Voters casting the decisive ballots in this presidential election will be those who ask themselves a single question. It won’t be, Who won the debates?
It won’t be, Who had the better policies and program details?
It won’t be, Whose political ideology was correct?
It won’t be, Who performed more theatrically on television?
It won’t be, Who waged the shrewder campaign or spent more millions?
It will be, simply, Who can be trusted to guide this country for the next four (or eight) years through the tunnel of horrors no one can predict today?
Those who consider themselves first of all as voters who are conservatives or liberals, Republicans or Democrats, whites or blacks or Hispanics, or as any other reliably recognizable sub-public, are not going to decide this election.
They will, almost to a man or woman, have already made up their minds. By now, efforts to persuade them otherwise are footless, wastes of time. Taken altogether, they represent probably 65 percent of the voting electorate, more or less evenly divided on one side or the other.
Between them, in the difficult-to-define middleground, are probably about 5 percent who will inanely throw away their votes on non-viable candidates or write in Minnie Mouse or Mickey Mantle. They might as well stay home and save at the gas pump.
The remaining 30 percent are where this election will be decided.
The United States is divided, but not split down the middle. Nor does it mean the shapes of its division are immutable. They are more like lava lamps or amoebae under a microscope, ever moving, reshaping, defying classification.
Despite how America is wishfully defined by Hollywood and the liberal mass media, it is, taken on the whole, a divided nation that is more center-right than center-left. That does not mean, however, that left-right political orientation is going to be the defining, decisive characteristic of this election.
In this presidential election, the best bet is that the indefinable, illusory 30 percent, floating around out there in the vague middle, will be swayed by something other than the usual pulls and tugs of partisan affiliation.
This is where that single, most-important question comes into play. The voters who are going to decide the outcome of this election will be those who are asking themselves that crucial question.
They will be looking at both John McCain and Barack Obama and compelling themselves to face up to this, Which one do I trust to guide our country through awful shoals and raging storms that could wreck America — and my life and my loved ones’ lives?
All the rest is just so much blah-blah-blah.
Deciding who bollixed the financial system is less important than not bollixing it again. What may appear today as major issues — reviving the economy, coping with the insatiable anacondas of Social Security and health insurance, finding and keeping a job, contending with fanatics abroad and crazies at home, securing affordable energy within America — in all likelihood may, this time next year, be not even relevant.
Other worse horrors, gathering larger, await beyond 2008 — even as Winston Churchill in 1948 looked out upon “the awful unfolding scene of the future,” a future “heavy with foreboding.”
Which of the two candidates is equipped to arrive at the strategies for America’s very survival? Who has the inner quality, that indefinable something, that makes mere mortals great leaders in times of national peril?
Those voters who ask themselves that question are the ones who will decide this election.
Now let us pray.
John L. Perry, a prize-winning newspaper editor and writer who served on White House staffs of two presidents, is a regular columnist for NewsMax.com. Read John Perry's columns here.
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