It now appears as though the financial crisis might be the catalyst to move the 2008 election away from that paradigm. There are signs of such movement in the polls, and the movement is in Obama's favor.
I see three reasons why the recent developments should help Obama:
- Voters have consistently told pollsters they favor Obama on economic issues. Therefore, an increased focus on those issues boosts his support. That effect has been largely offset by voters' opinion that McCain can better handle foreign policy and defense issues. But those issues are falling off of some voters' radar screens, as the economy takes center stage.
- There seems to be a consensus in favor of greater federal government involvement in the financial world, and more regulation of financial institutions. While the Republican administration has made major proposals along those lines, that has historically been Democratic territory, so many voters seem to be instinctively looking to the Democratic candidate to implement such an approach.
- Blame for economic woes always falls on the party in the White House. That seems to be true, regardless of 1) which party controls Congress, and 2) any president's limited power over the Federal Reserve.
Here is a report on one poll showing a large Obama gain. That Washington Post--ABC News poll shows a nine-point Obama lead. Other polls also indicate gains for Obama, but not to that extent.
A big lead in the national popular vote would probably translate to Obama victories in many, if not all, of the swing states, such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Minnesota. That could put Obama well over 300 electoral votes. That would be more like Bill Clinton's victory margins than George W. Bush's.