James Forsyth on how the two candidates earned their party’s nominations and how the final stages of the campaign are playing out
It was on the eve of the Iowa caucus, 2 January, that it became clear that Barack Obama’s candidacy was more than just a form of political entertainment. Obama’s last speaking engagement was in a high school gym in Des Moines. It was the hot ticket of a cold night. This was the best orator in a generation giving the most important speech of his political career so far; the youthful crowd were expecting quite a show.
‘I was born for this moment,’ Gordon Brown is said to have told a small group at a recent dinner party. The Prime Minister is too keen a student of history not to have known that he was parroting Winston Churchill’s famous remark on becoming Prime Minister in 1940, ‘I felt... that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial.’ Perhaps it was reasonable of him to contend that the current financial crisis is as dire a threat to the British way of life as Adolf Hitler, perhaps not.
Michael Steinberger says a hefty defeat might be the best result for the RepublicansPolitical parties exist to fight elections, and with the presidential campaign now in its climatic weeks, Republicans are gamely battling to keep the White House. Barack Obama has opened a large, possibly insurmountable lead over John McCain, whose every gambit, not least his choice of Sarah Palin as running mate, has failed amid the relentlessly dire news about the economy.
States with their respective electoral college votes — 270 votes are needed to win
Click here to download the map which featured in the US Election supplement.
Nevada:This has been the fastest- growing state in the union since the second world war. McCain used to have a comfortable lead here but with almost half of voters saying that the economy is the most important issue, Obama has surged. McCain needs this state to come back into his column before election day.
Erica Grieder follows the US Presidential campaign
My favourite souvenir from the campaign season is a nine-page handout on ‘The Nature & Activity of Demons’. This was provided during a sort of adult Sunday school at John Hagee’s mega-church in San Antonio, Texas. Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and Baptist pastor and candidate for the Republican nomination, was there for a guest-preaching stint, and gave a colourful explanation of why we should strive to be less like Herod and more like Jesus.
Dan Gilgoff on how Barack Obama has narrowed the ‘God gap’Virtually no political experts saw it coming, but religion was one of the biggest factors in George W. Bush’s 2004 election victory. Bush, who had used evangelical Christian language and championed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage — a cause pushed by the Christian Right — won 78 per cent of the evangelical vote, a group comprising almost a quarter of the American electorate.
An important question of etiquette. Is it ever permissible to boo, barrack or hurl abuse at an English sportsman when he is representing his country in some battle against wily and devious foreigners? This is what happened to Ashley Cole, an England defender, who was playing at Wembley for his country against the might of Kazakhstan last week. ‘Booooo!’ the crowd went when he touched the ball. ‘Booooo!’ According to everybody after the game — and I mean everybody, apart from the English public — this was disgraceful, crass, boorish and unforgiveable behaviour.
Charles Leadbeater, the acclaimed innovator and new media analyst, predicts a transformed landscape: a new ‘networked’ capitalism in which the state plays a part but cannot pick winners — a system that is chastened, subdued and fraught with social dangerWe should be searching for a new kind of capitalism, and not just according to the far Left. That is the message from Washington dinner parties and in the pages of the Financial Times.
I am an elder statesman, but I’m a versatile old bugger. In about a month’s time I’m hitting the boards in Austin, Texas as a support act for Dame Edna. She’s not a happy lady about it because we’ve never hit it off, or got it off for that matter, and she’s got this bee in her bonnet that the Seppos (Septic Tanks — Yanks) might find me a bit too forthright in the language department and I could end up as popular as a bastard on Father’s Day.
If you ever want to get in touch with the real world, try pretending to be a second world war GI. This is what I did the other weekend and it was quite an eye-opener. I don’t mean the stuff I learned about the correct procedure for debussing and advancing to contact from an armoured half-track — fascinating, obviously, though that was. I mean what I discovered about my fellow Living History re-enactors in the pub, afterwards, when we got on to the subject of impending ecological disaster.
Why have Barack Obama and John McCain run such drearily conventional campaigns? Hard though it is to remember those halcyon days, informed observers once believed that Obama and McCain would barnstorm the country together, flying on the same plane and taking part in Lincoln–Douglas-style debates over war and peace and the meaning of life itself.In fairness to both candidates, there has certainly been plenty of tactical innovation on both sides.