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It's almost over - may the best campaign win


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POSTED: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

This month, the mainstream media finally accepted that a young black man is probably going to be the next president. The New York Times and Washington Post outlined Barack Obama's increasing lead in the Electoral College, and the TV networks showed national polls with similar results.

The media have changed. In previous elections, they endlessly repeated and amplified distortions and personal attacks; this year they checked the truth of statements from the candidates. This blunted assaults from the McCain campaign. For instance, there was media and voter backlash against John McCain's negative robocalls and mailers when it was revealed that William Ayers and Obama had only a slight connection and that Obama was only 8 years old when Ayers was a radical.

Conservatives unhappy about the coming Democratic tsunami criticized McCain. Weekly Standard editor William Kristol wrote that McCain should fire his entire campaign, calling it “;strategically incoherent and operationally incompetent.”; George F. Will called Sarah Palin McCain's “;female Sancho Panza,”; and David Brooks called her a “;fatal cancer to the Republican Party.”;

  But Palin brushed off reports on Troopergate, receiving per diem payments for living at home and other ethical questions. She happily whipped up crowds by talking about the “;real America”; and by attacking Obama, sometimes eliciting shouts of “;Traitor!”; “;Terrorist!”; and even “;Kill him!”; Sympathizers attacked Newsweek for not retouching her close-up cover photo, and the Republican National Committee paid $150,000 for her new designer clothes.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign registered 11,000 new voters just at Indiana University, raised another $150 million and began running a flood of TV ads, including a video in which McCain himself says that he voted with Bush 90 percent of the time. Gen. Colin Powell endorsed Obama. Hillary Clinton made more than 50 campaign appearances, and polls show a large majority of her voters now support Obama. In the final debate, safely seated instead of wandering around the stage, McCain repeatedly attacked, while Obama was his usual unflappable self. Polls showed that viewers, by 2-1, thought Obama won. And the massive Obama ground organization, modeled on Karl Rove's successful 2004 neighborhood volunteer effort, began gearing up to get out the vote. Republicans attempted to get newly registered voters taken off the rolls in Ohio and other states and claimed voter fraud.

  After this election, everyone will imitate Obama's operation: Internet fundraising and grass-roots organizing; mass voter registration; a “;no drama”; organization; and lots of boots on the ground.

Analysts also see potential national changes. Senate Democrats might reach a filibuster-proof 60 seats. Western states moving toward the Democrats means that the South will no longer be necessary for a presidential victory. More Democratic-voting minorities, youth and urban professionals means that the Republican Party might become a white minority. (There are no black Republicans in Congress and virtually none at McCain rallies.)

Finally, the worsening economic situation, partially caused by Republican deregulation, will probably lead to more government oversight. Longtime McCain friend and adviser Phil Gramm co-authored laws allowing banks to speculate in the stock market and forbidding the government to regulate toxic derivatives like credit default swaps. Gramm was being mentioned as Treasury secretary; now the McCain campaign keeps him under wraps. Free-market radicals are no longer in favor.

History is being made. It will be interesting to see how Fox News reports on election night.

Larry Meacham teaches political science at Honolulu Community College and Hawaii Pacific University.