Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Republican embarrassment factor

There's one unspoken factor in this election, something I haven't heard from anyone else:

The Republican embarrassment factor.

There are a number of Republicans who are disappointed, frustrated, pissed off by the Bush administration. They haven't said much, because they're embarrassed that they voted for him, and they don't want to admit that they are embarrassed. Many of them are sophisticated professionals - doctors, lawyers, stockbrokers - who vote Republican primarily for financial reasons. They're socially liberal, or at least moderate, but they don't like paying high taxes, so they vote Republican, because Republicans lower their taxes.

The key to understanding them is that they're sophisticated professionals. They make their living thinking. They usually have advanced degrees. They're competent. They know how to get things done. Most voted for Bush because he promised to lower their taxes, and they didn't see much appeal in either Gore or Kerry.

But now they are embarrassed by Bush's incompetence. They don't want to admit it. They have been quietly hoping that John McCain will redeem their faith in the GOP. They have been thinking that Bush's biggest problem is that he's incompetent; they're assuming that another candidate, not burdened by this problem, will salvage what's left of the GOP brand. They keep hoping. And keep hoping.

At this point, many of these people are still keeping quiet about their doubts and lack of faith. They're still not sure what to make of Sarah Palin; they can't quite figure out what happened to the John McCain of the Straight Talk Express.

So if you ask them, they'll tell you that they are going to vote for John McCain, because they're confused, and that's their default position. But they are very, very worried.

At least about John McCain and the Republican party. Many of them are not uncomfortable with the idea of voting for Obama. They don't believe the rumors about him being a Muslim. They appreciate the value of an advanced degree from an elite university. Most of them are members of the elite. They agree with Obama on many issues.

They're not quite ready to vote for Obama. They're still confused about John McCain. They're not quite sure what to think of Sarah Palin.

But in a couple of weeks, they are going to start breaking for Obama in big numbers. The numbers in the polls will lag. Embarrassment is difficult to deal with. But once people come face to face with the failure of someone they once believed in, there's no going back.

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