Posts Tagged ‘McCain’

Why Barack Obama won – By Richard Lister, BBC News Washington

November 6, 2008






By Richard Lister 
BBC News, Washington




Two years ago, Barack Obama was barely a blip on America‘s political radar.


But, with a brilliant, disciplined campaign, a vast amount of money and a favourable political climate, the junior senator from Illinois has risen to the most powerful job in the world.


His campaign will be a template for those seeking to replace him.


It was, even Republican strategists admit, a technically perfect ground campaign.


The money was key.


Mr Obama realised during the primary contest that he had developed an extremely broad donor base, which he could keep going back to for money.


So, he rejected federal funding for his campaign and the financial limits that came with it.

Army of helpers


With the help of Facebook founder Chris Hughes – who devised an innovative internet fundraising system – the campaign eventually attracted more than three million donors. They donated about $650m (£403m) – more than both presidential contenders in 2004 combined.



Mr Obama had the money for four times as many campaign offices as Mr McCain and a vast army of campaign staff and volunteers. They developed and exploited a vast database of information about potential donors and voters in every key state.


Everyone who visited the Obama website was asked to sign up to get more information. Everyone who did so was asked to contribute, or volunteer. If they did, they received several follow-up calls and messages asking for more money, or more assistance.


That fundraising ground campaign left him well equipped for the air war.


TV advertising is the life-blood of a campaign which has to span some 3.5m square miles (9m sq km) and 300 million people, and Mr Obama had no problem buying airtime.


Masterful operation


In some swing states in the final weeks of the campaign, he was outspending Mr McCain by a ratio of four to one. His team again tapped into the internet, targeting ads at those online.


They even bought ad-space embedded in video games. Mr Obama could afford to campaign in Republican strongholds and force Mr McCain to spread his limited resources ever thinner, sucking his resources away from swing states.


At the same time the campaign was masterful at getting out the vote. It ran a huge registration drive for likely Democrats – adding more than 300,000 people to the voter rolls in Florida alone.


Realising that so many new voters could overwhelm polling places on voting day, the campaign made early voting a priority in states where it is allowed. More people cast their votes before election day this year than ever before – more than 29 million in 30 states, according to preliminary data.


All of this worked of course because of Barack Obama’s appeal as a candidate. He is a superb orator who can work a crowd in the Bill Clinton tradition.


His image was wholesome; a self-made family man with one house, one car – and one family. It was a contrast to John McCain who divorced the wife who waited for him through the Vietnam war, married an heiress and couldn’t remember how many houses he had.


Anti-Bush candidate


Mr Obama was able to connect more deeply with more diverse voting blocks. He struck a chord with younger voters, won over Hispanic and Jewish voters who had been Republicans in the past, and of course got out the black vote like no president before him.


Mr Obama’s single, consistent message of change was appealing when almost nine out of 10 Americans believed their country was “on the wrong track”.


He could easily position himself as the anti-Bush candidate in a way Mr McCain struggled to do. President Bush had lower approval ratings than the disgraced Richard Nixon, and Mr Obama’s relentless campaign message was that John McCain had voted with him 90% of the time.


The polls suggested more people trusted Mr Obama to fix the economy and when the financial crisis struck he was best placed to take political advantage of it.


His persistent focus on how to help those most impoverished by eight years of George Bush’s leadership seemed a better fit for the times; a sharp contrast to the kind of tax cuts which were now a central plank of the McCain campaign and would disproportionately benefit the wealthy.


Difference a strength


Ultimately, even Mr McCain’s great political strength as a war hero with decades of foreign experience was eclipsed.


Mr Obama’s selection of the veteran foreign policy expert, Senator Joe Biden, as his running mate helped close the experience gap.


He insisted too that judgement was more important than experience and over the course of the campaign the political consensus seemed to shift to his ideas.


Mr Obama called for a withdrawal timeline in Iraq, defending Afghanistan‘s borders by launching raids inside Pakistan when required and talking to America‘s enemies.


Slowly and quietly even the Bush Administration came to accept those ideas, while John McCain seemed ever more isolated as he continued to reject them.


Barack Obama said he didn’t “look like other Presidents on the dollar bill”.


Although that was a reference to his colour, he was different in so many ways to the established political aristocracy, that in a year when Americans were craving something new, his differences turned out to be his part of his strength. 


US elections: An Indian Perspective By Amaresh Misra

November 4, 2008

US elections: An Indian Perspective 


                                                          By Amaresh Misra




          As America goes to vote on 4th November 2008, a hitherto unseen specter is haunting the historic Obama-McCain stand-off; till now, electoral Pundits have relied basically on the traditional theory of both the Democratic and the Republican Party possessing roughly a 37%-37% base vote ― and then the 20-26% Independent voter deciding the final outcome.


The Independent mantra however is questionable ― it gives too much power to spin doctors on either side of the political divide and to the idea that voters in the middle can be swayed almost exclusively by a media blitzkrieg or some zany twists, like the nomination of Sarah Palin.


Laws of political science inform that the notion of the Independent voter cannot exist in a political vacuum. There has to be some magnetic pull, emerging from the base vote category, which can trigger the decisive slide of the Independent voter towards the winning side: in this scenario, it is unlikely that the phenomenon of hockey moms or even Wal-Mart moms, or any other Independent category, voting any which way independently will decide the next American President.


Similar is the case with the impact the current Wall Street collapse; growing economic problems shifted media focus away from Sarah Palin; there was an uneasy question mark over the fundamentals of supply side Reagan-economics and the economic philosophy America should adopt for the 21st century. But, historically, economic uncertainty, unless it is of the Great Depression type with a figure like Roosevelt stimulating a class polarization, leads to less, not more voter participation in the electoral process; moreover, voters tend to vote both right and left in such an atmosphere.


 To understand the invisible specter that seems to haunt the American electoral fight, one may have to look towards India, a country where regular elections since 1952 have thrown up what is known as a `base assertion’ ― as  opposed to the `Independent voter assertion’ ― theory.


While America has a Presidential system, Indian democracy has a Parliamentary system; but electoral trend behavior in democracies has shown a wide level of similarity.


In India, from 1952 and roughly till the late 1980s, the Congress Party was able to win elections after elections because of the assertion of a single bloc: the minority-Muslim voter. Fighting on a socialist plank, Congress always formed a coalition of social forces and got the vote of the vast majority of India‘s poor. Yet within that coalition, it was the assertion of the minority-Muslim vote in successive constituencies that provided the resources and the atmospherics for the non-Muslim poor to assert as well.


A quick look Congress’ electoral graph over the years reveals a startling pattern: the party suffered significant defeats whenever, within the pro-Congress coalition, the minority-Muslim vote dipped by as little as 2-3%; thus in the 1967 General elections, the Congress lost more than 100 seats; in the 1977 General elections, when minority-Muslim support dipped by 10%, the Congress party was for a moment wiped off from the Indian electoral scene.


By the early 1990s, following a series of anti-minority-Muslim measures, most importantly the decision by a sitting Congress Prime Minister Narsimha Rao (who wanted to attract Hindu votes to the party) to allow the demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, a town in the province of Uttar Pradesh (UP), the party lost the minority-Muslim support for the first time over an extended period. Consequently, throughout the 1990s, the Congress was relegated to an unthinkable third position, as the Hindu Nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and a new secular and Left leaning anti-Congress front of regional parties slugged it out in the electoral arena.


Thus was born the phenomenon of regional secularism, wherein in UP and Bihar, two of India’s most populous states, backward caste, anti-Congress, anti-BJP Hindu leaders stormed to power, mainly on Muslim support. In both UP and Bihar Muslims formed roughly 15% of the total population. But their unprecedented electoral group-base assertion swayed the Independent voter completely in the favor of regional secularists.


A similar phenomenon accompanied the rise of Mayawati, the Dalit leader in UP, in the 1990s; Dalits, or the lowest of the low caste, comprise 22% of UP’s population; earlier, they used to vote for the Congress; but then, their vote was not part of a singular group assertion. Mayawati was able to triumph because the Dalits decided to jettison the Congress and identify with her totally.


In the American elections, the most obvious and simple aspect― the African American black vote in Obama’s favor― may well prove to be the most relevant in the final count. True, the black vote has traditionally been with the Democratic Party; and often, black assertion was not enough for a Democratic Party victory. But it has to be seen and analyzed as to how many times black assertion was base assertion― it seems that the three times when black assertion was base assertion, with Roosevelt, Kennedy and Clinton, the Democratic Party made history.


In the 2000 and 2004 American elections, Bush was able to defeat the Democrats, because somewhere along black assertion did not approximate in intensity to base assertion. On the other hand, the Christian Right, perhaps for the first time, asserted as a base for Republicans. Interestingly, the white vote, like the Hindu vote in India as such can never form a base assertion vote― it has been seen that in democracies, majority communities are too fragmented along class, regional or ethnic lines, to comprise a base assertion vote. The assertive minority vote has been decisive― and yet, ironically, it has remained so far the least recognized element of pre-election calculations.


In America, black assertion in Obama’s favor, is leading also to a pro-Democratic swing of Hispanic and white working class voters, much more than this otherwise would have been even in an economic crisis situation. In fact, the economic crisis has led blacks, the worst hit, to assert more as a group― few will recognize this at the end, but on 4th November 2008, America‘s 12% minority blacks will play the determining role in choosing the next President of their country.