May 12, 2008


Could Obama Be Another Dukakis? (Susan Estrich, 5/12/08, Real Clear Politics)

It is a thought that sends shivers down the backs of Democrats, a name that brings to mind memories of an election lost that might have been won, against a war hero once referred to in headlines as a "wimp" who won not so much by his own strengths but because of the skill of his operatives in painting his lesser-known opponent as an out of touch "liberal" who refused to salute the flag or admit his mistakes, not to mention his supposedly unpatriotic wife.

Could Obama be another Dukakis?

It isn't just die-hard Clinton supporters who are pointing out the similarities. Even some Obama backers who believe that the nomination fight is over see the possible parallels, and are determined to avoid them, or at least try.

The only point at which the comparison doesn't work disfavors Mr. Obama: Michael Dukakis was a successful technocratic governor while the Senator has done nothing but vote the liberal line in Congress. At least the Governor had a record to fall back on.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 12, 2008 11:11 AM

One would think the Right would have learned a lesson from 2004, when their candidate only won by 34 electoral votes (though by nearly 3 percentage points on the popular vote) against an elitist "Masshole" snob. But I guess some folks have to find parallels that are likely not applicable any longer.

176 days until GOP Doomsday.

Posted by: Brad S at May 12, 2008 12:14 PM

The only point at which the comparison doesn't work

Well, aside from one GOP candidate running immediately after a GOP president with high approval rating, and one running after one with a very low approval rating.

Posted by: John Thacker at May 12, 2008 12:32 PM



Posted by: Bartman at May 12, 2008 12:57 PM

The real worry is that a third party candidate from the right could take enough votes from McCain to hand the vote to Obama. It looks like Bob Barr may get the Libertarian nomination. Normally such a candidate would be ignored, but the MSM will pump him up as much as possible, knowing every vote for Barr is a vote for Obama. McCain could end up losing 47% to 46% or something similar.

Posted by: Patrick H at May 12, 2008 1:00 PM

Kerry was an outstanding candidate compared to Obama, including his military service and his long stint in the senate.

Reagan did not have a high approval rating. In late 1988, he was at barely 50%. His average was lower than Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson (!), HW and Clinton.

Posted by: Jorge Curioso at May 12, 2008 1:11 PM

The man is losing primary contests to Hillary Clinton because, comparatively speaking, she's the conservative good ole boy.

What else do you need to know about his general election chances?

Posted by: djs at May 12, 2008 1:29 PM

Obama certainly has more charisma than Dukakis--not to mention the benefit of Dukakis's example to show him what to avoid.

Posted by: AC at May 12, 2008 1:59 PM

Reagan would have been impeached if anyone thought he was still running the government.

Posted by: oj at May 12, 2008 2:26 PM

Bob Barr exists to get those butterfly ballot votes in FL.

Posted by: oj at May 12, 2008 2:26 PM

What will be Obama's national security moment? When he shows up with a goofy hat on an Abrams tank?

Posted by: sam at May 12, 2008 2:36 PM

Brad: What's the winning electoral scenario for Obama? He's never been able to win primaries against Hillary, even when we've known for quite some time that he's the sure nominee. He's swept lots of caucuses and states where blacks dominate the Democrat ranks (all of them red states, by the way). So how does he get the necessary electoral votes to run against a genuine war hero, the first guy in recent history whose biography legitimately elicits awe in the public, media, and even opposition?

If you want to worry about the next off-year election, you have a stronger case. People view voting for President much, much differently than voting for a Congressman. Also, the Dems can run conservatives at lower levels. They've idiotically decided to run far left yet again, and are going to get crushed yet again.

Posted by: b at May 12, 2008 3:07 PM

And, of course, the GOP has lost elections before, so calling a potential loss this year "doomsday" seems a little melodramatic.
I guess Brad is too young to remember '96 Or '92. Or '76. Or '64. Or '32 through '52.
As much as "President Obama" will annoy me the party will survive and the Union will survive. Anyone trying to sell you a bill of "OMG! Doomsday!" goods is just being a drama queen.

Posted by: Bryan at May 12, 2008 3:15 PM


It's a very simple formula: A Republican president @28% approval in the polls and $3.65/gallon gas (in my Denver neighborhood) is all Obama needs to get into office, followed by 3 extra Senators and 20 extra Congressmen for his party.

And yes, I do remember '92, my first year of voting in a Presidential election. It was a year where Bush '41, the GOP, and conservatives decided to go their own separate ways. Much like the Right wants to do right now.

Posted by: Brad S at May 12, 2008 3:41 PM

Brad: You haven't answered the question. Name the red state(s) he can credibly win. Then argue why he can hold all the blue states against McCain. Finally, since your answers will invariably be "Bush is unpopular," try to plausibly explain why he'll be able to tie McCain to Bush when the MSM has been doing yeoman's work for the last decade portraying McCain as the anti-Bush.

Posted by: b at May 12, 2008 3:47 PM

In all states, McCain is getting support from 85%-plus of Republicans (and will get over 90% of Reps by the time the elections roll around.) Which is par for every election.

In the same polls, Obama is getting support from 70% of Dems (and Hillary from about 80% of Dems), which is way below par for any election.

Plus, any analysis of '92 election that does not factor in the primacy of Ross Perot's 18% is inherently flawed.

Posted by: sam at May 12, 2008 3:52 PM

I doubt Brad has spent much time looking at the map. With OH, PA, and FL all going to McCain, Barry is pretty much toast. He'll basically have to sweep NM, IA, NV, CO, and VA to make up for (assuming he doesn't lose any other blue states from '04). Iowa is probably the only one he has a good shot at picking up - NM and NV went for Hil, and CO and VA went for Bush by about 9% in '04.

Posted by: pjbbuzz [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 12, 2008 4:01 PM


Try VA, NC, GA (Especially if Bob Barr jumps in), IA, CO, NM, AR. That's 70 electoral votes, easily outgunning any perceived losses from the bitter in PA (or NH!). In fact, given how every adult black man or woman will likely vote this year, I think MS, LA, SC, and AL will be closer than anyone thinks.

You don't understand. Obama is going to run a nationwide campaign.

Posted by: Brad S at May 12, 2008 4:26 PM


If McCain runs strong on continuing the Thousand Year Iraq war, Obama can take Colorado, Nevada, Nebraska, Arkansas, Virginia, Indiana, Ohio Tennessee. Those are all credible changes. Would be New Mexico also, but McCain's local pull may prevent it.

Posted by: h-man at May 12, 2008 4:34 PM

You guys sound awfully sure about McCain. Here's a current projection: Obama 274, McCain 264

Things will change no doubt, but this election is by no means in the bag for either candidate.

Posted by: Brandon at May 12, 2008 5:18 PM

OK, you guys win--I now believe that YES, WE CAN build an electoral majority based on college students, academics, and blacks. I have rejected all of the last half-century of election results that show unambiguously that the more conservative candidate always wins. White males? Who needs 'em? America's admiration of military service? Bah, we don't need no more cowboy diplomacy (because Americans HATE cowboys now). I'm convinced. In fact, I'm now positive that despite the fact that Obama isn't even going to try to compete in the Democrat primaries in WV and KY even though he's all but clinched the nomination, he's going to have John McCain on the run all across the South!

Posted by: b at May 12, 2008 5:50 PM

McCain is a favorite son in NH which Barry lost.

Posted by: oj at May 12, 2008 6:51 PM

Hispanics alone deny him NM.

Posted by: oj at May 12, 2008 6:52 PM

Ford nealy beat Carter and Clinton got in the low 40s despite races where the unpopular Republican was on the ticket.

Posted by: oj at May 12, 2008 6:53 PM


Every debate. He doesn't know much about anything, but knows nothing about national security.

Posted by: oj at May 12, 2008 7:22 PM

At this point Obama needed to be leading McCain by 15 points just to have a shot.

Posted by: oj at May 12, 2008 8:01 PM

No one cares about the war, that's why even Obama and Hillary dropped the topic.

Posted by: oj at May 12, 2008 8:05 PM

You guys sound awfully sure about McCain. Here's a current projection: Obama 274, McCain 264

This projection (based on no polling) gives Barry OH and PA. Hil, yes - Barry won't even bother campaining there.

Posted by: pjbbuzz [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 12, 2008 8:43 PM

OJ: We need pictures, debates don't give pictures. Us rubes here in Ohio need pictures, them words are confusing.

Based on polling (some of which are admittedly old), at, the current projection is McCain 301, Obama 237. Hillary leads McCain 290 to 248.

Posted by: sam at May 12, 2008 11:55 PM

Here's another projection for Nov:

The first election map - Marc Ambinder has the first Obama-McCain matchup projection at the, and it's a slight lead for McCain right now: 245-221 with leaners.

Posted by: sam at May 13, 2008 12:10 AM

The pictures will be more confusing.

Posted by: oj at May 13, 2008 6:32 AM