There are trivial things that come out about presidential candidates during a campaign, especially in the closing weeks and days. And, while they might be dismissed as just that, trivial, they nevertheless do seem to get into the psyche of the electorate and create a narrative that can sometimes work against the candidate.
In 1988 Michael Dukakis came out of the Democratic Convention and headed into the fall campaign with something like a 16 point lead in the polls. He ended up being defeated soundly by George H. W. Bush largely because of a photo-op with Dukakis riding in a tank (I still shudder when I think of how ridiculous he looked in that video!) and the famous Willie Horton ad. Of course, Dukakis' response in the presidential debate to the question of whether he'd be in favor of the death penalty if someone raped and murdered his wife didn't help either.
In 2000 Vice-president Al Gore was ridiculed because of a comment he made that was interpreted (or mis-interpreted) to suggest that he invented the internet. Again, this one thing did not cost the election. But it helped to play into a narrative that the electorate formed about him that he sometimes played loosely with the truth.
In 2004 video footage of Senator John Kerry windsurfing somehow played into the narrative that he was elitist and out of touch with Mainstreet.
And so we come to the current presidential election. Already we have had the flap about the number of houses that John McCain owns and his inability to remember how many. And then there was the flap during the summer surrounding McCain's longtime friend and campaign financial advisor, former Senator Phil Graham, who made light of the economic storm clouds on the horizon by saying that we were a "nation of whiners" and that the economic problems were somehow a figment of our imaginations. Then came John McCain's famous line last week about the "fundamentals of our economy are sound." He made this statement on the very day that the financial sector was experiencing the greatest crisis since the Great Depression. Might this statement be looked at in the future as the moment when the campaign turned in the direction of Barack Obama?
Finally, today there is a story out about the number of cars each candidate owns. It seems that John and Cindy McCain own 13 cars and Barack and Michelle Obama own only a Ford Escape Hybrid. Here's the article: http://www.newsweek.com/id/160091/output/print
So here's the question. Is a narrative beginning to develop that John McCain is out of touch with Mainstreet and the average voter in the midst of this terrible economic crisis? If Obama wins the election will we look back on these things and say that this narrative (whether true or false) was what turned the election?