No one can deny that Democrat Barack Obama is working hard for the money. According to the latest tally, Obama raised $52 million in June toward his presidential campaign, beating out his Republican rival John McCain, who "only" raised $22 million in the past month.
Obama is also hot news. He has just completed a whirlwind world tour where he met with foreign leaders, attracting huge, enthusiastic audiences like he was the second coming of Elvis. He's done what no one else has managed to do in the past several years -- beat out Britney Spears for more media coverage. With a grueling domestic and international schedule that gives him little time to relax, one can safely consider Obama the hardest working man in politics today -- and ultimately deserving of the Presidential crown.
But it would be wise to hold that thought.
McCain complains that the media unfairly makes too much of his rival's campaign, hanging upon him with the puppy dog adulation of Paparazzi on Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. But in all the noise, many people fail to notice that -- with all the attention and media coverage that he receives -- Obama only leads McCain by six points in the national standings, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. In a fluid presidential contest where the slightest slip of the tongue or an unfavorable scandal can sink a career, a six point lead is remarkably small. It's actually sobering, considering that, the way the media covers Obama, by this time, the contest should already be a blow-out.
Behind all the glitter of the Obama campaign, the grim reality is that the number of undecided voters is growing. Six out of seven McCain supporters admit they do so without much enthusiasm; nevertheless, voters still consider Obama a riskier choice, concerned that he does not have enough experience to lead the country on the international stage and unconvinced by his solutions for the U.S. economy. The proof? Despite Obama's highly publicized trip overseas, it has barely made an impression among voters at home. Some polls actually show McCain gaining on him.
It is also important to consider that many Hillary supporters still harbor animosity toward Obama. They had once threatened to vote for McCain should Hillary concede. Despite Hillary's best efforts to throw her support to Obama, it is still unclear whether her supporters have fully embraced Obama as much as she has. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll revealed that, while the majority of Clinton supporters had originally agreed to vote for Obama, that number has been steadily decreasing.
And former supporters are having second thoughts. James Dobson, leader of Focus on the Family and a high profile member of the religious right, recently announced he might switch support from Obama to McCain. It's not that he is enthusiastic about McCain, he explained, it's just that he is no longer certain about Obama, whom he now believes "contradicts and threatens ...the institution of the family."
The glare of the media spotlight has also compelled Obama to make more definite statements about his position on crucial issues, such as the war in the Middle East and the economy, making him a clearer target for attack. Obama has also been disillusioning many Democrats behind the scene, who feel he is already displaying an "exclusionary" attitude toward them. They fear that, like the Bush administration, Obama will circle the wagon around his cabinet and disregard input from his fellow Democrat once he gains the Oval Office.
Many people also underestimate the experience and networking skills of McCain, who has many political connections in Washington. While the spotlight has burned brightly on his rival, he has been working behind the scene to bolster support among fellow Republicans -- themselves hardcore dealmakers on the Washington political scene -- who are ready to call in a few favors and pull some strings to ensure their man wins.
Regardless of the outcome of this year's presidential race, no one must ever take away from Barack Obama the staggering significance of his achievement. If anyone had predicted a year ago that he would attain greater fame and popularity in the U.S. political arena than even the revered and idolized President John F. Kennedy...well...no one could have. It was simply beyond anyone's wildest imagination.
Yet, the old magician sleigh-of-hand trick might be an appropriate analogy in this year's presidential race. While everyone watches Obama over here, the real action may be taking place over there with McCain.