US voters' heady sense of historic occasion may transform Obama's "firsts" to victory

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Washington, Oct 25 : American voters have a heady sense of historic occasion, a phenomenon that favors Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

He would be the nation's first Black president, and many people want to be a part of the momentum. A record turnout is expected, the Washington Times has said. "This is indeed a historic election of epic proportions. It looms large on the Richter scale of history, so to speak," said Bruce Buchanan, a presidential historian at the University of Texas at Austin.

"The maltreatment of African Americans has been the great stain on the American experiment and has been at the heart of our politics since the beginning," Buchanan said.

"For an African American to be a serious presidential candidate, let alone be elected, is a milestone in resolving racial issues as a source of contention."

"This sense of an important moment is not far below the surface in many people's thinking. One of the great questions for the horse-race folks is not only whether the 'Bradley effect' will come into play. Equally important is a potential reverse Bradley effect," he added.

The Bradley effect refers to contradictory behaviors in White voters who tell pollsters they would vote for a Black candidate - then do otherwise in the voting booth.

The phenomenon was first identified in 1983 by Charles P. Henry, a professor of African-American studies at the University of California at Berkeley after the defeat of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley in his 1982 bid for California Governor.

Bradley led in the polls, but lost the election.

But a sense of historic occasion is not everything.

"I agree that many Americans understand the historic and cultural implications of Senator Obama's candidacy," Henry told The Washington Times. "However, I don't believe that they would vote for him on those grounds alone.

"Most of them believe he is truly the best candidate to get us out of the various serious problems that confront us. If they believed John McCain is the better choice, I don't think they would vote for Obama for symbolism alone," he said.

ANI

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