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More on why McCain should win: The PUMA factor

"PUMA People always travel single file to hide their numbers"

In a recent posting , I went on the record to say that John McCain should win the presidential election Tuesday, and I listed five reasons which lead me to this conclusion. They are media bias, pollster oversampling of Democrats, Obama campaign hubris, the Democrat candidate’s many suspect associations and the fact that the American electorate has a center-right majority.

There is a sixth reason to believe that the GOP candidate will pull this one out of the fire, and, like the other five, it is a topic you won’t read much about in the newspapers or see on the alphabet television networks, all of which are in the tank for Obama. It’s the PUMA factor.

PUMA is an acronym which stands for Party Unity My *ss. Backers of Sen. Hillary Clinton formed this “un-party” when they felt their candidate got a raw deal in the race for the Democrat Party’s presidential nomination. In their view, party chairman Howard Dean and the Obama campaign conspired to prevent Sen. Clinton from winning the contest. They did not jump ship at the time, however, and most of them could have been persuaded to back Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. All Obama needed to do to secure their support was to name Sen. Clinton as his running mate, a course of action many of his advisors had recommended.

Obama, however, would have none of that. Showing his thin skin over some of the remarks Sen. Clinton had made about him in the rough and tumble of the primary contest, Obama, who saw eye to eye with his wife Michelle on the matter, rejected Clinton and invited Sen. Joe Biden instead to join him on the ticket. The decision left many scratching their heads. Biden had a long-held reputation for his runaway mouth, and his highly-toouted foreign policy expertise has been tarnished by such bad thinking as sending, no strings attached, a $200 Million check to Iran as a sign of America’s good will, partitioning Iraq along sectarian and ethnic lines and some other really bad ideas. A Clinton selection would have made the Democrat ticket a formidable one, and, in the opinion of many political junkies, one which would have been hard for John McCain to beat. As a result, Obama finds himself just days before the election, in a year when a Democrat sweep was supposed to be a sure thing, unable to close the deal and locked in a very close race with McCain.

In years past, political candidates have made peace with their primary opponents, no matter how bitter the primary struggle or how far apart they may have been on both style and substance, to form unity tickets which rolled on to victory. John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson did it, as did Ronald W. Reagan and George H.W. Bush. But Obama, who has repeatedly shown that he cannot take the sort of criticism that his campaign regularly dishes out, failed to rise to the occasion. This failure to bury the hatchet and get on with the business of winning an election was a fatal mistake. Obama made some enemies who will not forgive nor forget. Although Sen. Clinton has made a public show of support for the Obama campaign, this is not true of many of her supporters. As payback for what they see as misogyny and pettiness toward Clinton, they have committed themselves to the effort to elect his opponent.

There are many PUMA sites on the web, too many to try to link to here. But a good start would be to go here and here. PUMAs have also joined with other disaffected Democrats, independents and Republicans in forming associations opposed to Obama. These are the “NOBAMA” coalitions, some of which can be found on the internet here and here. The hottest of all the many PUMA web addresses is this one: Hillbuzz.com.

The big question is how many PUMAs are there among the electorate? Not all of the 18 million who voted for Sen. Clinton in the primaries will vote for John McCain. But it is difficult to pin down the exact number of those who will mark their ballots for the Republican. This is because many of them are intentionally concealing this fact by telling pollsters when called that they will vote for Obama, although their intention is clearly to vote against him, i.e., for McCain. Others from their ranks are telling the pollsters that they are independent and undecided. Still others will say outright that they are going to vote for McCain. If this seems somewhat confusing, that is the general idea – don’t give the Obama campaign’s oppo people any useful intel.

The Associated Press estimates that four in ten of what they call “persuadables” are voters who are counted as undecided but had voted for Sen. Clinton in the primaries. In recent national polls, Obama had the support of 88% of Democrats. How many of those are stealth PUMAs on the prowl is anyone’s guess. But what should be even more troubling for the Obama campaign can be found in the internals of the latest Rassmussen poll of Pennsylvania. Obama is only drawing 75% of that state’s Democrats. The junior senator from Illinois cannot win the Keystone State with that much softness in his base support.

Each state is unique, of course, and you can’t transplant trends from one state into another or carry them over to the national picture as assumptions. But if McCain can pick up four or five of every seven undecideds, and if just two or three percent of those who say they will vote for Obama actually mark their ballots the other way (which would account for the stealth PUMAs and those who are afraid to say they are for McCain for fear of being branded as “racist”), he will win this election.

In just a few days, the roar of the wildcats known as PUMAs may be a very loud one indeed. Add to it the responsive chord struck by Joe the Plumber, who has made many blue collar workers, with their upwardly mobile dreams of owning their own small businesses some day, step out of the shadows. Add also the resounding sound of a previously unexcited conservative base which Sarah Palin has single-handedly mobilized, and John McCain could be hearing some sweet music Tuesday night.

- JP

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