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Column: Slipping In Polls, Obama Camp Resorts To Smears

This story was written by Jesse Hathaway, The Post

For the most part, the Barack Obama presidential campaign has run a more or less positive campaign. Almost to the point of incantation, hope and change have been the centerpieces of his message. This theme is understandably attractive, if misdirected, to many youth voters who became politically aware during the uncertain times that followed al-Qaedas jaw-dropping attacks on September 11, 2001. However, in the last week or so, the Obama campaign has seemed to change its tune from hopeful, soaring refrains to a defiant call to arms.

Why is the candidate who promised to bring us a new kind of politics resorting to smear advertisements, such as his newest one that accuses his opponent of being so old and out-of-touch with regular Americans that he cant use something so simple as e-mail? The answer is simple and comes in the form of a self-described pit bull with lipstick and hockey mom, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

The announcement of Palin as McCains vice-presidential candidate took nearly everyone by surprise, including yours truly. Ever since Aug. 29, barely a day after Obamas ornate oratory at Invesco Field, Sarah Sarracuda Palin has proved to be a game-changer for McCain. Before the Democratic National Convention, Obama held an eight-point lead among Caucasian women. After Palin boarded the Straight Talk Express, McCain secured a twelve-point lead with the same demographic. On Monday, almost all of the major tracking polls reported that McCain was pulling ahead of Obama, with the margins of victory ranging from Newsweeks dead-even tie to USA Today/Gallups report of McCain being up by 10 points.

At InTrade, a major online prediction market site where people use real money to buy and sell outcomes just like the stock market, McCains stock price has risen from $31.10 back on July 14 to $49.50 on Thursday. Obamas, to contrast, has fallen from $65.90 to Thursdays value of $49.70. For reference, InTrade tells users in its FAQ that trading prices are analogous to probability percentages, since they range from 0 for something thats absolutely not going to happen, to 100 for something that is absolutely certain. In other words, the wisdom of the crowds is that McCains chances of winning the election have gone up by 59.2 percent, and Obamas chances have faded by over 24.6 percent, all in the course of two months and a few days.

Perhaps Obama is mocking McCain for [not knowing] how to use a computer [or being unable to] send an e-mail in order to play to his young Democratic base. In Ohio, where Obama holds an almost two-to-one lead over McCain in the 18-29 demographic group, McCain holds a four-point lead over Obama overall. Obama has the college student voter all but wrapped up, so why is he announcing the shocking revelation that McCain isnt exactly fresh out of college? One word: desperation.

In 1988, Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis won 10 states. According to ElectoralVote, Obama is leading the polls in only 19 states, with Pennsylvania polling as a dead tie. At this point in time, Obama is looking very much like the new Dukakis. All thats left for him to do is take a ride in an Abrams tank, and the transformation is complete! Yikes.

Tank-riding politicos aside, the wheels seem to be coming off the Obama Express. He has experienced a slight rebound in some polls, thanks to the recent market troubles, but as things settle down, its unlikely that the Prophet of Hope can turn a 1.9 percent average lead into something tangible, no matter how many times he calls McCain names.