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McCain’s Miscalculation: “Scranton Voters” vs “Hockey Mom”s

Who better understands the mood of the American electorate, John McCain or Barak Obama? This is not a question of strategy or tactics; rather it is a question of native intuition. Who, from the start of the general election race, has best spoken to the concerns of average Americans? Who, without prompting, understood the questions Americans were asking and was ready with an answer?

On the last day of the 2008 presidential election, both men are making their closing arguments. Obama spent Sunday leading rallies in Ohio (Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati), while McCain spent the day in Pennsylvania (Wallingford and Scranton) before heading to New Hampshire and Florida. Their schedules are telling, because in them lies the answer to the question posed above — who best understands the mood of the electorate?

The fact that McCain spent his last weekend focused on Scranton, Pennsylvania says something important. Since the days of the Obama /Clinton race, the name Scranton has been on the lips of political observers. The concerns of the “Scranton Voter”, political shorthand for working-class, white, ethnic, Roman-Catholics, have motivated this election. Like “Soccer Moms” in 2000, this group personifies the political conscience of the nation in 2008. Still only one candidate saw it coming.

Obama was the man who understood the importance of the “Scranton Voter” rfom the start and his campaign was the only one positioned to address their needs: economic issues and health care reform. He demonstrated this awareness by selecting Joe Biden, originally from Scranton, to be his running mate. His choice of Number 2 telegraphed to America, back in August, that he understood the importance of “Scranton Voters.”

McCain did not see them coming. McCain decided “Soccer Moms” would again decide the election and that their issues (national security, small government, and conservative values) would define the race. As a demonstration of this belief, McCain chose Sarah Palin, a “Hockey Mom,” as his running mate. He miscalculated. As the race progressed and the importance of national security and social issues receded, McCain and his advisors were left flatfooted. By the time they realized this, they were stuck with Palin and running a campaign focused on the wrong issues. They tried to change the subject, bounced from issue to issue, eveb through up a bit of mud but, in the end, never really recovered.

In the wake of tomorrow’s election, partisans will chalk an Obama victory up to better fundraising and the liberal tilt of the media; but if they do, they will be missing a fundamental truth: McCain, from the start, misunderstood the importance of the “Scranton Voter.”


If you doubt this, just check out their schedules. McCain spent the last Sunday of the race…in Scranton.

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Victor Maldonado

Victor Maldonado