Published in the The New York Post on September 15, 2008
The two party conventions and the trend of recent events have moved America more toward the Republican Party than it has been at any time this year, data from the latest Fox News survey suggest. The nation still trends Democratic, but less so than it has during this entire election season.
The most dramatic manifestation of this reversal is, of course, in the head-to-head ballot test of John McCain vs. Barack Obama. While Fox News had Obama ahead by 42-39 in its August 19-20 survey, its poll for September 8-9 shows McCain ahead by 45-42. Obama hasn’t changed, but McCain has moved up six points.
It’s way too early for slight changes in the head-to-head ballot test to matter, but there has been a basic trend away from the Democratic Party in recent months. In an April 28-29 sample, 44 percent of voters said they were Democrats while only 30 percent said they were Republicans.
That 14-point gap in favor of the Democrats closed to a 9-point gap at the end of July and collapsed to only 7 points by September 8-9. Now, 41 percent say they’re Democrats while 34 percent identify themselves as Republicans. It’s still a Democratic year, but by only half as much as it was four months ago.
And the Democratic edge on issues has eroded somewhat in the last few months.
At the end of July, voters trusted the Democrats better to handle the economy by 11 points – 47-36. Now, the Democratic lead on the economy has dwindled to only four points – 46-40.
On Obama’s signature issue, the Iraq war, voters trusted the Republicans to handle it better by 52-39 in early September, compared with only a 46-40 advantage in mid-June.
The two conventions also sparked a Republican gain on the energy issue. Asked which party they trusted more to achieve energy independence, the voters gave the Democrats an eight-point lead before the conventions and an only two-point lead now.
Sarah Palin has had a lot to do with the shift. Asked to say which candidate made the smarter choice for vice president, voters said John McCain did in choosing Palin by 50-40 percent.
Key to Palin’s popularity is the sense that she understands the average person’s problems. On the question of which of the four candidates for president and vice president best “understands the problems of day to day life in America,” Palin finished first with 33 percent, Obama second with 32 percent, McCain third with 17 percent and Biden last with 10 percent – a combined 50-42 margin for the Republican candidates.
By attacking Palin, the Democrats have gone overboard and maximized her influence on the election. Asked if Palin had been the object of sexist attacks in the media, 45 percent said yes, compared to only 33 percent who felt that Obama had been victimized by racist attacks. The more the Democrats and the media pour incoming fire on Palin, the more they polarize themselves as sexist and elitist, two things you don’t want to be in today’s America.
But, in perhaps the worst news in this survey for Obama, when asked whom they’d consult for advice if they faced the “toughest decision of your life,” voters chose McCain over him by 50-34. If the toughest decision is who to vote for president, McCain can take comfort in this finding.