News Release: Politics

Sep. 4,  2008

Presidential Race to Finish will be a Close One

The race for the Presidency has definitely become a little tighter this week during the Republican National Convention, say Emory University's election experts.

"Gov. Sarah Palin's speech was a huge success. She has really energized the base and will be in huge demand to campaign in the South and Mountain regions, and battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. I would not underestimate her – she's competitive," says Merle Black, a renowned expert on national politics and the foremost authority on politics in the South.

"The Republicans are in better shape now than they were before the convention. It has now become a competitive race," Black says. "The Democrats are clearly the favorites, but I would not be surprised if the Republicans win. There is a chance for an upset. The campaigns in the next two months will tell the story, and it will be very important how the candidates do in the debates."

Andra Gillespie, whose research examines minority politics, political mobilization and race, says Palin "very much appealed to middle America, and definitely took people to task for criticizing her lack of experience. She showed that she has leadership and was on the offensive at the start with Obama."

The campaigns will try to avoid attacking on race or gender, but eventually someone will slip, and advocacy groups will only add fuel to the fire, Gillespie says. "The closeness of the race has a lot to do with people's dispositions of who they want to vote for. It says a lot about the state of affairs in our country."

"The race, while always competitive, is definitely on now and closer than it should be, given the rough economy, the war and widespread disapproval of the current administration," says Gillespie. "The election may come down to who has the best ground game in the battleground states."

Drew Westen, professor of psychology and psychiatry, Democratic political consultant and author of “The Political Brain,” says the Democrats have much in their favor, but need to be careful:

"The only way the Democrats could lose the election is if they allow it to become a referendum on Barack Obama instead of the Republican legacy of the last eight years and McCain and Palin's determination to continue it," Westen says. "Don't, however, underestimate the Democrats ability to seize defeat from the jaws of victory."

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