In a recent post, I wrote the following
We are left with a conventional Democratic campaign talking about policy and a conventional Republican campaign talking about character. I think we all know how this story ends (and recent polls confirm it).
Since it was at the end of a paragraph, it could have been viewed as a throwaway line. Also, given the recent events on Wall Street, the narrative of the campaign has changed, at least until yesterday. It is just this kind of change in narrative, however, that drives home how important the issues raised by George Lakoff in his article Don't Think of a Maverick! and by Matt Bai in his New York Times Magazine article Retro Identity Politics are. When the discussion is on character and leadership, the Republican candidate gains. When the discussion is on the economy, the Democratic candidate gains. The candidates know this and that is why you saw the political posturing yesterday. First, Sen. Obama calls Sen. McCain to suggest they release a joint statement on the economy (Economy). Sen. McCain did not take the call, but called Sen. Obama back later. Here is where things get a little weird. Sen. Obama says Sen. McCain agreed to issue a joint statement at that time, Sen. McCain says he didn't, telling Katie Couric later that "This is not the time for statements" (Leadership). Soon after the call, Sen. McCain announces that he will be suspending his campaign and asks to postpone the debate until a deal is worked out (Leadership). Both campaigns agree that Sen. Obama was not informed of this action beforehand. The Commission on Presidential Debates rejected the idea of denying the debate. Sen. Obama also rejected delaying the debate and called into question Sen. McCain's ability to deal with the economic crisis (Economy). Then, yesterday evening the two campaigns did issue a joint statement, seemingly contradicting Sen. McCain's comments in the CBS interview. Today, the McCain campaign is suggesting the VP debate be postponed as well. The effectiveness of each of their political strategies will be seen in polls over the coming days, but there are a lot of stories today about whether the McCain campaign caught the Obama campaign off guard with their announcement yesterday. So, at this point, the discussion is not on policies, but on politics, which favors the Republican candidate.
For a more thorough, research-driven discussion of how culture, personality, and morality shape how people vote, read What Makes People Vote Republican? by Prof. Jonathan Haidt (Department of Psychology at the University of Virginia) and the responses to his article by Daniel Everett, Howard Gardner, Michael Shermer, Scott Atran, James Fowler, Alison Gopnik, Sam Harris, James O'Donnell, Roger Schank. On a different but related matter, there is a recent article on how people's ideology shades how they interpret facts.
Update: Sen. McCain is now tied with Sen. Obama in the Gallup daily tracking poll.