Worth Noting

Obama: Polls Over Policy?

October 29, 2008

Senator Obama recently added a new line to his stump speech

claiming he is "worried about Americans who are losing their homes, and their jobs, and their life savings" while Senator McCain is "worried about losing an election."

It is curious that Sen. Obama is touting himself as concerned with policy and not polls, while claiming Sen. McCain's foremost worry is electoral politics. In reality, McCain has consistently advocated policies he believed right even when the winds of public opinion blew against him.

For example, take the surge of troops in Iraq. Sen. McCain advocated a surge in the number of US troops in Iraq, when it was unpopular. In a January 2007 Gallup poll, Americans opposed the surge by a nearly 2-1 margin. McCain went against the grain of public opinion to support a winning policy. At the same time, Sen. Obama played to public sentiment by introducing legislation to prematurely end the war. McCain has often said that he would "rather lose an election than lose a war." Obama's record suggests the opposite.

Likewise, on ethanol, McCain clearly proclaimed that he opposes subsidies while campaigning in farm-heavy Iowa. Sen. Obama pandered to Iowans by supporting the subsidies.

Political maneuvering is nothing new for Sen. Obama. As a member of the Illinois State Senate, he voted "present" on issues ranging from abortion to gun control. Obama has shown a reluctance to take stances that could hurt him politically, either at the time or in the future, even on issues he claims are dear to him.

The Obama campaign is one of the most thoroughly polled and focus group-tested in modern history. Sen. Obama speaks of providing a "tax cut" to Americans with no income tax liability. He doesn’t call this program welfare because the policy sounds better when dubbed a tax decrease. Obama has even run an ad calling government run healthcare "extreme." However, Obama's own website quotes him as saying that starting from scratch he would design a single-payer system. If that’s not political spin that prioritizes winning elections over candid explantions, I don’t know what is.

The examples go on and on. Sen. McCain has constantly advocated solid policies, regardless of focus groups and polls, while Sen. Obama has not. It’s odd that Obama would draw attention to this aspect of the campaign, considering both men's records.

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