Published on TheHill.com on July 15, 2008.
After almost six weeks of a constant Obama lead, generally in the five to seven-point range, Scott Rasmussen’s daily tracking poll records two consecutive days of a tie race (July 12-13) and a one-point Obama lead on July 14. What happened to the Democrat’s lead?
Part of the slippage is Obama’s fault and part is McCain’s gain.
Obama has carried flip-flopping to new heights. In the space of a month and a half, this candidate – who we don’t really yet know very well – reversed or sharply modified his positions on at least eight key issues:
- After vowing to eschew private fundraising and take public financing, he has now refused public money.
- Once he threatened to filibuster a bill to protect telephone companies from liability for their cooperation with national security wiretaps; now he has voted for the legislation.
- Turning his back on a lifetime of support for gun control, he now recognizes a Second Amendment right to bear arms in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.
- Formerly, he told the Israeli lobby that he favored an undivided Jerusalem. Now he says he didn’t mean it.
- From a 100 percent pro-choice position, he now has migrated to expressing doubts about allowing partial-birth abortions.
- For the first time, he now speaks highly of using church-based institutions to deliver public services to the poor.
- Having based his entire campaign on withdrawal from Iraq, he now pledges to consult with the military first.
- During the primary, he backed merit pay for teachers – but before the union a few weeks ago, he opposed it.
- After specifically saying in the primaries that he disagreed with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) proposal to impose Social Security taxes on income over $200,000 and wanted to tax all income, he has now adopted the Clinton position.
Obama’s breathtaking flips and flops are materially different from McCain’s. While McCain had opposed offshore oil drilling and now supports it, the facts have obviously changed. Obama’s shifts have nothing to do with altered circumstances, just a change in the political calendar.
As a candidate who was nominated to be a different kind of politician, Obama has set the bar pretty high. And, with his flipping and flopping, he is falling short, to the disillusionment of his more naÃ¯ve supporters. One wag even called him the “black Bill Clinton,”a turnaround of the “first black president” moniker that had been pinned on Bill.
Meanwhile, McCain and the Republicans have finally found an issue – oil drilling – exposing how the Democrats oppose drilling virtually anywhere that there might be recoverable oil. Not in Alaska. Not offshore. Not in shale deposits in the West. The Democratic claim that we “cannot drill our way out of the crisis in gas prices” begs the question of whether, had we drilled five years ago, we would be a lot less dependent on foreign market fluctuations.
The truth is that the Democrats put the need to mitigate climate change ahead of the imperative of holding down gasoline prices at the pump. If there was ever a fault line between elitist and populist approaches to a problem, this is it. In fact, liberals basically don’t see much wrong with $5 gas. Many have been urging a tax to achieve precisely this level, just like Europe has done for decades.
Obama said that he was unhappy that there was not a period of “gradual adjustment” to the high prices, but seems to shed few tears over the current levels. After all, if your imperative is climate change, a high gas price is worth 10 times a ratified Kyoto treaty in bringing about change.
Republicans can drive a truck through the gap between this elite opinion and the need for ordinary people to afford the journey to work in the morning. And, with a 16-state media buy, the Republican Party and the McCain campaign are doing precisely that.
If Obama softens his aversion to drilling, it may be the final straw for some of his liberal supporters. Where would they go? Nader is still a possibility. But McCain can attract liberal votes. He doesn’t need to bleed Obama only from the right. His own stands against drilling in Alaska and torture of terror suspects and for immigration reform make him suspect on the right, but quite acceptable to the left. If moderate liberals are disgusted by Obama’s obvious attempts at chicanery and repositioning, they might just cross the aisle.