There’s clearly a new political landscape forming in the U.S. That’s what the polls are telling us. It’s not just that the first major-party black candidate for President is leading by significant margins in the national polls; it’s not just that North Dakota, a state George W. Bush won in 2004 by 64%, is believed to be "in play"; it’s not just that Virginia which, like North Dakota, was last carried by a Democrat in the sweep year of 1964, is, according to the most recent Washington Post poll and others, in the Obama camp by at least 8 points, or that, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC/MySpace poll, 69% of "new and returning voters" favor Obama (up from 61% a month ago), or that he’s leading in a remarkable number of states Bush took in 2004, or even that Democratic Senate and House candidates are making a run of it in previously ridiculous places.
Consider, instead, three recent polls in the context of the Bush years. Obama and McCain are now in a "statistical dead heat" among born-again evangelicals, those Rovian foot soldiers of two successful Bush elections, according to a recent survey; and the same seems to be true in Sarah Palin’s "real America," those rural and small town areas she’s praised to the skies. According to a poll commissioned by the Center for Rural Strategies, in those areas which Bush won in 2004 by 53%-41%, Obama now holds a statistically insignificant one point lead. To complete this little trifecta, Gallup has just released a poll showing that Jews are now likely to vote for Obama by a more than 3 to 1 majority (74% to 22%).
If present projections come close to holding, this could prove to be a rare reconfiguring or turning-point election — as Wall Street expert Steve Fraser first suggested might be possible at TomDispatch.com way back in February 2007. If so, the Republican Party, only recently besotted by dreams of a generational Pax Republicana, might find itself driven back into the deep South and deep West for who knows how long, "an extremist rump, reduced to a few stronghold states and obsessed with causes that seem not to matter to the general public."
Among the remaining unknowns in this election, of course, one involves how the intertwined issues of class and race will play out at the polls. In this regard, few places have been more closely examined than parts of Pennsylvania, a battleground state in which polls show John McCain significantly behind, but which he must capture if he hopes to win this election, and a place where working-class, as well as possibly racist, "Hillary voters" were supposed to be especially strong. Ever since the primaries, reporters have been tromping the state in search of them. Recently, TomDispatch sent a working class Pennsylvanian, who fled home at 17, back to an election bellwether county in his home state. As a stranger in a strange land, Robert Eshelman offers a unique and, in this election season, uniquely personal account of the unsettled state of American politics today and, no less important, of the visible dissolution of the Republican Party there.