Why Obama Has To Stay Above 50 Percent

Bill Greener, Salon: A GOP operative argues that in a race between a white and black candidate, “undecideds” vote white. Meaning, “undecideds” will break for McCain.

As his campaign manager has described it, John McCain is now looking at a “narrow-victory scenario.” “The fact that we’re in the race at all,” added Steve Schmidt, “is a miracle. Because the environment is so bad and the head wind is so strong.” But talk of miracles aside, I think John McCain really does have a decent shot at winning, and that’s not just because I’m a longtime Republican political operative. Despite what the polls seem to be saying, a closer look at the numbers shows that a Democratic victory is not a foregone conclusion. If history is any guide, Barack Obama, as an African-American candidate for political office, needs to be polling consistently above 50 percent to win. In crucial battleground states, he isn’t.

Much has been written about the so-called Bradley Effect, in which voters lie to pollsters about whether they’re willing to vote for a black candidate. The Bradley Effect tries to explain why Doug Wilder had a healthy 9-point lead up to Election Day in the 1989 Virginia governor’s race, and a similar lead in exit polling, only to squeak through to victory by 0.5 percent.