It's hard to believe, given the disastrous nature of the Bush era, that the Republicans are still competitive in this race. If there was any justice in the world, they would be sent, as a body, packing into the wilderness for 40 years to repent.
But, of course, justice in this world is in short supply, which explains our hope there is more justice in the world to come.
I think there are many reasons why the race is still close, and to the extent that some of those reasons persist in the fall, there's a chance McCain will pull it off.
In no particular order:
1. Democrats, as a rule, a pathetic losers. They are to party discipline what cats are to herding. They're so afraid of being portrayed as "weak" on various issues that they cave in to the most unreasonable GOP demands. Evidently they are completely clueless that this confirms for all to see that they are, indeed, weak.
2. People aren't paying attention yet. It's only August.
3. Iraq isn't as big a disaster as it was last year. This allows McCain to make short-term claims that he was "right about the surge" but the long-term story is still disadvantageous to the GOP. The bottom line is that the public has made up its mind on Iraq and there's little that can happen there that will make a difference.
4. People like and respect McCain. Or at least the ones that aren't paying attention (See No. 2, above) People who are paying attention are having some second thoughts because of No. 5, below.
5. Negative campaigning still works. Or, at least, it works to make voters see your opponent more negatively. McCain is gambling that he can pull Obama down enough to catch him without losing much ground himself. This is a gamble, however, because it assumes Obama will refrain from going negative himself. McCain provides plenty of ready ammo for negative campaigning, though, and he may regret opening that Pandora's box. McCain is banking on Obama not being ruthless enough to go tit-for-tat with negative ads. While I don't doubt that Obama would prefer not to go there, I think he's provided ample evidence he will do what he must to win. McCain may be misunderestimating his opponent.
6. McCain is popular with the press -- for a Republican. The press hasn't made up its mind on Obama. In part, it wants to like Obama, but because it knows it wants to like Obama it thinks it shouldn't like Obama. If that makes sense to you, you're a journalist. If it doesn't make sense to you then you're a normal person.
7. There's a portion of the electorate (of undetermined size) that isn't ready to vote for a black man under any circumstances. On the other hand, most of those people probably wouldn't vote for any Democrat and have already been factored into the likely vote. The only way this would make a difference is if there's a significant number of people who would otherwise have voted Democrat that won't because of Obama's race. Maybe there is. If the race is close, they may make a difference. My sense is, however, that the anti-GOP sentiment is probably strong enough that other factors will overcome this effect.
Once the convention's shake out things will become more clear