October 29, 2008

Pollsters, left to right, Steve Lombardo, Jef Pollock and Will Feltus.

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LEWISBURG, Pa. – And the winner of the 2008 U.S. presidential election is ….

National pollsters representing both sides of the political spectrum said if the presidential election were held now, Sen. Barack Obama would win by perhaps as much as eight points in the popular vote.

The pollsters, speaking at the Bucknell Forum event, “The Polls and the Presidency,” Tuesday night in Trout Auditorium, agreed that what tilted the U.S. election in Obama’s favor was the sudden economic calamity that has hit Wall Street and Main Street in September.

First African-American president
“The one thing I can tell you is that the economy has eclipsed this election in an extraordinary way in the last 30 days,” said Steve Lombardo, president and chief executive officer of Lombardo Consulting Group and an advisor to Republican political candidates, including President George H. W. Bush in 1992. “In eight days from now, we are likely to elect the first African-American president of the United States, and that is the second most important story of the last 40 days.”

While the recent Wall Street meltdown has had a significant impact on this election, Lombardo said, it was important to step back to take a broader view of this election.

“We are in the most protracted period of voter dissatisfaction since Watergate (in the 1970s),” he said, noting recent surveys indicating that 93 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. “That’s an extraordinary number. The important thing is that’s been happening for the last three-and-a- half years. … This has been an extraordinary long period in which the American public has been dissatisfied and, I would say, they’ve moved into the anger zone.”

Single-issue election
Lombardo said the election has turned into a single-issue election – the economy. A year ago, he said, the top issues were the war in Iraq, terrorism, health care and the economy. “Now, today, the economy is the number-one issue and three times stronger than any other issue.”

The turning point for Sen. John McCain, he suggested, came in mid-September as the financial markets plummeted and a venerable Wall Street firm failed. McCain “did what any other U.S. senator would say but not a senator who is running for president. He said the fundamentals of the economy were strong.”

“The election is not over, although it feels that way,” Lombardo said.

Electoral map
Lombardo and Jef Pollock, president of Global Strategy Group and an advisor to many Democratic politicians, showed the audience an electoral vote count map and both agreed it showed Obama winning.

“It’s pretty hard for me to not stand beneath that kind of map and feel … good,” Pollock said.

While many have argued that Pennsylvania is a tossup state in this election, Pollock disagreed.

“John McCain has been losing in Pennsylvania since the end of the primary by large margins, by and large. We’re talking about polls in this state that have Barack Obama by 10, 12 points, significant margins,” said Pollock.

Ability to raise money
Obama’s ability to raise money has been a key to his success, Pollock said.

“The simple fact of Barack Obama’s dominance on money, an ability to raise money through the Internet in small donations that has spread like wildfire, that has enabled Barack Obama to dominate John McCain,” said Pollock. “Even though John McCain is sitting in Pennsylvania hoping and praying that there are a bunch of old, white men who are secretly racists who are then going to vote against … I don’t see it. And I particularly don’t see it when you’re being outspent three to one.”

Early voting in North Carolina and Georgia is showing Obama with historically high African-American and young voters turning out in his favor, Pollock said.

“Do I think Barack Obama has run a perfect campaign? Not at all,” he said. “I do believe that the economy has become the dominant thing and is, right now, clearly helping Barack Obama.”

Bucknell survey
Separately, an informal survey conducted on Bucknell’s website suggested an Obama win. Of more than 600 taking part in the survey, more than 66 percent of the students, faculty, staff, alumni and general public participating said if the election for present were held today they would vote for Obama.

The next Bucknell Forum event will be Tuesday, Nov. 11, when Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, CBS News analyst and senior advisor to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, delivers an analysis of the U.S. presidential election and what it will mean for the next president.

Ornstein will present his talk at 7:30 p.m. in Trout Auditorium. It is free and open to the public. || Read story

The Ornstein Bucknell Forum event, the third this semester, concludes the series "The Citizen & Politics in America" that began in fall 2007. ||See past Bucknell Forum participants.

The Bucknell Forum speakers series continues in the spring under a new theme, “Global Leadership: Questions for the 21st Century.” The first speaker in that series is expected to be announced soon.

Contact: Division of Communications

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