Battle for the US Presidency

Democrats Drop in Voter Approval

Republican John McCain is really catching up in the polls. He can benefit from the duel between Obama and Clinton. In the meantime, many Democrats are finding him to be electable.

The long battle for the Democratic presidential nomination is drawing more favorable attention in opinion polls to the presumptive Republican candidate, John McCain. In an opinion poll conducted by the Associated Press, he has now pulled even with Barack Obama, one of the two Democratic contenders. Both would get 45 percent of the vote if the election were held today.

One month ago Obama still led by 51 to 41 percent. Hillary Clinton was still beating McCain by 48 to 43 percent. But, statistically speaking, her lead was really a dead heat because the margin of error was approximately three percent. The monthly Associated Press opinion polls are considered to be a reliable barometer of public opinion in the United States.

It’s true that such opinion polls seven months before the election do not allow one to draw firm conclusions. But they reveal that despite the fears of recession and the unpopularity of the incumbent Republican President George W. Bush, there is no clear trend in favor of the Democrats. In addition, there is a feeling that the controversy over Obama’s closeness to his former pastor has clearly damaged him, at least temporarily. The black pastor’s diatribes of hate against whites were seen on television over and over again in recent weeks.

While Obama and Clinton still concentrate their attacks on each other, only the Democratic Party Chairman, Howard Dean, has attacked McCain. Dean said that McCain isn’t as independent a leader as he always portrays himself. Dean added that McCain’s positions on issues important to independent voters, such as immigration and tax cuts for upper income earners, were “wishy washy.”

Dean asserted that the Democrats would not make McCain’s age an issue in the campaign, but that is exactly what he did. If elected, McCain would be 72 years old and be the oldest President America has ever had at the beginning of his first term. But the Democratic Party Chairman did announce that his party will go after McCain because of his “old-fashioned views."

Rejection for Colombia

The Democrats are now also stepping up their attempts to utilize their majority in Congress for voter recruitment. On Thursday, a clear majority in the House of Representatives passed a resolution to delay action on the controversial Colombia Free Trade Agreement for now. These agreements are particularly unpopular with labor because of fears that jobs will be moved elsewhere.

Doing away with trade barriers has been one of the central points of George W. Bush’s Latin America policy. He wanted this agreement to link Latin American countries closer to the United States. Bush called the temporary end of the debate an “unprecedented and unfortunate action” which would endanger the security and economy of the United States. Hillary Clinton vehemently rejects the Free Trade Agreement. She recently fired her campaign strategist Mark Penn because he had been an advisor to the Colombians in his side job.

Officially, a majority of Democrats rejected the Free Trade Agreement because of opposition by unionists in Colombia. However, the point of it with the vote was clearly to punish the Republican President once again. “This was a vote against the arrogance of Bush,” said Representative Peter Welch.

Colombia’s government reacted with disappointment. “This cannot remain without consequences for our relations,” said Vice President Francisco Santos. The right-leaning President Álvaro Uribe has always been Bush's most trusted ally in South America. He gets 500 million dollars of military assistance each year to fight drug traffickers and left wing rebels.

The United States also supports Uribe as a counterweight to Venezuela’s head of state Hugo Chávez, who wants to make Latin America independent of the United States with his ALBA economic community. There is strong resistance to the Free Trade Agreement with the United States in many Latin American countries, including Guatemala where rioting occurred.

In February, people were killed during protests by farmers in Peru. The farmers were afraid that their goods could not be sold anymore if the market was flooded with cheap, partially subsidized American goods.