The second of three presidential debates was held last night in Nashville, Tennessee. The final debate will be held next Wednesday, October 15. We are now less than four weeks from the presidential election. I am not a political pundit but I have no serious doubt that Barack Obama will win this election. I have watched both debates carefully, as well as the vice-presidential debate, and I have seen nothing to dissuade me from this view. Baring a last minute "shift" that is rooted in events that we cannot foresee, Barack Obama is the solid leader in all the polls and should win, perhaps in a landslide.

What happened last night could best be described as two senators having a debate (a discussion seems the better word to my mind) about how to solve major problems that our nation faces. McCain needed to stop Obama's momentum and he simply failed. Why? I have no idea. I think both of these candidates debated like two men in the U. S. Senate, a great deliberative and dialogical body. Their differences were only somewhat obvious. Their approach lacked spark and clarity, especially McCain's. Obama is a well-trained speaker and the idea that he can only speak in speeches has been plainly disproven. He is an accomplished attorney who knows how to speak as if he were presenting evidence to a jury. He makes his case well and he has no real negatives in terms of perception, which is huge in American general elections.

The only new item placed on the table was McCain's proposal to buy up mortgages, and this left me scratching my head. Otherwise, the two men sparred more like two old friends than as the representatives of two radically different approaches to governing the nation. Give Obama credit, he has successfully adopted a theme and stuck to it well.

Barack Obama is a polished, clever, very smart man. He has run a very good campaign, from a political perspective. He knows the economy is in trouble and the party in power has very high negatives. Though many felt that he might gain the nomination but then not win in a general election, this appears now to be untrue. Americans want a new direction and they perceive that he will give it to them. I have expressed my considerable doubt about this since I do not see him as a post-partisan reformer at all.

Since I have observed Obama fairly closely in Illinois, and thus tried to follow his career for some years now, I hope he will move more to the center when he governs us. But he will have a Congress that will generally support him strongly, or so it seems. Thus I do not think he will (move to the center) since there is nothing in his record to support this idea. But I could be wrong and I sincerely hope that I am. When all is said and done I am where I have been for all my life—confessing and standing on the only One who has dominion over all.

His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the people of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the people of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: "What have you done?" (Daniel 4:35)

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  1. Dan Jones October 8, 2008 at 10:43 am

    I love your perspective and spirit toward things, John. It’s positive and still objective. Much of what you wrote re: BO I tend to agree with. However, although you didn’t use this word I don’t think, BO is a pacifist. He is not the small military / no conflict guy so many of his supporters believe. His writing and statements prove that. He has stated on numerous occasions he would invade Pakistan without permission if he thought we could get more AlQaeda. He’s made it doubly clear that anywhere in the world it seems ethnic cleansing is taking place, he will go in with military force. He’s been clear that he believes our military needs to be bigger, not smaller. I don’t make these points because I agree or disagree, just that there is a huge misconception out there re: BO and his stance on the military. I believe he opposes the Iraq conflict because his party does and it is politically expedient. As proof, he has stated that he will leave as many as 60,000 troops in Iraq after the formal pull-out he is proposing…AND…that he would take that number of troops pulling out of Iraq and send them straight to Afghanistan. People need to understand BO’s true stance on military use. He is not a pacifist.
    Secondly, in terms of election results: it will not be a landslide. The country is far too ideological and evenly split at this point for those results to happen, regardless who is running. Additionally, JMc is leading in all the states Bush won 4 years ago by double digits except 2 where he is leading by 8% and 2.5%, 2 more where he is down by less than 1%, and 7 more where he is down by less than 5%. In only two “Bush States” is JMc down by more than 5% (Iowa by 9% and NM by 7%). It is true that in “Kerry States” BO is leading big, but as you know, this is not an election of citizen votes. Winning Cali by 3 to 1 still only gets BO 54 electoral points. Finally, as much as I think it’s wrong, BO must overcome the “Bradley/Dinkins Effect” regarding polling. History has shown that black candidates poll much higher than votes they actually receive…sometimes into double digits. No amount of polling or media frenzy will win BO the election. People still have to vote for him and the Bradley Effect has shown time and again (even up to the morning of elections) that these candidates poll much higher than votes they receive. BO is in trouble in every state where he is polling only single digits higher than JMc. All those states are in play, in my opinion. In states where he is polling only 1% or 2% higher, bet on JMc every time.

  2. Chris Criminger October 8, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Hi John,
    It does seem like Obama will win this election (either barely or by a landslide). The best John McCain can do is barely win this election (and the polls are tightening for now but we will just have to see how this all plays out in the next few weeks).
    Unless there is a *major* “October Surprise,” I doubt things will be much different until election time.
    There are many scenarios that could be played out but here is how I see it at the moment.
    1. If John McCain somehow wins the White House (worse in a close election), the accusations and polarizations of every kind will be worse in this country. I pray whoever wins this election wins decisively and not closely.
    2. Under an Obama presidency, I am greatly concerned about what would happen to the Supreme Court and the hardening or even expansion of Roe vs. Wade. And taxing the rich ‘might’ lead to greater inflation but we will have to see?
    The positive side is in 2010, I would pray and hope some good conservative Republicans take back the House and Senate. Things could turn very favorably at least with regards to the the economy with an Obama administration working with the Republicans.
    Of course, others may see it differently and I wonder how you might understood where all this is leading?

  3. John H. Armstrong October 8, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    I did not suggest that Obama is a pacifist. I do not think someone even remotely holding to such views could be elected since he will be the commander-in-chief of our armed forces. In fact, I completely agree that he will use these forces when he feels they are needed and may use them very wisely in many instances. We shall see. He is clear about using force in Afghanistan.
    On the point that the race will narrow as we draw near Election Day I have my doubts. McCain is not staying on a message-based course that connects and seems to be dancing around what he needs to really say to win. I find Obama a far more disciplined campaigner. Just three weeks ago the “right wing” talk-show hosts (Rush, Hannity, etc.) were saying that Obama’s campaign was in total confusion after the convention and the he could be swamped under by the great conservative tide. How wrong they were. (Are you as tired of these talkers as I am?) The odds would seem to say that McCain can and should draw closer in the next four weeks but unless something changes big time then Obama will win in the end. The country is tired of the leadership we have had, or the lack thereof, and is ready for a change. The problem is that this change may not be the right one. We will find out over the course of several years and then things could shift in two years or four once again. My guess is the man will learn to govern quickly and on many issues will move more to the center but we can’t be sure since he has no record to show it.
    One thing we do know, he has a clear record on abortion and related issues; e.g., the appointment of judges. He will never change these views or he could never govern at all since he will be elected by those who agree with him. As a Christian this discourages me a great deal.
    Bottom line: We need a spiritual and moral awakening that touches millions of people or the culture will not grasp the “life” equation deeply enough to make a change. This will not come from McCain or Obama, but from God alone!

  4. Anthony October 9, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    John – thanks for your evenhanded and insightful post that rightly exhorts us to remember the true foundation of our hope.
    Not long ago, in Scot McKnight’s blog he expressed similar sentiments regarding politics and misplaced hope. In his own words he stated:
    “Somewhere between 6pm and 8pm, Central Time, on November 4th, 2008, the eschatology of American evangelicals will become clear. If John McCain wins and the evangelical becomes delirious or confident that the Golden Days are about to arrive, that evangelical has an eschatology of politics. Or, alternatively, if Barack Obama wins and the evangelical becomes delirious or confident that the Golden Days are about to arrive, that evangelical too has an eschatology of politics. Or, we could turn each around, if a more Democrat oriented evangelical becomes depressed and hopeless because McCain wins, or if a Republican oriented evangelical becomes depressed or hopeless because Obama wins, those evangelicals are caught in an empire-shaped eschatology of politics.”
    Both in the tone of this post and in the quote you gave from Daniel, you clearly do not have an empire-shaped eschatology. I just wish that as a whole the Church in America was more clear about God’s sovereignty and the ephemeral nature of politics, as I think this is critical in moving forward with the mission of Jesus in the world.

  5. jls October 10, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    It will be a natural human reaction for anyone–Christians included–to experience some joy or sadness on election night. We would be a sorry lot if we had no reaction at all. We are now in very uncertain times. Six months ago, no one could have predicted where our nation would be now. We have no idea where we will be next month. But one thing is certain: God is working. All I can do is pray: “Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is heaven.”

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