The maverick melts down

I’ve been doing internal 180’s this whole election season, bouncing from poll to contradictory poll and changing my assessment of which candidate was going to win the White House.

While I make no predictions for public consumption, in my own mind I’ve believed at different points that Sen. Obama was going to win the White House when he dominated the Electoral College polls. Conversely, when Sen. McCain was ahead, as recently as several weeks ago, I thought he would be our next president. Never have I found myself swinging back and forth and back and forth with such alacrity during a presidential run. It is truly head spinning.

At this late date, however, I do not see a way out for McCain-Palin. Tuesday night’s debate, the second of three, was hardly the "game-changer" John McCain so desperately needs to turn things around. While people can differ on who won the second debate (McCain’s performance was much improved over his performance in the first debate, which he clearly lost) even McCain supporters must admit his presence on stage hardly created the tsunami-sized boost he needs to turn around his ticket’s meltdown in the national polls and in the state Electoral College polls.

It’s also clear, Gov. Sarah Palin’s presence on the ticket has become a huge drag, not a vote getter. Her pit bull approach and her attacks on the media (the media commit plenty of errors, but overall media coverage of her is not one of them) are if anything backfiring on the ticket. According to the Washington Post, she’s revving up her far right base to the point where things are getting inexcusably nasty:

"Worse, Palin’s routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater Fla., arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric’s questions for her ‘less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media.’ At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, ‘Sit down, boy.’"

Palin loves to compare herself to a pit bull, but polls are showing she’s taken it a bit too far, lipstick or no lipstick. If she is one, she needs to muzzle up. Her impact on a key demographic, white female swing voters, is harming rather than helping her cause, according to

"Shortly after John McCain’s announcement that Palin would be his running mate, several polls a showed a strong swing of white women toward McCain. An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted immediately after the Republican convention showed a 20 percent swing among white women toward McCain. White women went from supporting Barack Obama 50 percent to 42 percent to supporting McCain 53 percent to 41 percent, a swing that helped McCain close a 6 percent gap in the poll in only a week. But Obama has since regained his lead with white women in most polls. And Obama now leads among all women voters ?despite all the talk of disaffected Hillary Clinton voters.”

I see only two possible game-changing scenarios. One would be the failure of young voters to turn out, coupled with white voters lying to pollsters (telling them they will vote for Obama but when they get into the polling booth, voting for McCain.) The other would be a huge international terror event or near-event, to divert attention from America’s economic woes. But as each day passes and investors get increasingly spooked, the likelihood of Americans being diverted from the economy, stupid, (to mimic the famous Clinton campaign saying) the less likely diversion becomes.

Of course it’s not over until it is over. And game-changers do happen at the last minute. But this ping-pong match of a presidential race seems to have morphed into a fait accompli.


(Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and columnist. E-mail bonnieerbe(at)