At a recent conclave at the National Press Club, a trio of political scientists trotting out their election forecasts were asked what role ideology played in their predictions. A pair of them—James E. Campbell of the State University of New York at Buffalo and Emory’s Alan Abramowitz—immediately said that their political tendencies played no role whatsoever in their research.
The third member of the triad—Michael Lewis-Beck of the University of Iowa—would not commit on the ideological question. Campbell and Abramowitz argue that the economy is coloring poll results, calling it “the moose in the room” that no one is talking about.
Lewis-Beck has a somewhat different thesis. “The moose in the room was the race question,” he told the audience at the National Press Club on October 27, 2008. For his part, Abramowitz says, “The black candidate is an overplayed story.”
“Even without an incumbent in the race, the election is a referendum on the incumbent,” Abramowitz said. Campbell avers that in September, despite the Republican president’s unpopularity, “McCain was able to run ahead in an open-seat election as a centrist,” once he secured the Grand Old Party’s presidential nomination.
But none noted that McCain’s surge in the polls came after the Republican National Convention where he camouflaged his more liberal positions and named as his running mate a woman many stalwart conservatives regard as “Reagan in a dress.” As Michelle Malkin noted in liveblogging McCain’s RNC address, his acceptance speech contained “not a word about immigration and border security.”
“Racism is the reason for McCain’s surge in September,” Lewis-Beck avers. He added that “There are not only racists in the Republican party.”
“They are spread out.” He points out that in an earlier poll, “77 percent would support a black candidate while 24 percent would not.”
“Ninety percent of Republicans would support a black candidate while 10 percent would not,” Lewis-Beck claims. “It’s only going to be 52 percent for Obama because there is still a lot of racism.”
Lewis-Beck estimates a “six to seven percent race penalty” for black candidates. What he does not mention is that his high-end racially concerned proportion was driven up by Democratic Party primary voters. “More than a third of all white Democrats and independents—voters Obama can’t win the White House without—agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, according to the survey, and they are significantly less likely to vote for Obama than those who don’t have such views,” the Associated Press reported on September 20, 2008.
Here’s an interesting sidelight on the “racist America” question. Both Barack Obama and U. S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., have spotlighted the Keystone state as something of an epicenter of racial bigotry, focusing on rural voters such as the ones in the congressman’s own district. As highlighted by Michelle Malkin, Ryan Shafik from the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research shows that these supposedly unenlightened voters had no problem voting for a black candidate over a white one in a very recent election.
Of course, in that instance, the former was a conservative Republican, Pittsburgh Steelers legend Lynn Swann, and the latter a liberal Democrat, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a contest in which the incumbent was ultimately victorious. “Any GOP candidate, regardless of color, going up against Ed Rendell and his money machine in the toxic election conditions of 2006 wouldn’t have fared much better,” Shafik points out. “But as the evidence shows, the areas populated by conservative whites voted for Lynn Swann.”
“It was the areas filled with moderate-to-liberal whites and large black populations that voted overwhelmingly against Lynn Swann.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.