A couple months ago I blogged about my brother-in-law, a swing voter. Given the tightness of the election this year, and given the fact that he is the only genuine swing voter that I know, this is a subject I have not been able to put down.
As I described him before, my brother-in-law is an increasingly rare specimen in these polarized times. The culture war doesn't register with him. Whole swaths of issues concerning race, class, and gender, at least as they relate to his political decisions, do not concern him. Of center-right sensibilities, he clearly wants a strong military and a strong American economy, but he isn't too concerned which political party assumes responsibility for those tasks.
Moreover, my brother-in-law -- who doesn't want to be named because he generally doesn't like arguing about politics -- often decides how he will vote late in the race, after the debates are over. He votes with his gut, which has told him since 1984 to vote Republican four times and Democrat three times.
So. Who is he voting for?
Before I get to that, let me remind readers of the other reason my brother-in-law is unique. He has voted "correctly" for the winning President seven out of seven times since 1984. Put an asterisk by his 2000 vote if you want, but Dubya did win the White House, and that's who he voted for, once in 2000 and again in 2004.
It was after that seventh correct Presidential pick in 2004 that I began to see my brother-in-law as something more than a swing voter. From the kingdom of conventional wisdom, here is his take on the 2004 election: "We were at war," he said, "and I felt that Bush/Cheney would do a better job than Kerry in carrying out the war." Like it or not, that's what a lot of others said about 2004 when they voted Bush.
My brother-in-law's opinions are the stuff of a one-man focus group. But more than that: His correct picks make him an electoral seer. Or at least something akin to that octopus that picked all the winners of the World Cup matches a couple years ago.
And so throughout the summer and fall, I have been checking in regularly with my brother-in-law, to get a sense of where the race really stands. While many people have been following the campaign with the inevitable horse-race metaphor in mind, my mind has been obsessively pre-occupied with the image of a tossed coin. There it spins in the air, shiny and twirling, making a slow-motion climb on a bright American sidewalk, and I'm watching, mouth dumbly agape. How will it land? I wouldn't know until my brother-in-law told me how he was voting.
He was impressed by the speeches at the Democratic National Convention, but not enough to be fully swayed. He responded to my questions about the RNC and DNC with questions of his own about Libya. "Many of the leftist pundits that I saw today criticized Romney for 'politicizing' this issue," he said. "Well, what is our policy? This is a political issue."
"I think both Obama and Romney have a chance," he complained at one point. "I think I'm screwed with either choice."
Pushing him to decide faster hasn't helped. He's reacted to my pressure tactics with indifference. "I have to admit that I fell asleep while reading your [lengthy partisan] response," he emailed me shortly after the Biden-Ryan debates. "VP debates don't matter." Though he was quick to add that Biden's smile made him appear condescending, and as a result he thought the debate was a tie.
For months, the coin has refused to land. Until the last debate. In the opinion of my brother-in-law, Romney lost big time.
"A no-brainer," he told me. "Romney looked like an idiot. He has flip-flopped himself into a corner. He said to Obama, 'You can't kill your way out of (al Qaeda and radical Muslims)' and then said to America, 'I will continue the killings.'
"Haven't checked the polls yet," he continued, "but Obama is probably up. I wish the Republicans had a better candidate than Romney, not because I like Republicans, I just think we can do better than Obama."
He ended his email by declaring, "Obama gets my vote."
So there you have it. The coin has landed. Barack Obama is going to win his re-election bid, perhaps not decisively like in 2008, but with a resigned finality.