Obama Shouldn't Relax Just Yet

Barack Obama is sitting in the catbird seat. The economy has tanked, the incumbent George W. Bush is almost as unpopular as Congress, and the MSM is cheering him on and avoiding scrutiny of troubling facts (e.g. his association with ACORN and Bill Ayers). With three weeks to go he has got this in the bag, right?

Well, not quite. He has one more debate to go, a newly energized McCain ad campaign attacking his association with Ayers (and other questionable characters) and a surprisingly large number of voters still don't think he is prepared to be president. As Karl Rove pointed out, "[o]f recent candidates, only Michael Dukakis in 1988 has had a larger percentage of voters tell pollsters they believe he lacks the necessary qualifications to be president." Moreover, his national lead hovers in the mid-single digits and many swing states remain within the margin of error. (Gallup's Sunday poll showed a split of just 50-46% among likely voters.)

So what must he do in the final weeks to secure his win?

Now some might question why he has to do anything, certainly anything different in the final weeks of the campaign. It is tempting to run out the clock and ignore any incoming attacks from the McCain campaign. But frankly, polling has been less than dependable in this election cycle. Even if one doesn't believe the "Bradley effect" is still a factor, Obama's most fervent supporters are the least reliable voters (e.g. college students). So now is a good time to expand his appeal to conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans.

First, in the debate he would do well to spell out an economic recovery plan aimed squarely at the middle class. His plans for health care reform and raising taxes on the rich don't have much to do with the bulk of voters who want to know how they are going to keep their jobs and homes. He needs to explain precisely how much tax relief is going to the middle class and what he'll do for the 40% of Americans paying no income tax. And what is he going to do about job creation and maintaining investment in the U.S.? To convince voters wary of a tax and spend Democrat he would do well to show he understands that the private sector needs a boost to climb out of the recession.