Obama's sweet rhetoric charmed Powell, but it's not enough
For several months people have told me the Bradley/Wilder effect may confound pollsters and diminish Barack Obama's election day results by 8-9 percent. The theory is that, in 1982, Tom Bradley was defeated in his poll-favored bid for governor of California because voters told pollsters they would vote for him, but with curtain drawn in the voting both could not pull the lever for an African American.
Likewise in 1989, polls heavily favored Doug Wilder for governor of Virginia, yet he eked out only a .4 percent win. There is a debate whether the Bradley effect continues to exist, and whether Obama, a "transformational figure," has transcended race.
"Transformational figure" is in quotes because it is the grandiose appellation given Obama by arguably the most experienced, most qualified, most presidential African-American: Colin Powell.
In his recent endorsement, Powell describes an Obama victory with grandiloquence: "It will also not only electrify the country, it will electrify the world." Wow. According to Powell, Obama has both "style and substance," a leader who would use the "power of his rhetoric" to communicate successfully with our friends and enemies around the world.
In his remarks on Meet The Press, Powell described the disagreement that made him chafe for years: The Republican Party has moved to the right. He worries about conservative Supreme Court justices and the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin for VP.
Powell is a soft Republican, not an exponent of the conservative or neo-conservative movement; still, his endorsement is a shock to conservatives and awesome for Obama.
When I heard about the Bradley effect, I responded hogwash! Americans would happily vote for an African-American with the proper credentials and ability, such as Colin Powell. Of course, it is not the race of the candidate that matters, but his character, experience and vision. That remains true today, with one new development: The eminent Gen. Powell bought into the Obama rhetoric, practically raising him onto Oprah's pedestal: "The One."
Just in case you thought Republicans have capitulated -- not a chance. Obama's sweet rhetoric may charm Powell and half the nation, but the rest of us consider it saccharine.
Impressed as we are by his legerdemain, we will stand by the conservative principles espoused by our salt-of-the-earth candidates, and it ain't over until the Alaskan lady sings.
Donald Meissner heads Donald Meissner Communications, University City. To reach him, contact Beacon features and commentary editor Donna Korando.