By Bob Steinberg
During the 1950s and ‘60s, the late actor Jack Webb played Sgt. Joe Friday, a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. “Dragnet,” a hit television series, always opened with Webb saying, “My name is Friday; I carry a badge.”
Friday also liked to say, “All we want are the facts.” With the upcoming presidential primaries, followed by November’s general election, voters also will need to focus on the facts.
The battle to see who will occupy the White House for at least the next four years will soon wind down to two candidates. For the Democrats, it will be either Hillary Clinton or Barrack Obama. The Republicans are poised to nominate John McCain. As predicted in this column, Clinton won the Pennsylvania primary comfortably. I believe she will win Indiana by a similar margin as well.
In North Carolina, where Obama is predicted to win easily, the race will be much closer than the pundits expected. Public Policy Polling had Obama with an 18-25 point lead over Clinton earlier in April. As the May 6 primary nears Clinton trails him by only 12 points.
The North Carolina primary could end up much closer than that- especially if the Rev. Jeramiah Wright continues his incendiary comments as exemplified by his recent remarks in front the National Press Club in Washington.
Clinton’s gains have come from white voters. Since the Pennsylvania primary, Clinton’s lead in North Carolina with this group has expanded to a margin of 56-35 over Obama.
Pre-election and exit polling in the past have been, with few exceptions, relatively accurate barometers of election results. This year’s primaries have been anything but. On election night the network television talking-heads have delayed prematurely calling the outcome for fear of getting it wrong. This in spite of the empirical data gathered which has been mostly reliable in the past.
Data has proven to be less than accurate in the Democratic primaries this year, perhaps in part because voters polled are hiding racial and/or gender prejudice when asked whom they support. Given that the Democrats will either nominate the first woman or the first black candidate, I suspect this supposition could have more merit than has been reported in most of the mainstream media.
This should be an easy year for Democrats. An out-of-favor Republican president has occupied the Oval Office for eight years. The war in Iraq is unpopular. A mortgage crisis has sent the economy teetering on the edge of recession. But in this year of many firsts, it may not be enough for the Democrats to win the presidency in November.
Had the Democrats selected a more mainstream candidate, like Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, the donkeys could have put this election in the bank. But Obama and Clinton are polarizing candidates who enjoy strong support from their core liberal base. But they arguably may not have enough crossover appeal in a general election to woo Republican and Democratic moderates along with a significant numbers of independents, votes either Democratic candidate will need to win on November 4.
Most of America still leans to the right and center and Clinton and Obama tilt significantly to the left. After the primaries when the eventual Democratic nominee has been determined, he or she will try to scramble back to the political center. The Republicans will do their part to thwart those attempts by reminding voters of the inconsistencies in their opponent’s message.
Assuming McCain can secure the trust advantage, will that be enough? He will still have to convince a majority of Americans that he would be the more pragmatic and time- tested choice for president.
Let’s compare the three remaining candidates on some of the issues.
Although Obama may be to the left of Clinton in some areas, such as when to bring the troops home from Iraq, both support raising the capital gains tax, granting amnesty to illegal aliens, supporting partial-birth abortions, raising taxes to provide universal health care, support same-sex marriage, oppose school vouchers, restricting our Second Amendment right to bear arms, and gutting the Patriot Act, which has been a vital tool in keeping America free from terrorist attacks since its adoption in the aftermath of 9-11.
McCain supports maintaining the capital gains tax at its current 15 percent rate and making the Bush tax cuts permanent. He is the author of the surge in Iraq, which appears to be turning the tide there, and supports staying the course until the mission is completed. He is opposed to amnesty for illegal aliens and partial-birth abortions. He supports health care reform, but not universal health care in government-mandated programs. McCain does support a government-sponsored option for catastrophic coverage.
McCain also opposes any effort to water down the right to bear arms and he strongly supports the continuation of the Patriot Act. While not in favor of same sex marriage, McCain does favor allowing partners to share benefits. He also favors school vouchers.
Between now and November, pay close attention to what both the Republican and Democratic candidates claim they believe, what they promise, and how they’ll pay for those promises. Remember, Joe Friday just wanted the facts. And so should you.
Bob Steinburg is a free-lance columnist living in Edenton, North Carolina. He is Chairman of the Chowan County Republican Committee. You may email him at: RSteinburg@aol.com