11/10/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How the Coming Obama Landslide Will Trump the Bradley Effect

No Democrat should be overconfident. John McCain, forever bitter about the dirty-tricks campaign the Bushies waged against him in South Carolina in 2000, has obviously cooked up some monstrously hypocritical rationalization for basing his current campaign on filth, filth and more filth. In so doing he has given up his last chance to make it close and instead has cleared the way for an Obama landslide of historic proportions.

If present trends hold, and Obama pulls it off, we could be looking at a strangely perfect inversion of 2000 - - candidate Bush ran on the promise of being a "uniter, not a divider," took office only after the Supreme Court installed him in what amounted to a U.S. coup d'etat, and then embarked on a hard-right presidency that ensured division, resentment and even hatred would be inflamed -- and become a raging epidemic in American politics, so rampant that even well meaning people on the left would let hatefulness and ugliness infuse their discussion of their fellow Democrats.

(I was for Hillary all the way; now I'm for Obama. If you've got a problem with that -- if you're one of these Ds who wants to weaken our resolve by directing your fire away from McCain and Bush and the perky demon named Sarah Palin, then let's hash it out downstairs in the Comments section.)

If Obama can really pull off a landslide, we the American people will have spoken loud and clear that it is time to come together as a country, time to turn away from the politics of division and resentment, and time to get back to asking not what our country can do for us but what we can do for our country. As I've written elsewhere, the job of restoring American's standing in the world, its status as a reminder of hope and possibility, will not be easy or quick, but we will also have made a powerful statement to the world that we are not George Bush's America -- or Sarah Palin's -- we are much, much more.

So let's talk about the Bradley Effect. I covered George Deukmejian as a young student reporter, and I can remind everyone that he was a nice enough man, but very dull as a politician. It looked weird when he overcame a double-digit deficit in the Field Poll in 1982, topping an African-American candidate, L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley, in the race for California Governor.

People who want to reduce the Bradley Effect down to people "lying" to pollsters miss the point; they could just as well be lying to themselves. Or maybe they really don't know, right up until the last minute. The Bradley Effect should be understood as one factor among many swirling around to shape voting patterns on Election Day, and we can probably assume that in the 26 years since Tom Bradley lost that race, we have made some progress.

The key factor is this: In California in '82, few voters had strong preferences in the race. This year, many voters have strong preferences, a phenomenal 77 percent of the American people think we are on the "wrong track" as a country, even before the latest cataclysmic news from Wall Street, and all the McCain outfit can come up with is the predictable smear strategy we all knew they would resort to if their backs were to the wall.

There will be people around the country who will, in the end, not feel comfortable voting for Obama because of his skin color or racial background or his name, and won't. But as the Electoral Map continues to change color, with states like Florida, Virginia and Colorado looking ripe for Democratic picking, it gets easier and easier for voters sold on Obama's ideas, but reticent or uncomfortable about voting for him, to cast aside that reticence or discomfort and go with the man they know is going to win the thing without them.

So if the out-of-ideas Republicans keep on resorting to juicing up their campaign with the steroids of wild attacks, and keep losing more Americans in the middle, worried to death about the financial earthquakes hitting seemingly every day, then this year could represent a turning point in American politics even more epic than previously expected.

An Obama landslide? You betcha!

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