Sean King

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Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Friday, September 12, 2008

I've been predicting for months that McCain would win...

...so I'm not surprised by the fact that he's taken a lead in the polls. But, I never expected the Republicans to be competitive in Congressional races, so this Gallup poll is truly shocking.

Lots of people have given Palin credit for the recent change in Republican fortunes, and that might indeed explain some of McCain's bump in recent polls, but I doubt seriously that Palin's coattails are THAT long. It seems to me that something else is afoot. In my view, it's two things.

The first is energy prices. The Republicans have successfully exposed the duplicitous nature of the Dem position of bemoaning rising prices while systematically throwing up roadblocks to expanded drilling and nuclear power.

The second is McCain's assumption of Obama's theme of "change." Obama was right to sense that the public is screaming for change, and he was smart to orient his whole primary campaign around that theme. But, ever since he cinched the nomination, Obama has squandered all credibility on this subject by flip-flopping to more conservative positions on virtually every key issue of this campaign--from oil drilling to domestic spying, from campaign financing to the success of the surge, from timetables for Iraq withdrawal to his allegiance to Reverand Wright and the appropriateness of earmarks. And, in a misguided attempt to bolster his thin resume', Obama further undermined his credibility as an agent for change by surrounding himself with conventional Washington insiders, like Joe Biden.

Sensing that Obama could no longer credibly represent the change that he espoused, McCain leveraged his well-earned reputation as a "maverick" to offer up a more consistent, and therefore more believable, vision for reform. He demonstrated his total commitment to the idea through his unconventional VP pick, which had the benefit of focusing tremendous media attention on the McCain campaign for the first time this election cycle. And, he exploited this attention to argue compellingly to the public that, as the "original maverick" who frequently defied his own party, he and Palin (who enjoys the same reputation) were the only ones capable of reforming Washington.

In the end, McCain came across to many as both the experienced candidate, and the one most dedicated to, and capable of delivering, much desired change. If you're a Dem, that's a tough combination to beat.

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