This is a very interesting article in today's LA Times by polling expert Nate Silver about the state of the election. He talks about the reasons that Obama seems to be under performing the "generic Democrat" and explains how this happens in a broad based party of discrete interest groups. But this is the part that stuck out at me:
But neither McCain nor Obama can be considered a generic candidate, because both enjoy strong appeal among independent voters. This is particularly the case for McCain, who has largely managed to avoid the stigma attached to the tarnished Republican brand. In a recent poll conducted for NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, only 31% of voters had a favorable view of the Republican Party, compared with 48% who held a negative one. But McCain's numbers were nearly the reverse: 42% viewed him positively, against 30% unfavorably.
How has McCain done it? It has mostly to do with his reputation as a moderate. In that same NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 21% of voters said they viewed McCain as "very conservative," while 34% pegged him as a moderate. As long as he maintains his moderate brand, McCain will seem acceptable to some large number of independent voters and some smaller number of Democrats.
This is predicted by something known as the "median voter theorem," which essentially holds that as the electorate shifts ideologically -- that is, to the right or left -- the candidates will tend to shift along with it to narrow their ideological differences with the average voter. Over the last several years, the electorate has shifted leftward -- and the two parties have responded accordingly in this year's presidential race. The GOP will nominate a candidate who is widely perceived as being to the left of the party's conservative base, whereas the Democratic Party will again pick a standard-bearer more authentically liberal than centrist.
I agree that McCain was chosen because he wasn't perceived as a doctrinaire Republican, but is it true that Obama was chosen because he's more authentically liberal than centrist? I thought he was running as someone who was beyond labels --- a post-partisan whose vision was to transcend partisanship altogether. The problem is that these Independent voters still see McCain as a moderate while they see Obama as a raging liberal. The post-partisanship hasn't sold to them the way it was supposed to, at least not yet.
I would think that it's time to put McCain right in the middle of the culture of corruption and at the center of right wing conservatism where he belongs. Say what you will about him he is no moderate and it's wrong that he's reaping the benefit of that misunderstanding. If Obama is a raging liberal, then McCain is a full on Cheney style fascist. Someone should tell the people.