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August 21st, 2008
05:13 PM ET

Professor Obama and the August Curse

John King | Bio
CNN Chief National Correspondent

Do the Democrats have an August curse?

That's probably not the best way to put it, but in elections they have lost, Democrats often look back and view August as a wasted or just plain horrible month.

In 2004, for example, John Kerry led most national polls heading into August; his biggest lead was in the five-point range. But by early September, some surveys had President Bush up by as many as 10 points.

The Democratic collapse of 20 years ago is the stuff of legend. Michael Dukakis was up 17 points in some national polling after his July convention, but that lead started to fade in August and in the end Dukakis won just 10 states.

So will it happen again?

The numbers aren't as dramatic as 1988, but they do have many Democrats nervous.

In mid-July, the CNN poll of polls – an averaging of major national polling data – showed Obama with a six-point lead over Republican John McCain. Now, as we prepare for next week's Democratic convention, Obama has a tiny 1-point edge over McCain: 45% to 44%.

Too professorial, some Democrats say of their candidate. Too different, others worry.

Democratic pollster Peter Hart still believes Obama can and should win the race handily. But he says to do that, Obama needs a strong convention, stronger debate showings, and an adjustment in his communications approach.

"Democrats have all the advantages on the macro elements: the direction of the country, the mood toward the president, the sense of change," Hart says. "Voters are worried, though, about who is more experienced, who has got the right set of qualities, who is going to be safe, who is going to be able to deal as commander in chief."

Hart's advice?

"One thing Barack Obama has got to do is move from long paragraphs into simple sentences. 'Yes We Can' is a phrase. Now there needs to be meat on the bones and simple sentences that voters in voters in rural areas and suburban areas can understand and say – 'That is my man."'

Editor's Note:
Don't miss the full report tonight with John King as he anchors AC 360° tonight 10pm EST.


Filed under: Barack Obama • John King • Raw Politics • T1
soundoff (301 Responses)
  1. laurie

    Dear Elizabeth, my condolences.....you must be just plain dumb not to know what Obamas middle name is.....worse yet, you admit it on a blog?Or are you a republican trying to bring up this tired subject, yet again?
    Either way, just plain dumb.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:38 pm |
  2. Elizabeth

    In respond to JC., Los Angeles comments and....

    Well said. I wish people would pay a little more attention to what is happening in this country, and less attention to the reality shows, and celebrity gossip., etc. This constant media coverage of Obama, but if you think what are they really covering, NOTHING. Nobody seems to be talking about the issues that affects us all. Mosty it's a guessing game who will do what? It's really stupid. We deserve so much more, but maybe not. We the people have to take a stand and demand more, and not watch all the garabige that they are dishing out for us. I know they do all this to distract our attention from how much of a mess this country is really in.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:38 pm |
  3. Toni

    I believe that I just saw a poll indicating that 41% of those polled said they are not paying much attention to the candidates. Does that mean they'll go one way or the other? Don't know, but it does indicate that polls aren't the final word.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:35 pm |
  4. Michael Hoskins

    Barack Obama is the right guy for the Job. We need real change in America. We need to get out of a fraudulent war and fumbled occupation. We need to reaffirm to the world that we don't believe in torture. We need to reaffirm to the world that we recognize the human rights of all people, not just our own. We need to redirect power in Washington from special interest to the public interest. We need to pay as we go and not saddle the next generation with horrific debt. We need to redirect the resources in our current war effort to building better schools, roads and bridges here at home. We need to reform health care and immigration. We need to save the environment and not pander to big oil. We need to understand that we are all in this together and we have to work together to solve the issues to today and tomorrow. Obama is the right guy for the job. McCain voted against the Bush tax cuts in 2004, but now, pandering for conservative votes, thinks they should be made permanent. McCain say's your only rich if your income is above 5 million dollars a year and he would stay in Iraq for 100 years. Sure, he was a POW, and we all respect his contribution to his country, but that does not make him fit to be President. If any one lacks judgment, it's John McCain. Have we all forgot about his involvment in the Keeting Five Scandal? If so, I suggest you look it up. I wonder why the media wont remind the League of First Time Voters about that. Have we all forgot that this is the guy that said the South Carolina confederate flag was racist and then, the next week, said it wasn't? Mr. Straight Talk doesn't care if you lost your job, or can't afford your medication, or can't afford to see a doctor, or go to college. He doesn't have to worry about those things. We need real change, change we can believe in. Vote Obama in 08'.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:34 pm |
  5. Brian

    Seriously, Elizabeth, you are going to make your Presidential vote choice based on what one of the candidates' name rhymes with?

    We can do better. How about looking at which party they belong to, which set of policies and interest groups they have been allied with?

    That might give you a better idea which candidate would do more for the things that are important to you. And I assume that things like your family are more important than what rhymes with what.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:33 pm |
  6. Mike

    Elizabeth –

    Where have you been? The Repugnicans have been EMPHASIZING Barack's middle name for the past 2 years trying to make some kind of parallel, and you just found out today?

    A man that was named after his father 47 years ago, before anyone had heard of Sadam Hussein, before anyone had heard of Osama bin Laden, and now you are trying to make the same stupid connections?

    Keep trying sister, I think most Americans are smart enough now to see through the fear-mongering.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:32 pm |
  7. Franky

    To be honest John, is more like the Dems curse!! I mean, look at this...

    One minute, Congress is set on vacation, the next minute, the GOP think they're "Spartans". The next minute, the Olympics are coming up and unfortunately, that's when my boy decided to go on vacation for a week. Why?? Because of the damn coverage the Olympics are gonna get!! And what happens before he gets there?? BOOM!!! Here comes Russia with a conspiracy with China and distract the Olympics! From there, it wasn't a curse, it was a plan!! I know it was...

    But you know what John?? The GOP are who I thought they were!! You wanna crown them, then crown their asses!! But they are who I thougth they were!! And we let em off the hook!! LOL!!!!

    You gotta admit John!! That's good! LOL!!!

    August 21, 2008 at 6:30 pm |
  8. Chandu

    I agree with Jerimiah. Why is it so wrong that we have a president who is intellectual b/c I definitely want a President who is smart. I think the last eight years and this whole we want a president who we can have a beer with stuff is just the most ridiculous thing in the world.. We are electing the next leader of the free world. I don't want someone who is trigger happy who is chomping at the bit to go to war with Russia. I want someone that the rest of the world respects too b/c then maybe together we can tackle the problems that affecting all of us like poverty, global warming and terrorism.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:30 pm |
  9. Vincent

    I certainly hope middle America, and Southern working class Dems wake up and realize that the man who is going to clean house in D.C. is Barack Hussein Obama. I am simply afraid that middle class white Americans are too suspect of him, or possibly even just unwilling to vote for someone different than them. If that is the case then it is just plain shame on all who cast their vote based on this. Our country needs fresh blood and drastic change. Not just a vast military plan to imperialize the entire world. SO EVERYONE SAY O.B.A.M.A!!!!!!!!!!

    August 21, 2008 at 6:29 pm |
  10. Los from LA

    Obama makes clear, articulate, and well-reasoned arguments, which is why he's having difficulty connecting with an increasingly moronic nation.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:26 pm |
  11. Cynthia

    The curse is people who think like Elizabeth above with the comment about what his middle name is.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:25 pm |
  12. baljeet

    X democrate who will be voting for Mccain.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:22 pm |
  13. Scott

    wow nothing but Obama fans here. Sounds to me like you all are just a little worried that America still believes in the Constitution and not Marxist socialism. Wow I bet 75% of thee so called Obama supporters know little to nothing about the candidate they are supporting and what would happen to America during his rule.

    pst.. I'll give your a hint..What happened to the USSR

    August 21, 2008 at 6:22 pm |
  14. Dave

    Obama needs to pick someone that is strong on foreign policy and the economy. In addition, he needs to present a realistic domestic agenda to the American people that do not include higher taxes. As an individual that have a high paying job and small businesses, I find the government make way more from all my efforts than I do and that need to change. Finally, there is a need for an improved health care system but we cannot fix it by putting more burdens by way of more tax on those who work the hardest and are finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Where is the incentive to work hard and pursue the American dream? I find myself sounding like a Republican, Obama needs to show Americans like myself that he has our backs.

    -Dave

    August 21, 2008 at 6:22 pm |
  15. Amy, Chicago

    I think Obama was not wise to attack McCain on how many houses he has. It seems petty in my opinion.

    Many people in powerfull positions have multiple homes and they should be able to spend their income at thier own discretion. Also, I am sure McCain knows exactly how many homes he has, it just personal.

    This shot from Obama will only hurt him, the American people can see through that, especially after the nice vaca he just took.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:22 pm |
  16. Ghary

    I'm a bit worried actually. Worried that this country could again allow a power hungry fool to supposedly lead the country. McCain wants the presidency so badly to prove something to himself, truly. His message and answers seem as contrived and fake as our foreign policy has become.
    The long intellectual answers from Obama are proving to be a detriment. Considering the eduction level our country has plummeted, only about 45% can even relate to him in this way. He needs to stick to his heart, his original message, and to stay away from a constant defensive stance. Hopefully the country will see through the same old evil politics and leadership we have suffered and elect Obama as the man who can truly lead us out of purgatory.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:21 pm |
  17. Darcy - Alexander AR

    I believe the decline is due to allowing Clinton to put her name in nonimation at the convention. Many viewed that as weakness, or a giving in to the old establishment. Personally, I think it was a nice thing to do but it has cost him.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:21 pm |
  18. laura holmes

    I think most of you think that Senator Obama is too lengthy in his answers and you may also think that he goes back to being a lawyer when he is answering his questions....but, the man is just plain smart! But, I can see why his answers may confuse you or you may not understand...after listening to George Bush for the past 8 years and recently John McCain...it's no wonder something sensible hurts your ears and is hard for you to understand...you've been listening to a 1st grader talk for 8 years and McCain is a 2nd grader.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:21 pm |
  19. Carlos

    This is what happens when your one overriding skill is reading aloud. He has great speech writers and a fantastic delivery. But that's all folks. He was a community activist in Chicago who went to the Senate where he did NOTHING for three years.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:20 pm |
  20. bob

    "simple sentences that voters in voters in[sic] rural areas and suburban areas can understand and say"

    Anyone else find this offensive(and somewhat ironic)?

    August 21, 2008 at 6:14 pm |
  21. Rick

    Obama and all of his ignorant, biased, blind groupies better pray that the terrorist supporter "Obama" never gets close to the white house! You all are blinded by the movie star personality. He will never have the world / life experience that Mcain has. He has a Muslim agenda. If Obama cons his way into the Presidency, we all better start reading the koran! America is lost to the terrorists with his help and the help of all of you mis-guided libral ACLU do gooders. It will rest on your shoulders!

    August 21, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  22. Sarah

    People actually believe Obama's statements are too long and "professorial"? Good grief. Most people I know – many of whom dropped out of college – have no trouble following him at all. He's hardly a convoluted or complicated speaker. Certainly his speech on race was incredibly well received across the board.

    Perhaps the educational system in this country truly is far, far worse than we think. Or maybe it's just journalists that need to go back to school.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:11 pm |
  23. Cindy

    No the Dems don't have a curse. It's just that all of their hype has been sifted through and come about August or so we really see the true person behind the rhetoric. And we see that they are no where near ready for the job of president. They are all talk and no do as usual!

    Cindy...Ga.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:09 pm |
  24. Sally

    If the Democrats know what's good for them, Hillary will be the nominee. What on earth were people thinking of when this upstart Obama appeared on the scene – did they think he was some kind of saviour? He is untried, inexperienced, untruthful (but most politicians are), but most of all, he is an untested entity – too many skeletons are hanging around in his closet. Edwards' secrets came back to haunt him, as will OHBs. The prefect Christian family ? Then why no gifts for the kids at Christian holidays; isn't that a Muslim practise??? The rest of the world should be on alert, but the American people should be terrified if this person is elected. Remeber the saying, "be careful what you wish for, you may just get it."

    August 21, 2008 at 6:08 pm |
  25. Wendy Ontario, Canada

    Only in politics could someone be criticized for being too well educated, able to pronounce words correctly & being successful at a young age. Oh & I almost forgot, he is "too thin". It's unfortunate that people continue to look for reasons not to vote for Obama.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:08 pm |
  26. Lynn Ochberg

    Yeah, Karen in Phoenix, I agree with you. A smart younger moral man is much easier to trust than an old fox who's only qualification is surviving the POW experience. I've been a Republican and am now a Democrat. I used to think the GOP was better on economic matters but life, I'm 65, has shown me the opposite. Now I wear a pin that proclaims "I'm an Obama Mama!"

    August 21, 2008 at 6:08 pm |
  27. Pat

    Well I dunno maybe I'm just plain dumb but I'd prefer the guy who has just one house costing a million and knows he has it and where it's at – than the guy who isn't sure how many he has or how much they cost him until the reporters told him!!! (In case you didn't get that report) He has 13 ! yes, 13 ! Is it any wonder they're still hiding Cindy's Tax Returns! I'd be embarassed to be that filthy rich and asking for Fund Raisers for my Campaign too!!!!

    And how strange is it that the other guy in the White House presently who is also filthy rich is friends with the other rich guy! Can you see a comedian picking this post up? I can. If this isn't stand up Jay Leno doesn't live! And George Bush's idiot statements hasn't made comedians big bucks!

    Are you still trying to decide who to vote for? Hint: The guy who knows what his assets are and how to report the figure on his Tax Return!

    August 21, 2008 at 6:06 pm |
  28. Russel

    Obama is being exposed when being spontaneous, It is clear that he lacked the knowledge to debate Clinton and now McCain the straight talker. Results of the forum have tilted the polls and they will continue to tilt McCain’s way with each Debate.
    Obama's hard work to sound like Martin Luther King and has been quite successful. Now he needs to find the same tone to explain what is the change he seeks or he is don

    August 21, 2008 at 6:06 pm |
  29. Lisa, Seattle

    You watch McCain when he speaks? He can't talk on his own two-feet without notes to refer to or a teleprompter. Go ahead and vote for McCain if you don't care about having an intellectual in the White House

    August 21, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  30. Susan

    John:

    There is no August curse here !!!!! The emperor has no clothes !!!

    Just as simple as that !!!!

    Susan
    Phoenixville,PA

    August 21, 2008 at 6:04 pm |
  31. Meghan

    "Now there needs to be meat on the bones and simple sentences that voters in voters in rural areas and suburban areas can understand"

    Yes; we are a nation of idiots. Perhaps people would stop voting like idiots if politicians stopped addressing them as such. Could Bush have won (without the cheating, I mean) if he were made to speak like an intelligent, professional adult? I sincerely doubt it. Oh, and "Elizabeth"...you have got to be kidding me. People like you are the ones Hart is talking about. I hope you're proud.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:04 pm |
  32. Vegas

    Obama is a joke... and America is no longer laughing.

    He should have a 20 point lead right now and can't close the deal. Some say race or whatever... but that wouldn't explain polling.

    He's great in a practiced speech... but live he is very wishy washy... comes off weak or like he's pandering... He tries to play at both sides and simply looks like he's being dishonest. People want to know what he thinks... and when he tries to answer it looks like he doens't know. When he does stand on something he changes his mind later which is even worse. That and he does play the race card, go negative, etc... then acts like he doesn't... this frustrats people as well.

    I think the DNC made a mistake... he isn't ready... and this year should have been a landslide... shame... because I am truely starting to believe McCain will win the Whitehouse.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:03 pm |
  33. Lisa

    Elizabeth – really! You're part of the voting public that scares me. "Obama also sounds like some other person who attacked us. It’s a little too disturbing to me." That's like the voter who said John Kerry looks "scary – so I'm not voting for him." No wonder the rest of the world laughs at our political system.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:03 pm |
  34. CJones, suburban Chicago

    It dazzles me, really, that after McCain couldn't quite differentiate between Shia's and Sunni's, forgot that Czechoslovakia ceased to exist in 1993, thought the economy was doing fine, and countless other HUGE gaffs, that the one people are really upset about is he can't remember how many properties he owns. Not that that isn't really sad, but c'mon, the others are absolutely unforgivable. And when your wife is worth 100 million you can afford to misplace a house or three...

    Let's pick the smart one this time folks. Stupid didn't work so well last time and it won't work so well this time either. I'll vote for the professor!

    August 21, 2008 at 6:02 pm |
  35. JMAC from CA

    Good Grief!! Does the biased Elizabeth realize that there are a million people with the name Hussein and most are just family people who wouldn't hurt a flea! It is common in Africa (where his father was born). People wake and and pay attention – the name is old news!! Obama is a proud American citizen.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:01 pm |
  36. Carol

    Do you care about his associations with unsavory characters, his history of hardball politics, his Marxist background, his position on babies who survived abortion attempts? Do you care?

    August 21, 2008 at 6:00 pm |
  37. Linda

    It sure would have helped if the Clinton's could step up their campaigning for him and if her supporters would get over her deserved loss and get on board. It disgusts me to think that some voters are willing to let our country continue to slide downhill if one more Republican gets in as President. Not to mention, McCain is already itching for another war – this time with Russia.

    August 21, 2008 at 5:57 pm |
  38. Mike

    I'll take the POW over the DNQ.

    August 21, 2008 at 5:56 pm |
  39. angie

    i think at this point that true and real americans are tired of the same ole policies and at this point don't care who the nominee's are.
    we're just ready for BUSH TO GTFO and go back to crawford considering he spent most of his time there anyways.

    August 21, 2008 at 5:56 pm |
  40. sean

    Maybe if the media would actually start looking at the buffoonery of the Noun-Verb-POW McCain guy, instead of rolling over and asking the old wrinkly dude to scratch their belly all the time, people would have a better sense that the guy that has SEVEN houses and CAN'T REMEMBER how many houses he has is certainly not fit for the White House. McCain is NOT the man for us. Obama is.

    August 21, 2008 at 5:54 pm |
  41. JMAC from CA

    I think polling has changed. People don't answer home phones anymore. Right now a lot of people aren't paying attention. Wait till after the conventions and see what the polls say, but they need to use email or cell phones to get a good read. I don't think when it comes down to it, people will go with the McSame. Obama is what we need in this time and place.

    August 21, 2008 at 5:54 pm |
  42. Lesley

    I agree with this line of thinking. Keep the nuances to yourself and get to the point more quickly. Explain the reason in a sentence or two afterward. But I wasn't impressed with McCain's yup and nope performance at Saddleback. He responded quickly because he was using his standard campaign stump sound bites. There was no thought at all put into his answers. He recognized the questions and before the pastor could finish some of them, he spit out the answer with a familiar memorized retort. This does not show me that he is decisive. Here is a man that either had inside information or doesn't really think before he speaks. When the phone rings in the WH at 3 a.m., I want the smart guy answering the phone who actually listens, not the guy who would push the button before he picks up the receiver.

    August 21, 2008 at 5:53 pm |
  43. mary

    Obama is my man

    Obama is the one to lead

    Obama go 2008

    August 21, 2008 at 5:48 pm |
  44. Eileen Cronin

    I think he's going to pick Rick Warren

    August 21, 2008 at 5:48 pm |
  45. Jerimiah

    Too professorial? Only the American media would think that someone seems too educated to be a leader (but after the last 8 years I don't know if I can blame them). We went through this the past two elections where you hacks harp on and on about nuance and wonkness, and then point to the guy who finished at the bottom of his class and who "we should want to have a beer with" as a natural leader. What a joke.

    August 21, 2008 at 5:46 pm |
  46. Mike M

    Yes this curse seems to be taking a toll... but I'm certain the public will realize Obama is the man for the job. He will definately have more money to get out his message than McCain will.

    August 21, 2008 at 5:44 pm |
  47. Elizabeth

    Barack Hussein Obama
    I was really stunned that until today I didn't know what the H. was standing. It's Hussein, and not to mention Obama also sounds like some other person who attacked us. It's a little too disturbing to me.

    August 21, 2008 at 5:41 pm |
  48. karen-phoenix

    Obama needs to pick a "pit bull" but one that has a wonderful family life. I am sooo sick of sex and crime in Washington. Obama has a great family life. We need more of this as an example. McCain is just plain sleezy!!! and his judgement is worse! I'm a 64 year old republican–no more!!!! Obama needs to hit back at every sleezy thing McCain has done in his life and his very, very poor judgement!!! Hit him hard and hit again and again–below the belt – which is what McCain has used the most in his life!!! We need a change in Washington sooooo bad!!!! I want new, young, intellegent people in Washington that have morals!!!!!

    August 21, 2008 at 5:40 pm |
  49. JC- Los Angeles

    Listening to Obama answer simple questions is akin to hearing Alan Greenspan try and articulate his decision making; and we all know how well that turned out.

    Obama is an attorney who argues both sides of all issues; when giving an answer, the constitutional lawyer in him takes over and he tries to appeal to both sides but ends up confusing all and pleasing few.

    It's paralysis by over anlaysis; Obama needs to man up, look people in the eye when he speaks and tell us what he believes.

    We now live in a Myspace, YouTube, Match.com and EHarmony type world where people are less concerned about the truth but more interested in the delivery.

    August 21, 2008 at 5:36 pm |
  50. ellen, onset, ma

    He's not going to win because the party is in shambles due to lack of enthusiasm for this inexperienced candidate....the real base of the democratic party is not behind him.....I live in Massachusetts a true blue democratic state and I know many die hard dems that are not behind him at all......what a sin....we should have this wrapped up by now.....

    August 21, 2008 at 5:29 pm |
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