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The final week before presidential elections in the United States,
The final week before presidential elections in the United States, to be held on November 4, is always the hardest, especially when no one is certain of the outcome and your guess is as good as the next person's.

It is the worst week for the presidential hopefuls and for the voters, including the passive and undecided, those who think they know who to vote for, the white electorate, Afro-Americans, Spanish speakers, men, women, students, janitors, hairdressers and sailors.

Voters are surveyed more often and with varied methods during the final week. At the beginning of the presidential campaign, they were polled once every two weeks, then weekly, and now daily.

Polls are part of the election campaign, not only because they spotlight a trend, but also because they can change it.

John McCain's numbers went up when Barack Obama left to visit his ailing Grandma for a week in Hawaii. Sometimes, in the complicated world of American election surveys when a candidate goes away, his rival tries to bolt the door behind him.

While Obama was nursing his Grandmother, McCain cut the gap to 5% from 10%-13% the week before, by making incredible economic promises. If America elects him, he will be sorry for the rest of his life because no one can fulfill such promises without a "friendly neighborhood genie." Such promises are usually made when the candidate is desperate, when he would do anything to pull the rug out from under his rival.

Since October 27, McCain's campaign had been doing its best to close the gap, because this is all it can do now. The situation is bad on all counts, and McCain's only hope now is for the Bradley effect, when the inaccurate polls are skewed by the phenomenon of social desirability bias.

The Bradley effect is named for Tom Bradley, the long-time African-American mayor of Los Angeles, who lost the 1982 California gubernatorial race despite being ahead of his Republican rival by 7% in some voter polls. It refers to an alleged tendency on the part of some voters to tell pollsters they are undecided or likely to vote for a black candidate, and yet, on election day, vote for his/her white opponent.

Post-election analysis by Mervin Field, whose California Field Poll showed Bradley up seven points in the campaign's final stage, also highlighted the role of race, but emphasized that that alone would not have been enough to turn around the Democrat's lead.

But gubernatorial elections differ dramatically from the presidential race, and California is a specific state whose sentiments are difficult to project to the rest of the United States. Non-Californians say few Americans would weep if California broke off along the San Andreas Fault line and sank into the ocean.

But sentiments in the other states are more important, and they are not favoring McCain. He is fighting for minor points even in the states where George W. Bush won easily during the 2004 election. There are about 12 such states, which had previously voted Republican but now question the correctness of the Republican line under Bush and McCain.

Racial bias has not been completely outgrown in the U.S., which is logical given the proportions of white, black and Spanish-speaking Americans. But it would be erroneous to assume that they will seriously affect the November 4 polls.

There is no more racism in the U.S. than in Britain, but anti-racism demonstrations are indeed more outspoken there. By voting for Obama, Americans will make their choice above all against George Bush. They have no illusions left about the Republicans, Bush, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the financial crisis, which has gobbled up a substantial part of their pension accruals within two months.

They want something new, even if it is a new color. The Democrats definitely bear their part of responsibility for the crisis, but the Republicans have resided in the White House for too long.

It looks as if Obama will win. The only uncertain category is the margin by which he will win.

It will not be large, because the Democrats have not won large in the recent past. Franklin Delano Roosevelt ensured the Democrats landslide victories, but this was before WWII. John Kennedy defeated Nixon with only 0.1% of the vote, and Bill Clinton outpaced George Bush Sr. with 5.3% in 1992.

Even the Republican Party's "big guns" do not believe in McCain's victory. Colin Powell, former chief of staff and Secretary of State, publicly endorsed Obama several weeks ago.

This week David Frum, who wrote President Bush's famous antiterrorist speech in January 2002 denouncing Iran, Iraq and North Korea as the "axis of evil," said openly in The Washington Post that Americans are "almost certainly looking at a Democratic White House."

"John McCain is losing in a way that threatens to take the entire Republican Party down with him," Frum writes, adding, "every available dollar that can be shifted to a senatorial campaign must be shifted to a senatorial campaign."

Although some assume that McCain's campaign went badly from the start. Mark McKinnon, who was McCain's chief media strategist until June, when he dropped off the campaign because he decided he didn't want to participate in attacking Obama, is of a different opinion.

"I know that [McCain's strategist] Steve Schmidt and his colleagues have run a very good campaign and have taken McCain further than he had any reasonable right to, given the political climate," said McKinnon. (Quoted from Time, "Against All Odds, McCain Still Sees a Final Week Comeback.")

The Republicans have started looking for a scapegoat, which is never done the week before an election.

Alaskan governor Sarah Palin, chosen as McCain's running mate because she is a woman and young, did not save the game. Anchorage Daily News wrote a week before elections, "Sen. John McCain is the wrong choice for president at this critical time for our nation. Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, brings far more promise to the office."

"Sen. McCain has stumbled and fumbled badly in dealing with the accelerating crisis as it emerged," the newspaper writes, adding that Governor Palin is not "ready to assume command of the most important, powerful nation on earth."

Taking into account the current situation and the high stakes, the newspaper's admission sounded like the final diagnosis.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.


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