Sunday, October 12, 2008



October 11 2008

In Summary

Surge in opinion polls attributed to warm reception in traditional enemy territories

American politics is tribal.
Not in the sense of Kikuyu and Luo and Kalenjin and Kamba and all our competing ethnic groups, but racial and ethnic components do account for the differences in this richly diverse country.

At the most basic level in the nation of 305.3 million people, it is Black and White. Obama Versus McCain.

Then there are the Hispanics, a sizebable group with about 14 per cent of the population compared to about 13.3 per cent that is black.

There are the Asians, who are a distinct minority at five per cent, and the largely forgotten and ignored Native Americans, who make up about 1.5 per cent of the population.

Among the whites, things get very complicated, depending on how people chose to classify themselves in the census.

There are the majority White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. There are Catholics. There are Hispanic whites.

There are religious or ethnic groups like the Jews; and there are the various white ethnicities – Italian, Greek, German, Dutch, Irish and many more that went into the original melting pot.

Within the white community, for instance, political pollsters look not just at the above distinctions but also at sub-genres like education, sexual orientation, region, occupation, rural or urban, farming or industrial, new industry (IT) or old industry (mining, motorplants) and so on.

These are the Tribes of America for whose votes Barack Obama and John McCain are competing to win one of the most compelling presidential campaigns in US history.

Democratic candidate Barack Obama was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, the latest stop on a whirlwind tour between last Tuesday’s second presidential debate in Nashville, Tennessee and the final debate set for New York on Wednesday.

Before Philadelphia, Mr Obama made several stops in Ohio while his running mate Senator Joe Biden campaigned in Florida, another key state whose electoral vote could determine the outcome of the election.

Republican candidate John McCain and running mate Sarah Palin have been equally busy in the week or so between the two debates, covering, sometimes together and sometimes separately, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio and Winsconsin.

National opinion polls show Mr Obama increasing his lead over Mr McCain, reaching double-digit 11 percentage points — 52 percent to 41 per cent — according to the latest Gallup daily tracking poll at the end of the week.

The margin was mirrored in the latest Newsweek poll. But outside the major national events like the presidential debates, the campaign is being fought at the grassroots level, block by block, town by town and state by state.

What matters in the American political system is not the national popular vote, but the state-by-state popular vote which determines the number of electoral votes through which the electoral college elects the president.

The outcome in some states can already be predicted — New York generally votes Democratic — so the candidates are concentrating their efforts on the so-called battleground states where the outcome is still uncertain.

There is no need, for instance, for Mr Obama to spend too much in California where he already commands nearly 54 per cent of the popular vote to Mr McCain’s 39 per cent.