyers really wanted? Or not what they wanted at all? You really need to click on the link to get the full flavor of the metaphoric comparison between the Edsel and Obama's campaign.

Today on NPR I heard a series of interviews with voters, both Republican and Democratic, who were going for Obama. The Republican said he would vote for Obama because he was a "compromiser" and "compromise" is what is needed. The (very young) Democrat said plaintively that he couldn't take another round of divisive partisanship at the thanksgiving table with his elderly Republican relatives and he was voting Obama because he thought Obama could heal that apparently painful divide and the passing of the cranberries could be done in a spirit of comity thenceforth.

Talking to my favorite barrista at my (non franchised) coffee shop this morning I heard all about how one of the counter guys was working overtime for Obama, how she had taken an online test showing she was most sympathetic to Kucinich, but was leaning Obama because she had seen a poll saying that in a head to head matchup with McCain Obama was more likely to win than Hillary. Her own mother (apparently an unreliable and illogical spite voter if ever I heard of one) was planning to vote for Obama because she thinks Republicans are more willing to vote for an African American man than a white woman after having become attached to the fictional African American president in 24.

It seems as though everyone I talk to has a theory about how the next person is going to vote and they are tailoring their votes to that. I was called last night by a sweet young thing from the Obama campaign and this was her point to me--she thinks he can bring all these non democrats into the fold. I don't think there's anything wrong with that but its pretty clear that Obama at least is tailoring his style to reach these compromise voters who are sure of one thing--that they want to be on the side of the winner and they don't mind if he leaves the content of his winning philosophy and policy a sort of blank. Even my passionate Obama phone caller, when pressed, said she'd like a more active, progressive, policy oriented stance than she's getting from Obama but that she thinks he will do all those things (whatever they are) once he's in. I've come around to thinking Obama is doing what he has to do to win. But where will that leave the voter/buyer when the Edsel is unveiled?