A Republican Strategist's Take on the Presidential Race

| Tue Sep. 16, 2008 1:52 PM EDT

Republican public relations strategist Marty Youssefiani has worked on numerous House and national races, and when I saw a CNN analysis by his old mentor Ed Rollins the other day on how Palin changed the game, I asked Youssefiani for his take. By way of background, when I spoke with Youssefiani in the late spring, he was fairly convinced that Obama would win the election, on the strength of inspiring the registration of so many new, first time voters.

Ed is right in that [Palin] changed the short term dynamics of the game. But I'm increasingly skeptical about McCain's ability to sustain the energy -- through three debates and this volcanic economy! (I have a hunch McCain may have peaked too early.)
On the other side, Obama can ill-afford to (personally) engage in the nasty game; instead he needs to figure out -- very quickly -- how to close the sale and convince the margins that he is not surface thin. On that note, Biden's (unfathomable pick over Hillary) problem is: unlike Palin, his personal likability factor ranks with that of Ashcroft! He has always come across as mean, bitter and personally angry. He is probably the truly smartest one of the bunch, but time is running out on him and he's got to be careful with Palin.
On the "Bradley Factor": I do think it is very, very real vis-a-vis the polls; however, in my opinion, come Nov 5, the biggest story will be how the genius pollsters missed/under factored the massive new registered voters, which will counter balance the Bradley factor -- in favor of Obama, and, at the end, make the difference. There you have it.

I asked Youssefiani about the conventional wisdom in the past being that young people say they're going to vote, but don't.

Very true. But my hunch is that we are going through a paradigm shift and that all bets are off this year. We're guaranteed to break all voting participation records... The country is following both campaigns closer than ever before (reflected by the Nielson ratings); New registration surge is not waning and if battleground [Virginia] is any indication (requests for 200,000 additional new registration forms) we are in for a tidal wave come November. Sure, I may be wrong, but I like my chances that we are more likely to see an unprecedented wave of more dedicated new/young voters than not -- especially if the economic news continues.