September 30, 2008


There's a lot of talk about racism among the Obama crowd, with speculation that polls might be overrating Obama because of the so-called Bradley effect, Bradley being a black gubernatorial candidate in California who showed up much better in the polls than in the final count.

But the problem with the Bradley effect - or the Wilder or Dinkens effect - is that the examples being used are two decades old, since which American ethnic attitudes have evolved.

A far more instructive example is the case of Harold Ford who ran for the Senate from Tennessee two years ago and came within 3% of winning the southern state. He was defeated, many think, because of a GOP ad in which a white woman talks abut meeting the then unmarried Ford at a Playboy party.

Now look at how the pristine Obama is doing in Tennessee. He's down 12-24 points in the past month. Translated into votes that's about 150,00 to 350,000 people who were willing to vote for Ford who don't feel the same way about Obama. That's not race; it merely reflects the fact the Ford was a better politician and more effective at reaching those who didn't look like him.

The Obama campaign should stop worrying about the Bradley effect and try instead to learn the Ford effect.