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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. Tricia

    Basically you are saying too many Americans just aren't very smart. That's pretty sad isn't it?

    August 22, 2008 at 12:28 am |
  2. Galy

    How can Obama be tagged an elitist when he wasn't , unlike McCain, born with all the privileges.

    August 22, 2008 at 12:28 am |
  3. goodcitizen

    Hillary is the real party leader. If the party doesn't have its own base, how strong is the party going to be? The Democratic party must wake up, pick the STRONGEST, SMARTEST, and most loyal person for the nation!

    Hillary is our true leader!!!

    August 22, 2008 at 12:26 am |
  4. Galy

    Now Obama is going to be able to lay out for the voters the difference between his economic plan and McCain's. His focuses on middle class families; McCain's on the rich, which is exactly what Bush did.

    August 22, 2008 at 12:15 am |
  5. nathaniel

    To show you how ignorant and uninformed the American electorate has become I would point to a comment above in which a woman said she just found out today that Obama's middle name is Hussein. She then says it's seems creepy to her.

    August 21, 2008 at 11:47 pm |
  6. Glenda

    Kerry: wish more people would stop cheering and start listening, reading and researching. We would all be better off.
    glenda from California

    August 21, 2008 at 11:43 pm |
  7. Don, WA

    I do think Obama needs to get a little more "simple" with his voice. I mean look who won the last two elections talking like a second grader that you'd like to have a beer with. I just hope we decide to vote for someone smarter than ourselves this time.

    August 21, 2008 at 11:39 pm |
  8. Josh Syrop

    It's sad that presidential candidates have to "dumb down" their positions in order to get through to many Americans and even sadder that negative campaigning seems to be the most effective kind, but Obama must accept this reality and slam McCain and the GOP hard at each and every turn if he is going to win this election by a wide margin, as the worsening economy and general mood of the country indicates he certainly should.
    Obama needs to emphasize the obvious connection between the pathetic condition of the economy and the continuation of the war in Iraq, as well as McCain's many flip-flops, such as his changes in position on tax-breaks for the wealthy. Obama should go on the attack and stop defending himself against McCain's silly attacks on him.

    August 21, 2008 at 11:29 pm |
  9. Kathleen Kenney

    Obama must select Hillary for his running mate or the Dems will lose the White House. She will bring 18 million votes with her.
    Plus Hillary has 35 years experience (9 more than McCain). Because of her record, Obama himself said she is the greatest senator NYS has ever had!
    OBAMA and CLINTON: THE DREAM TICKET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 21, 2008 at 11:21 pm |
  10. Ito

    Playing the "Mr. Nice guy" is NOT going to benefit Obama one bit. McCain and his gang are hitting hard and chipping every Obama's advantage away while Obama is still flying like the butterfly. My dear you'll lose.

    We hear more from John McCain saying he'll go "get" Bin Laden more than Obama – and that was supposed to be Obama'a prize. Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden are Obama's tools he could use to show some military muscle but all we hear from him is some "flowery" statements.

    McCain is showing more strength that's why many think he'll be a better "commander-inChief."
    OBAMA SHOW SOME MUSCLE! or lose period.

    August 21, 2008 at 11:17 pm |
  11. Sue

    Hello,

    I'm new to the board but I wanted to say what is on my mind and not be afraid of getting verbally or physically assaulted for my opinion. I believe that ever since PDiddy started wearing the "Vote or Die" T-shirts a few years back, the black community has already been actively preparing for this day. I'm not racist in the least but we all have to look deep within ourselves and ask ourselves whether this really is a racial issue? The Democratic Party is probably very keen on getting the upper hand and what better way to do this than to have the black community in America and probably, all over the world, act as volunteer cheerleaders? I'm more for the saying, "It can always get worse."

    At the end of the day, no other community is more chatty and "in-the-know" than the black community. Of course, this is just my $.02. I think that if you vote for Mr. Obama, you will get alot of intangible hype but as for whether that hype will become a tangible reality remains to be seen. I read that he wants to change the Constitution so that it follows the Bible more or something like that. Does he really mean to say that he wishes to change the Constitution to fit his desires?

    I have to say that I'm really not racist at all. I just am a little sheltered because I don't have many black friends and I never understood the black people's issues. I have a strong feeling that if Mr. Obama becomes President of the USA, the world will change. Whether non-black people will think it's for the better remains to be seen. Thank you for listening to my comments.

    August 21, 2008 at 11:16 pm |
  12. syl parbe

    Obama's abysmal lack of substance, experience and political accomplishment is catching up with him. Teleprompter speeches could only go so far. He has to convince the people that he is qualifed to be president of the greatest country on earth. There is an experisence deficit and the more he is exposed the less support he will receive from the American people. Unless, he begins walking his talk...he will continue to loose support.

    August 21, 2008 at 11:09 pm |
  13. Howard in Texas

    As a moderate republican, I will admit one fear – if Obama chooses Hillary as Veep, that will be hard to beat. If not, McCain has a chance of getting votes from some of her supporters. Fortunately, Obama has too much ego and doesn't want to share his power with Hillary (and Bill).

    August 21, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  14. kurt

    I have been embarrassed by our current president and the politics of the republican party for too long now....

    Obama can count on my vote in November.

    August 21, 2008 at 11:07 pm |
  15. robert

    Obama should withdraw from the race for the good of country. He should put his ego aside and let Hillary coast to the presidency.

    August 21, 2008 at 10:57 pm |
  16. Mark in Canada

    The US has to be the most bigotted country on the planet. I am sure glad I live North of you, where we like just about everybody.

    August 21, 2008 at 10:55 pm |
  17. Angel

    Obama will regret taking that vacation. And the polls seem to bear that out. But it couldn't have worked out better for McCain. It had nothing to do with Clinton and everything to do with Russia. Again, experience will trump change. The DNC needs to make a 3 a.m. call to Hillary. And uh Obama don't bring up the subject of houses. People might bring up LESKO!!!!!

    August 21, 2008 at 10:54 pm |
  18. Howard in Texas

    Mark in Canada. Since the current Republican administration is not favored very well, the question is – why is Obama not up by 10 points as all Dems thought they would be? McCain has everything to gain; Obama has everything to lose. Food for thought here in the US.

    August 21, 2008 at 10:54 pm |
  19. Mark in Canada

    If McCain has so much experience how come he is not ahead by 10 points? Just food for thought

    August 21, 2008 at 10:47 pm |
  20. Barbara

    Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think. MLK.

    August 21, 2008 at 10:47 pm |
  21. Howard in Texas

    You know, watching Obama in the debates and the Civil Forum is like watching a freshman in philosophy class. The prof asks a question and the student pontificates trying to please the prof hoping to hit what the prof is looking for while making sure that he doesn't offend others in the class.

    When it comes to being commander in chief and leader, one doesn't have the time to sit back and think about how to act w/o offending anyone; one must act quickly with wisdom gained from hard won years.

    August 21, 2008 at 10:38 pm |
  22. Lynn

    We already given the Democrats a free ride last time and they did nothing but give Bush the Open Check book!!! I pray that Americans will not fall for Obama's lies, what a slug he is!! You people need to wake-up if you think Obama can change the economy or the War?? You people must have no life and family, McCain is the one with the leadership skills and Obama is the young fart. What a fake Obama is and Obama is the ugly one, he never talks about the good thing in our Country. Thank-God for Mr. McCain!!! Please Mr. McCain don't give up on us!!!

    August 21, 2008 at 10:33 pm |
  23. BJ

    IF the Democratic Party nominee were Hillary Clinton, this election would be won by a landslide!

    With all that the Democrats have going their way, Obama can't even make headway against McCain... what does that tell you? That people are just NOT CONVINCED Barack Obama has the credentials for this office! His lack of judgement, his arrogance, his elitist attitude, lack of track record and his inexperience are driving voters towards JOHN McCAIN!!! Obama is a fraud.

    Why can't the DNC just accept their mistake and nominate Hillary Clinton?

    I will never vote for Barack Obama!!!

    Hillary or McCain '08

    August 21, 2008 at 10:32 pm |
  24. Donna

    I know that we've all watched the polls and seen the changes. But I have a question. Do pollsters call people who only have cell phones? And can they call people who are on the Do Not Call list? I'm just wondering how accurate the polls can be if they eliminate these segments of the voting public. In particular, younger people (who as a group tend to be more supportive of Barack Obama) often have only a cell phone and no land line. Clearly, Obama's numbers have dropped, but I wonder if they are really as low as the polls indicate.

    August 21, 2008 at 10:32 pm |
  25. Annie Kate

    The polls are going to continue to go up and down for each candidate from now until the day of the general election. These polls may indicate what the country is thinking now but it could all change tomorrow and probably will. The only "poll" that is going to count is the one the voters do on election day in November. Until then both McCain and Obama have a good chance of being elected. I hope the best candidate wins....whether its the one I support or not.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 21, 2008 at 10:32 pm |
  26. John

    He's just picking up steam, John.
    I prefer the thoughtful and more moral Obama to McCain.
    The "Revealed" documentaries last night were indeed revealing. I am shocked that McCain is not held to account for his marriage debacle (morals), his involvement in the Keating Five incident (judgement), his flipping from one side to the other (the greener grass?). While I respect his service to the country...I am more than a little tired of basing a presumed presidency on his POW experience...as horrible as that was. I am not denigrating that experience at all...but it is in the past. McCain represents the old guard...it's time for a change.
    Obama was "resting"...I think you'll see him fly now.

    August 21, 2008 at 10:23 pm |
  27. Galy

    There is no way McCain understands what's going in the lives of middle clas folks; he does not recall how many houses he owns... remember the 5 million joke.

    August 21, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  28. siobhan

    You are really comparing Obama's wealth with that of McCain? Both are wealthy but McCain is far and away more of a multi, multi, multi milloinaire.

    August 21, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  29. Spencer in Cali

    Wow!! All the republicans can do is bring up Rezko? The right wing isn't just beating a dead horse on this one, they dug the remains up from a long burried grave.

    McSame cant politic his way out of this one. He thinks Obama is middle class cause he makes less than 5 million per year, and cant recall the enormity of his own wealth. He is totally disconnected with middle class Americans like myself.

    Obama 08!!

    August 21, 2008 at 10:15 pm |
  30. Jane

    All right, you really, really smart people, I would like to see the first one of you graduate AT ALL from the Academy!! If you think that place is Easy Street, you are dumber than what you are trying to make the American population out to be! Everyone hates a lawyer until a liberal one is running for the presidency. Does anyone see the irony in that? We have too many lawyers in Washington now. Our forefathers would be out of their minds with alarm seeing so many of those crooks up there.

    And get off Elizabeth's back. You people ever heard of free speech? You can't tell someone how to feel about a name. I can tell you one thing, if someone had so much as mentioned that name to you on 9/12, you would have been up in arms. People who even resembled anyone from the Middle East were harrassed in this country during that time. You people have the shortest memories – is it on purpose or are you really that dumbed down? And here some of you are harrassing CNN about their reporting. The truth really hurts, doesn't it? Publish your own newspaper or fund other media types if you want your favorite spiel spooned up to suit you. I listen to and read media from all over the world – I was reading Aljazeera before it ever came to this country and, believe me, they and others from over there make more sense a lot of the time than you liberals. You talk about Fox News – I don't always agree with them, either, but they are very far from the ignorant crowd that you poor folks would like to make them out to be. For my part, I think your favorite pastime is trying to trash the United States. Get off it, will you?! You must have really dumb people surrounding you. I'm thankful I don't have to endure such blather about our beloved country from any of my acquaintances.

    August 21, 2008 at 10:15 pm |
  31. DocReal

    Obama is winning and will win the election in a landslide.

    McCain can go back to any of his seven houses and retire knowing he did much better than his class ranking would have ever indicated he could. He'll retire having served as an Arizona senator.

    August 21, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
  32. Spencer in Cali

    The VPs don't matter now that Obama has successfully found his voice in correctly attacking McSame. From Abremoff cronies to McSame's disconnect with the struggling middle class, Obama now has the Big Mo!!

    Attack Attack Attack, Its working!!

    Obama 08!

    August 21, 2008 at 10:12 pm |
  33. Jason

    We already one so called president for two terms I would hope Americans would make the right choice. We have problems with the war, economy, gas prices, and many other problems in this country. President Bush can't even speak or talk a sentence without stuttering. He's so fake and even his smile is a lie to everyone looking at him. John McCain will do no better and for the people who were for Hillary and are for John McCain don't know what there doing. We need a change and it has to be someone else besides a republican. There has been two terms of Bush and we don't need a 3rd term with basically a mask on trying to portray someone else. People, John McCain is nothing more than a fak person trying to say anything to get your vote. Republicans should understand what Bush has done to this country. John McCain is 72 years old let's get someone younger and close to our generation instead of an old fart.

    August 21, 2008 at 10:09 pm |
  34. Donna R.

    This election is finally getting serious. I have noticed that some of the media stations are starting to give the American people the information,on the candidates, that we need to make a wise decision. This could explain why Obama's numbers have dropped, along with other factors. He needs to change his attack form, I am so tired of hearing the line that claims McCain is another Bush. I feel that no matter what Republican was running for President Senator Obama would be using this claim on them also. Time for Change? Perhaps the change needs to be in the way he is representing himself at this time, alot of his phrases are getting old. I am voting Independent!!

    August 21, 2008 at 9:59 pm |
  35. JAmes...

    Now the muslims are about to take over the world....and with Socialist Obama at the head???

    August 21, 2008 at 9:56 pm |
  36. AsperGirl

    It's such a travesty that in a year with so many problems that America is facing - serious, unprecedented challenges to become energy independent, survive commodity shortages, save our economy from its systemic finance problems, begin climate change abatement, face Islamist extremism, bring the Iraq war to a suitable end, and adjust to global market dislocations - the Democrats would be so arrogant as to put forward an inexperience, unqualified, freshman senator who has no realistic ability to perform as a president any better than George W. Bush did. It's a travesty and it seems like some kind of bad joke.

    No way is Barack Obama worth voting for. It doesn't matter what party a candidate belongs to if he lacks core competencies for the office.

    August 21, 2008 at 9:56 pm |
  37. Raisa

    Mustapha!!! This is not a platform to glorify Islam . You cant tell us who to vote simply because your Allah says to do so.
    Why dont your and BHO go back to the east and practice your Islam out there

    August 21, 2008 at 9:55 pm |
  38. Mustapha

    A SALAM ALEIKUN

    We give praise to Allah the almighty for light upon our lives in this time of darkness. Hope in the time of desperation and hapiness when all joy if wiped from our face.

    The will of Allah is that Barak Hussein bin Obama is the gift of God to Mankind and we must accept him and his words for another millenia of peace and prosperity to come upon the earth.

    Vote the will of Allah, Vote Barack Obama, accept him as a prophet of Allah as you have accepted Muhamad, Christ and Moses.

    Allah Akbar!!!!

    August 21, 2008 at 9:52 pm |
  39. OV

    McCain voted, along with other 76 senators, for invasion into Iraq. Now one may question whether these morons should be in prison or not, or why Bush is not mpeached yet, but it is clear that Obama should be the next president. He has great judgement and brain and character. Whole World will laugh at us if we again elect a moron or a criminal. Was Bush not enough?

    Obama 2008

    August 21, 2008 at 9:48 pm |
  40. chuks

    As an American, I LOVE OBAMA, but he is not the man to take charge of this country.As an African American, I am very proud of where he got to today but truth is he is sleazy.
    I wont vote for Obama simply because I have the interest of my country at heart and I am too old to get influenced by empty chants of hope and change. Forget it.

    Why did we not nominate Romney and Clinton??? that would have been the fight to see.

    Shame on the media for their biasness. The truth about all the candidates are coming out and they are unmasked. Viva America

    August 21, 2008 at 9:46 pm |
  41. MUTOONI

    Voters have already made their decisions. I have already made up my mind that i will vote for Obama unless i die or misfortune happen to me. The truth is that Obama will win and these polls are just being sponsored by Mc Cain supporters with the intention of putting cosmetics to their loosing candidate.

    August 21, 2008 at 9:32 pm |
  42. Gabriele-Seattle, WA

    Kerry: Barry was a nick name. I have never put my nickname down as another name. Soetoro was his stepfathers name. His mother and stepfather filled out the forms when he went to elementary school. I hope you have copies of all the paperwork your parents may have filled out for you. I also don't think a 10 year questions their parents about school paperwork. I mean get real. You weren't going to vote for him anyway so stop with the racist talk.

    You people claim to be Christians but sure don't act like it. Remember: Do unto others as they would unto you. This is why religiion needs to get out of our politices.

    August 21, 2008 at 9:32 pm |
  43. Galy

    Obama can pick Hillary for PV and win; after all he would be the one president; or he can not pick her and lose.

    August 21, 2008 at 9:30 pm |
  44. jroy

    There are millions of Bill-O, Hanity & Rush in America

    August 21, 2008 at 9:30 pm |
  45. jroy

    Obama has a tiny 1-point edge over McCain: 45% to 44%.Do the Democrats have an August curse?

    Americans are basically racist.
    99% African Americans will vote for Obama
    99% white men & women above 55 years will not vote for any black or colored men or women.

    August 21, 2008 at 9:28 pm |
  46. Gabriele-Seattle, WA

    Boy, I can't believe some of the stupid and racist comments I have read here. I want a President who thinks a problem through, gets advice from others instead of someone who just reacts. McCain will have us at war for years, I hope you people voting for him don't have children or grandchildren of draft age because we don't have enough troops to fight all the fights McCain wants us to fight.

    The people talking about Obama's name bettter hope they name their children correctly because someday there may be a terrioist with the same name (just look at the terror watch list, save us from all the James Robinson's in the world).

    Also why is it when Obama makes a minor gaffe it is 24/7 news but when McCain says things that everyone knows are wrong, we get, "Oh that's okay, he was a POW." I mean really I don't get it.

    August 21, 2008 at 9:23 pm |
  47. Chas

    For me I have looked and studied both McCains and Obama's platform, in regards to their visions of where they want to lead us. My choice is Obama's platform. For me, I believe that his vision is the direction that I would like to see our country to progress to.
    In looking at the leadership potentials of both candidates, based on the styles I have seen over the last few weeks, for me, I have am voting for the Democratic party. The two pluses win out for me!
    And all this mud slinging, just further convinces me that I have made the correct decision. Its time for a change, and hes the "ONE" that can execute it, through his 21st century leadership style.

    August 21, 2008 at 9:15 pm |
  48. Clif , Atlanta,Ga.

    Erik I usually ignore responses from idiots like you,but I could not pass up the oppertunity. Yuor probably one of those repug disrupter hired to sit on your ignorant but to give negetive remarks. After reading what you had to say,I looked in the dictionary to define the word imbicile ,and found you in parenthesis.

    August 21, 2008 at 9:13 pm |
  49. Jerre

    I'm amazed at the people who complain about John McCain's negative campaign. Most of his ads are in response to Obama's negativity. Now, the best he can do is pounce on McCain's houses.
    He does have four houses that they live in and his daughter lives in one. The others are his wife's investment properties, and none of anyone's business. Least of all, a charlatan whose property was amassed with the help of a convicted felon.

    August 21, 2008 at 9:10 pm |
  50. ron speegle

    Elizabeth, your comments about Obama's name are truly ignorant but unfortunately representative of the genral lack of intelligence in this country. The world must be a scary place for you, huh?

    August 21, 2008 at 9:10 pm |
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