In certain ways, this sample-size-of-one stuff is antithetical to what we do around here. But I could not let the convention go by with at least one man-on-the-street perspective.
My cabbie and I had a good conversation about politics yesterday night. Interesting guy; he has a masters’ degree but is driving a cab, and says he knows a lot of people in the same boat. This is going to sound a little xenophobic, but one thing I have noticed in Chicago is that the higher the percentage of taxi drivers that speak English without an accent, the worse off the economy is doing. Lately, I've had a lot of cabbies who spoke the King's English.
He’s a swing voter – white, maybe 53 years old, listens to Air America one night, Rush Limbaugh the next. He isn’t buying what John McCain is selling, and thinks it’s pretty obvious that he’ll take the country in the wrong direction.
But he’s yet to be entirely persuaded by Obama. Likes what Obama has to say. Liked Michelle’s speech. But he feels like he’s heard a lot of the same rhetoric before, and seen too many politicians who couldn’t deliver on it. Says he might vote third party instead, or just sit the election out. He didn’t like the Biden pick, and says a lot of his customers didn’t either. Reinforced too much of his sense that Obama is a typical Washington politican, perhaps well enough intentioned, but like most politicians inclined to overpromise and underdeliver.
He also expressed a great deal of admiration for Ross Perot, particularly Perot’s foresight on NAFTA. And this is one that I have heard before – I had a very similar conversation with a man in Austin, who said in essence that Perot was the only politician he’d trusted in the last thirty years.
Perot’s name still has a lot of currency among certain voters, especially here out West. Perot is not any fan of John McCain, but he’s yet to endorse a candidate. If Perot were to endorse Obama, that would be a very big deal – bigger, perhaps, than any endorsement of the general election campaign, save perhaps for Colin Powell. But even if he doesn’t (and it isn’t likely that he will; Perot made a fairly soft endorsement of Mitt Romney in the Republican primary), the Obama campaign ought to invest some thought into what made the Perot voter tick. I know of at least one vote he’d win that way.