Tuesday, October 7, 2008
The Barak Effect. Vs. the Bradley Effect
At the moment of this writing I believe that Obama will win by a landslide four weeks from today. Anybody following developments in the last week can see that the economy has taken over the election. Despite the many advice-to-McCain columns written by scared conservative pundits (mirroring the advice-to-Obama columns written by scared liberal pundits two weeks earlier), there is little the McCain-Palin ticket can do. Don't expect major gaffes from any of the candidates. It's now October 7. The game is over. Fair enough, you say. But "by a landslide"? Isn't that a bit silly? Not if you take into account the Barak Effect. No, I didn't misspell Obama's first name. I am referring to Ehud Barak, and the 1999 prime ministerial elections in Israel. I arrived in Israel three days before that election. The polls showed Barak and Netanyahu neck-in-neck. Our cabdriver from the airport was a Moroccan Jew and a long-time Likud supporter. "So," I ventured gingerly, "it looks like it will be a close election." He paused and said, "A lot of people are going to be surprised with this election." "Why," I said, "you believe that Barak will get elected?" And he said, "A lot of Sefardim who voted for Likud all their life are going to be voting for Labor -- not because of ideology, or because they think Barak will bring peace, but because they are sick of the economy." And he was right -- Barak won big, with a lot of Likud supporters from oriental communities voting for him. But they lied to the pollsters because their folks never voted Labor. Now we know that a whole bunch of people lie to polls, even to exit polls. They do it for the obvious reason that they don't want their vote known. Analysts have focused on the "Bradley" effect, named for Mayor Tom Bradley, who was favored by the polls to win in an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 1982. Bradley was black, and there were white folks who said they voted for him when they did not, since they did not want to appear racist. But this time I think we are going to see the "Barak" effect -- people who live among McCain supporters who don't want to go public with their decision to back Obama -- not because they have turned liberal, or because they have no problem with a Black man in the White House, but because they are voting for the guy who has come to throw out the bums. Of course, there is a big difference in the elections: Bibi was the incumbent and McCain is not. So I think Obama will win by a landslide only if Obama continues to pursuade that McCain's policies are those of Bush.