The Bradley Effect: 2012’s Flesh Eating Disease

The Bradley Effect: 2012’s Flesh Eating Disease


Between the lagging economy and the President’s recent public support of same-sex marriages, the Commander-in-Chief may not be able to predict his November results by watching traditional polls.

The President’s statement and last week’s woeful unemployment numbers for April made the outlook for his 2012 re-election bid that much tougher. That is the case for several reasons, among them declining Black church support and lowered enthusiasm compared to 2008 levels.

Regardless of what you choose to see as genuine (or manufactured) reasons to inhibit his re-election in November, the current political climate after Wednesday may re-introduce a new rub on race in the Era of Obama:

The Bradley Effect.

The Bradley Effect, citing the former first Black Mayor of Los Angeles Tom Bradley who lost his race for Governor in 1982, did not play a major role in 2008 during the then-senator’s historic win. The impact of closeted racism did not have enough oomph to make a dent in the hope and change momentum or to totally derail Mr. Obama’s journey to the White House.

However, now that this president is an incumbent credited with an unpopular healthcare reform bill seeking Supreme Court validity and an economy that can’t produce jobs after a historic stimulus was passed (unilaterally by Democrats), an inspiring message will not be enough. Voicing public support for gay marriage in a nation where 30 states ban same-sex marriage could end up pushing many voters’ zeal for Mr. Obama’s election into the nostalgic closet – with the rest of their 2008 memorabilia.

Religious voters that are also feeling the sting of the economy in key states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, and Virginia (all states that have both a high level of self-identifying religious voters and a high rate of economic strife), may consider the news cycle of the past 7 days as enough to reconsider their 2008 votes. Woeful economic numbers and a controversial stance on marriage could serve as enough for these voters to flip their states back to “red states” in 2012, even if the polls indicate otherwise as we progress towards 2012.

And that is where the Bradley Effect comes into play.

If the myth is true – that many undecided voters in 2008 eventually went for then-Senator Obama partly due to their fear of being called bigots for a vote against the first Black presidential nominee – then one should conclude that many of these same voters will not want to poll against the first Black president in 2012 for that same reason. That reluctance (if it does exist) would certainly apply to a desire to avoid being seen as anti-gay, as well. This means that if President Obama lost their support after these past few days, concerns about being called a bigot on the grounds of race or sexual orientation could be enough to keep some voters’ true November intentions hidden.

Some theorized that the Bradley Effect was an eroding legacy on American politics, evidenced by President Obama’s election. Yet, that was before 4 years of blatant racism hurled at the current president mixed in with an ongoing recession, hyper-partisanship throughout government, and major social issues to heighten tensions. The decision to choose a side in the gay marriage debate may have been enough for some in key swing states to jump off the Obama bandwagon. What is dangerous for the Obama Campaign is that this abandonment – based on resurgent racism, a disagreement on social issues, or merely a lack of faith in the administration moving “forward” – may not show up in the polls until it’s too late.

LENNY MCALLISTER is a senior contributor to Politic365 that is regularly featured Wednesdays on CNN Newsroom at 12:30 PM Eastern and on CNN’s “Early Start” weekdays 5:00 AM – 7:00 AM Eastern. He is also on Saturdays with Democratic pundit Maria Cardona on “CNN Saturday Morning” at 10:30 AM Eastern (9:30 Central / 7:30 Pacific.) Hear “The McAllister Minute” on the American Urban Radio Network each week and catch the radio show “Get Right with Lenny McAllister” live on at 11 AM Eastern weekdays and re-broadcast on Politic 365.