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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. Imindie

    Mcain is dead in the water. I love how the republlicans are trying so hard to pretend that they support their candidate and that he has momentum. In truth all they are is threatened by the Dems' support for a true leader. OBAMA 08

    August 21, 2008 at 9:05 pm |
  2. Kerry

    With all the unfair press and media support for Obama, his campaign spending at least 3-1 on advertising, a “World Tour” with photo opts, huge crowds, superstar treatment, Obama should be trouncing John McCain by now. So why isn’t he?

    Respectfully, the polls are dropping for Obama because the people are questioning his leadership’s skills. Obama says John McCain is too old to be President. Mr. Obama, American’s have “loved and trusted” many older Presidents like Ronald Reagan who was age 71-79 while President. Obama stated that “John Mc Cain wants to serve his country, the same as I want to do”-correction again Mr. Obama, John McCain HAS served his country far and beyond the call of duty, and wants to continue this endeavor-never question his patriotism. The reason people are questioning your patriotism is not that you have a funny name (as you have repeatedly stated) they question your past and the people that have been your mentors for the last 20 years. They question legal documents (Illinois Supreme Court form for example) that you stated you have never gone by a different name. In Indonesia attending school your name was Barry Soetoro, holding citizenship in Indonesia and was listed as a Muslim (as your religion) on the paperwork. Has document been falsified by the Catholic Church? Most Americans do not care where you have lived, what school you have attended but they do want the truth-they do not want to be deceived. You said “do not question my patriotism”. Well Mr. Obama it is the “duty and responsibility” of each citizen in this country to question your leadership and patriotism and actually much more.

    August 21, 2008 at 9:02 pm |
  3. dennis from texas

    BARACK..... his real AMERICAN name was BARRY... he changed it to BARACK TO PUT FEAR IN THE JEWISH COMMUNITY... BARACK in HEBREW means lightning or thunder bolt......HUESSEIN MEANS BENEVOLENCE............why WHY ARE TRANSLATIONS NECESSARY....? a true american with a shock and AWE name not NOT WORTH THE CHANGE of book writing......smoking dreams....and non SENSE driven by self ascension

    August 21, 2008 at 9:00 pm |
  4. Dr. Elliott C. Osborne

    I am a little tired the the 'He has no experience' theme. Nobody has experience to be President until he or someday she has taken the oath. Kennedy and Jeffereson, and Clinton are some of the notables who were young. What experience did Washington have as Presidnet? He handled it very well.
    Just for the record what experience does McCain have as Presidnet?
    Nada!
    Dr. ECO

    August 21, 2008 at 8:55 pm |
  5. lily

    I’m always amazed when reading these comments on how much hate there is directed at Obama. The man is not w/out his shortcomings, which he has admitted to. Here’s my perspective – when this country elected “W”, it chose a man w/little intellect and no intellectual curiousity. He was selected because people wanted to have a beer w/him at their backyard BBQ. As a result of his failed policies, people may want to invite him over for a beer but this time so they can poor it over his head. Now that the economy is in the tank and our international standing is crap, along comes John McCain. Does he have a grasp of the issues – that’s debatable. Forget his age, look how he pandered to the far right this last year. He’s a maverick? He is man who when pressed for an answer he doesn’t know or remember, has his staff pull out the POW card. So he thinks we want to elect a man who was tortured and lived in a prison camp for 5 years – doesn’t anybody think that all the mind games he suffered has effected his judgement? His staff (or former Bushies) have already shielded him from the media and roll him out under tightly controlled circumstances. Still he”ll make a mistake like forgetting he own’s 10 houses – then again his staff rolled out the POW card again in his defense. So you mother’s and father’s out there with children nearing or at draft age – will you accept John McCain’s excuse to nuke Iran or Russia because he was a former POW? Or if he screws up the economy even more, driving up energy prices because he flew off the handle with Russia — will you all rollover and say, oh he was a POW so he get’s a free pass. I’m sorry but I’m fighting for my country and I’m voting for the intellectual who will work to solve problems..not create more. Think about it and choose the right candidate for all our sakes. Obama for Prez.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:55 pm |
  6. billbolducinmaine

    John and Anderson,

    Has anyone else checked out Mark Haleprin's "The Page" in the past hour or so? Pictured prominently is a picture of Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, REPUBLICAN, with the tease "Hoosier Values" and subtitle "What is Obama looking for in a running mate." There is a link to click onto "the future" with a picture of Obama and Lugar together. Can it be that he has chosen a conservative running mate as his VP? That truly WOULD BE a game changer. I certainly hope he is on your show tonight and he can add some insight. Maybe it is just a hoax, but it would make sense that Obama is holding this one close to the vest, preparing to stun the political world.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:54 pm |
  7. bev

    It's not Obama who needs the mentoring, it's McCain. He needs to back to school, where he was admittedly one of the worst students!
    He needs some courses in geography and economics, for God's sake. The Repugs talk about Obama as if he is a naive kid. He is older than JFK was, and, being a constitutional law professor is quite impressive. The Repugs are fond of saying Obama can't speak without a teleprompter, but it is McCain who needs index cards everywhere he goes. He looks down at them and all you see is the top of his head! Come on – let's wise up and go with the intelligence and mature attitude of Obama. Look at what Bush did. Do we want our country to go completely down the drain with another ignorant president?

    August 21, 2008 at 8:49 pm |
  8. Kurtis

    The MSM and the DNC picked the wrong candidate. Now they want to blame Hillary for, "giving McCain the play book with which to defeat Obama."

    Horse stuff...the name of the game is "blame it on Hillary" or "the Clintons". All these American-Idol-newbie-we-need-change voters are singing a one note song. All they are able to think about is, "Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton." But what they, and the MSM seem to be unable to articulate....what have "The Clintons'" done that is so bad for America? Everything anyone says against them after reading this will be both personal and meaningless because both Hillary and Bill have left America better than they found it before they earned an office.

    Does anyone really believe Hillary will have an intern scandal? Seriously?

    The DNC and the Clinton haters in the party should have made BO wait his turn. Why did have to run this year with no real tangible experience? But, as usual, the Dems will screw it all up.

    If CNN actually posts this, I will have an freaking coronary.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:47 pm |
  9. Dr. Elliott C. Osborne

    Obama has slid off the aggressive map. He is not setting the agenda.
    He is reacting to whatever comes across the airways. I am an Obama supporter. But, a passive 'I want to be President' posture will not do it. This is America and weakness or perceived softness is not a selling point for a President. R.R. and W.J.C. were not G.I.'s but nobody would ever suggest they were softies waiting for someone to bring the fight (agenda) to them. He must wake up by Convention time or he will be another Kerry expounding on esoteric themes while the country moves on to the next President without him.
    Dr. O

    August 21, 2008 at 8:46 pm |
  10. Jeff

    Conservative Democrat. Extinct. Thats what the Dems need to get back in the national race. The party is run by too many ULTRA liberal groups which just doesn't fit main stream America.

    Obama is too liberal too win.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:45 pm |
  11. lampe

    Darcy, and Gloria: I hate to inform you, but Obama losing points in the polls, has nothing to do with HRC. If he didn't want her or Pres. Clinton, to speak at The DNC Convention, all he would have had to say was no way. It was his decision. Stop blaming his lack-luster showing, on everybody else but him. I don't really care who he picks for V.P. because I'm not voting for him either way. If he offers the V.P. slot to Sen. Clinton, I hope she tells him, his supporters, and The DNC,to kiss her ass!!!! Stop talking trash about The Clintons, and start praying, because from the look of things, Obama, is in some serious trouble.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:41 pm |
  12. Stephano

    As a citizen of the Netherlands, I think Americans are the dummest people in the world. The last eight years they chose a dummy for president and it looks like they will do it again. Every foreigner is asking him self, how the people of the strongest nation in the world are getting dummer and dummer. It seems like Americans love leaders who lie, cheat and murder. Wake up people of the strongest nation in the world! Chose someone who can lead and smart. And someone who is educated. Or do you want someone in the white house who's ready for the next war(s)?

    What's happen with America. I think that if you chose the wrong guy for the presedency (Mc Cain), America could lose his leadership of the world. America is the only western nation who choses a dummy as a leader. Keep doing it and let China rise as the new superpower?!

    August 21, 2008 at 8:41 pm |
  13. Alex in NC

    To all the self-satisfying liberals that are criticizing Elizabeth, it's that arrogant elitist tone that you're smarter than rural America and they should wake up. Well you wake up. Not everyone lives in San Francisco or NY. They have different values and opinions than you which makes neither right or wrong because they're opinions. The candidate that comes across the least snobby usual wins. McCain 08.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:41 pm |
  14. Eileen from Portland, Maine

    Is Obama making a mistake by speaking to Americans as though they are intelligent adults.
    Thats what it sounds like the pundits are telling us.
    I'm starting to get the feeling that if you are too honest, have too much integrity and are too intelligent, you have a tall hill to climb.
    Please say it ain't so.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:34 pm |
  15. S Callahan

    Steam roller? lol More like a roller coaster about to get stuck in the downside.
    Obama is chugging with the train that can.
    I like both men, but truthfully we do need a change in the boys club.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:33 pm |
  16. francine

    The only curse here is that Clinton supporters are not behind Obama, and because of the sour grapes the republicans will take over and the USA will be back to what it has been for the past 8 years. Deep down I think that the Clintons WANT Obama to lose..Then there will be a whole heap of " I told you so's"...and she will try again in 4 years. She is not a party person but an egotistical one. I used to have great respect for her..No longer.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:31 pm |
  17. Bill

    Elizabeth is very scary!

    August 21, 2008 at 8:31 pm |
  18. acasilaco

    The middle-name comment by Elizabeth strikes me as too absurd to be real. Perhaps it is a "fake" comment by a well-meaning but misguided Obama supporter designed to make the other side seem shallow and biased....? If not, then, wow.... I don't support Obama, but I can't think of a sillier reason to be against a candidate than because of his middle name.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:30 pm |
  19. Bob Klepak, JD from Conyers, GA

    I have been married a few times and each time that I applied for a license I was required to fill out a form, under oath, that asked among other things, if I have been married before. If I answered yes I was required to state when, where and how the former marriage(s) were disolved. Did McCain, when seeking the marriage license to marry Cindy, answer that section, was it under oath and did he misstate under oath? Is that a moral as well as legal issue and worthy of investigative reporting?

    August 21, 2008 at 8:29 pm |
  20. GEORGE

    There is the proud PUMA. A woman who is willing to hand over the presidency to a man who will do everything he can to overturn Roe v Wade. It is literally mind numbing. Reading some of the posts on this board is so scary. People using Barack's name as a reason to not trust him. Craziness. Please wake up everyone before it is too late and we are at war with Iran, Russia, North Korea. Don't you see where this is heading? They are War, Inc. and they don't want to close up shop by losing the White House.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:28 pm |
  21. Freedom

    Elizabeth you are about as shallow as a teaspoon of water

    August 21, 2008 at 8:28 pm |
  22. DownwithMcSame

    Elizabeth PLEASE SHUT UP!!!!! You don't know how ignorant you sound.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:26 pm |
  23. Anne

    I agree with ERIK.. I'm a 22 year old college student, I live in Arizona. I can tell you John McCain has done a great job for this state. What has Obama done for his state is it Illinios???

    Yeah I thought he was the candidate for change but after seeing him running scared from Hillary.

    My opinion of him is a show off coward. Time to open your eyes people. People will vote for his color not his ideas because he has none.....

    August 21, 2008 at 8:25 pm |
  24. richard

    Completely agree. Obama needs to get it down to "sound bytes". A lot of people are saying that McCain "won" the Rick Warren session because of clear, simple & crisp answers. Some of those were nonsense (I will defeat evil), but the American people want simple & quick answers to the immediate problems that are bothering them RIGHT NOW.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:24 pm |
  25. jessy

    I think Obama should pick John Kerry!

    August 21, 2008 at 8:23 pm |
  26. Ruth

    If you are happy with the state of the economy, then vote for McCain. Unfortunately, my household is suffering because of high gasoline and energy costs. Obama is an intelligent person that has a vision to start solving some of our problems.
    Vote Obama!

    August 21, 2008 at 8:22 pm |
  27. Boris DAMAST

    There is a word in the English language that describes your worst nightmare. McBush.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:19 pm |
  28. Randy Shoemaker

    What is he in the 3rd grade? "Wouldn't you like to know"? he says. Is he running for President of the US or Elementary school?

    August 21, 2008 at 8:19 pm |
  29. Ron

    Wow, Tammy– I guess they'll award degrees to anyone these days... Now go paint a saw.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:09 pm |
  30. Brian

    When did socialism become so important to Americans? Why do people think it's ok to take from someone who has worked hard to earn a living, and have the government dictate where it goes? The government can not do anything efficienty, and charity would be more effective and efficient if the government let people keep their own money and allowed people to seek out help (if they need it) from their church, their family, their friends, etc. For every dollar you send the government, they are wasting $0.50. It's a waste, and Obama promises more of the same.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:08 pm |
  31. Kent Fitzsimmons,Kewanee, IL

    Erik............your name calling and put downs in one statement and afterwards talk of Jesus are ridiculous. Listen to yourself. You are lost...............Please don't vote in Nov. You just don't understand what is going on here.............

    August 21, 2008 at 8:07 pm |
  32. matt form NH

    NAAAAA........I am from NH, people believed in the Curse of Babe ruth for how many years? and we won two titles in 3 years. Its a farce.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:07 pm |
  33. Kaye-Jacksonville FL

    Elizabeth writes: 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.
    _______________________________________________________
    What's disturbing is the ignorance of voters like this who will oppose Obama on his name alone! Really – it's beyond disturbing, it's scary. Ignorance may be bliss to some but for the average American struggling to get by, for a world in need of peace and cooperation – ignorance is anything but bliss.

    And sadly, no amount of factual information can affect the thinking of such ignorance....sadly, sadly.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:05 pm |
  34. Shay

    Right now, Mccain is like a steam roller.

    Yes!

    August 21, 2008 at 8:03 pm |
  35. Erik

    To those of you out here willing to vote for an imbecile like Obama Bin Laden without any credentials, experience or know-how, I certainly hope that you do some studying prior to voting. What has Obama done except to chant for change without saying how he will make change happen. For one lousy speech he made as keynote speaker 4 years ago, you people have anointed him our savior. There is only one savior and that is Jesus Christ. As for Barack Obabbles credentials, maybe in another 8-12 years he will be qualified. If he wins this election, those of you supporters who wind up paying more in taxes and watching our president make an ass out of himself in foreign policy, you deserve it.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:01 pm |
  36. dorothy

    CNN, and the Main Stream Media, has been doing this continually throuhout Hillary Clinton, and John McCain to sabotage Barack Obama. The McCain Slave Plantation, and the News Media, thrives on Lies, Bigamist, Thieves, Flip Flops, and Experience that has done nothing for the American People. I would rather Trust a man of Character, Intelligent, and in touch with Real Issues, and can run and Organize and Budget his campaign effectively. Good Judgement is not Approving an Illegal War in Iraq, and talking with the other side. This has been such a Bias, and Racism is Alive and well in This United States.
    Free Speech Tv and C-SPAN, are Trustworthy.

    Dorothy, OK

    August 21, 2008 at 8:00 pm |
  37. kathi in ky.

    The only way Obama will win is to graciously hand over the Presidential position to Hillary, and MAYBE he can be her VP.

    HE IS NOT READY. Period.

    Funny how "change" man need to play the "same old Washington" tricks to win, hmm??

    His supporters will spin it somehow though.

    ~Proud PUMA in KY. Clinton/McCain 08.

    August 21, 2008 at 7:59 pm |
  38. Mark

    Well, "Tammy from Berwick, "Bush wouldn't have gotten into Yale if Papa Bush wouldn't have pulled some strings. Bush has actually not kept us safe from terrorism as you assert, he has increased hatred towards the USA and led to a proliferation of terrorists in the middle east ready to attack. Since you are so educated, perhaps if you read a little more you would know that most experts agree that his irresponsible actions have made us less safe and more susceptible to future attack by Iran. And by the way, the percentage of Americans that voted for Bush went WAY DOWN from that group of Americans that have a Masters degree or beyond. Intelligent folks just didn't fall for that trash from Texas...
    -BA, DDS

    August 21, 2008 at 7:59 pm |
  39. Kent Fitzsimmons,Kewanee, IL

    Tammy...........you are part of the 27% that still approve of Bush. That doesn't say much for his or your standing. Open your eyes and you will see that if somehow McCain wins in November this country is ripe for a revolt, a riot...........Don't worry Ventura. We won't start the revolution without you. This country will split right up the middle. All you buffoons can go to the right and fall into the hole. All the rest can go left and prosper...........I am bitter and I am not alone............

    August 21, 2008 at 7:58 pm |
  40. Max

    Wow, honnestly, Elizabeth scares me. People voting against someone because of his name...
    I just don't understand, and could someone please answer me, why the US is the only country in the world who seems afraid to elect someone intelligent as president. Smart doesn't mean stuck-up.

    Plus, even though the polls are showing a 1 point lead for Obama, many things have time to change, and I'm sure that many Hillary-lost-so-I'll-vote-for-McCain-in-protest say they'll vote for McCain, but in the end, when they'll be in front of the ballot, will really think about what it means to do such action and vote for Obama or an independant (thus kind of cancel their vote).

    From a french canadian, following like many people in the whole world the 2008's US election, that hope the US will make the right decision so they can be loved again by the rest of the world, and that believe that the choice of a president or prime minister shouldn't be from revenge, race, religious view, or name, but for what they have to offer.

    August 21, 2008 at 7:56 pm |
  41. Chuck, near Boston, MA

    Err, Tammy, GWB may have graduated from Yale, but laughs about being a C student. His connections got him in, and his connections kept him out of Vietnam. The Texas Governor is a weak executive, and GWB had ZERO national experience. He can't say "nuclear" and he seems to celebrate his own ignorance by disregarding perspectives that deviate from his own narrow anti-intellectual sense of what is right.

    We need a different kind of leadership, perhaps one that can UNDO the awful decisions that have been made in an ignorant bubble.

    Obama '08!

    -Chuck
    (refugee from Texas living in New England)

    August 21, 2008 at 7:56 pm |
  42. Mark

    People get the leaders they deserve. The American people are so shallow and uneducated that they are turned off by someone they perceive to be "too professorial." What an embarrassment we are to the rest of the world. I hope we don't regret having elected McCain when we're sending our soldiers to die in yet another phony war.

    August 21, 2008 at 7:50 pm |
  43. Wayne

    King: Your article makes me feel deja vu!

    All your points are what we centrist (Hillary) Democrats were saying all along during the primaries about Barack thoushallnotspeakhismiddlename Obama.

    Told you so!

    –p.

    August 21, 2008 at 7:50 pm |
  44. Larry

    Obama should win, not just because he's up against the worst candidate that the republican party ever presented for suicide by media; Obama has the backing of the largest self-interest lobby in the country 'lawyers'.

    August 21, 2008 at 7:50 pm |
  45. mannycl

    i't just reminds me Obama:

    Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

    Shakespeare

    August 21, 2008 at 7:49 pm |
  46. Michael

    The August curse is something very real. Let's look at the current situation; the race is tied, something that should not be the case. I don't think anyone, including McCain and Obama thought the race would be this way just a few months ago. Which is why Obama opted out of public financing for his campaign. He never thought the race would be this close, and assumed he would not need the money for the fall. Now, when adding together the funds raised by the parties, each candidate technically has the same amount of money (we'll say that Obama has about 8-10 million more). The only difference is that by Sep.1 McCain will have spent ALL of his money from the past few months (he has to by law) and then receive a check for 81 million from the gov't. Obama on the other hand has to take time out from his real work, to get people to write him fat checks. And this is all due to the first two weeks of August.

    August 21, 2008 at 7:49 pm |
  47. Moureen

    Los from Los Angeles: "Obama makes clear, articulate, and well-reasoned arguments, which is why he’s having difficulty connecting with an increasingly moronic nation."

    Why is it that Obama supporters are quick to insult anyone not supporting him? It causes me to question whether some of you truly care about electing Obama or actually support him. I'm just saying.

    August 21, 2008 at 7:49 pm |
  48. Mike

    Elizabeth is a troll. Please stop feeding.

    As for the rest of this merry discussion, these polls are terribly alarming. No matter how much America hates the last 8 years, we are too collectively spineless to break ourselves out of the rut. It's like watching an abuse victim stick by their undeserving partner. Out of fear? Misplaced loyalty? Simple force of habit? Hell if I know.

    And as for the Dems citing Obama's failure to "close the deal" as proof that Hillary should have been the candidate, she'd be running into the exact same problem. I stand proudly as a Democrat who wouldn't vote for another Clinton if you paid me to. She better not be his VP, or I'll have a bumper sticker to rip off my fender.

    August 21, 2008 at 7:47 pm |
  49. Don

    Yes it's possible McCain will win....it's also very much possible the American hegimony is very much at its tail end...at the end of his first term, (that's if he is fit enough to see it through), America will be contesting with India, behind China for relevance in the world's socio-economic relations. America's respect has gone down the drain over the last 7 years..it will just require a careles statement or move from "president McCain" for the US to lose whatever little respect it has amonst the international community...Other countries can tolorate Bush now that he is almost gone, but it will be share wishful thinking that the world will be willing to dance behind another threatening and war mongering US president... The US needs a complete change for good else, it will soon (sooner than 4 years) be counted alongside Hollands and Britain as a former Hegemony.

    August 21, 2008 at 7:42 pm |
  50. M Rod WA

    Obama keeps telling the American people that the country sucks, he won't wear the lapel pin, he says he is the messiah, he says he is the citizen of the world and never mentions he is a citizen of America, he hangs around with deceitful people, and he keeps telling the American people they need to down grade their lives. Obama is the most depressed person running for the Presidency that this country has ever had.

    August 21, 2008 at 7:41 pm |
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