History was made this past Tuesday, but the significance of Obama's landslide victory probably won't sink in for a while. How cool is it going to be to watch Obama hold a Rose Garden press conference?
Likewise, it will probably also take a while to realize that come January 20 the world will at last be safe from further geopolitical damage inflicted by the likes of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Paul Wolfowitz. May they all swiftly fade into irrelevant obscurity.
One big lesson the Cheese Fry learned over the last couple of weeks was how news organizations are so motivated more by advertising than by journalism. Yes, we can be very idealistic. If you read newspapers or watched pundits on TV, you might have been expecting a close election due to pre-election poll analyses. Looking back in hindsight, Obama's rout of the hapless McCain was probably a done deal by the middle of October. But that sort of thing doesn't draw audiences. A far more interesting story - one that begs repeat viewing, drives up ratings, and raises ad dollars - is one that talks about how the race is tightening up and that McCain could still win it. Whatever, people.
So why did McCain lose? A very unscientific think tank study commissioned by the Cheese Fry points to five keys to the Obama mandate.
1. Sarah Palin. Do you know anyone who truly and honestly liked or respected her? We don't. McCain's first presidential-level decision and this was how he responded. Aside from being hopelessly inexperienced, Palin was George W.-like in her smug confidence and phony down-home charm. She surely cost McCain votes.
2. Appearance. People often vote instinctually, choosing the more presidential-looking candidate. And that means the more polished, the taller, and the more charming candidate carries the day. Reagan over Carter. Reagan over Mondale. Bush over Dukakis. Clinton over Bush and Perot. Clinton over Dole. Bush over Kerry (you know it's true). And now Obama over McCain. Did you see the debates? McCain looked okay in the second one, a town hall forum requiring the candidates walk around a stage and perch on stools. A lot of long shots and medium shots. But in the third debate where both candidates were sitting at a table, it was all close-ups and McCain looked absolutely terrible. This was the Kennedy-Nixon debate all over again. Only in high-definition digital.
3. The economy. Had the Iraq war stayed on the front burner and allowed McCain to flex his foreign policy muscles more, things might have been a lot different for this election.
4. George W. If anyone deserves credit for Obama's win, it's not David Plouffe, it's President Bush. Voters may have confidence in Obama, but what happened Tuesday was also partially a show of zero confidence in Bush. It would have been hard for any Republican to win the White House in 2008.
5. Money. Obama's financial resources dwarfed McCain's and in a country where campaigns live and die by TV spots, McCain was at a severe disadvantage. It almost wasn't even fair. Obama had so much money he didn't know what to do with that he ended up creating a million-dollar prime-time infomercial.