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“Campaigns use the summer lull to test their messages and strategies. It’s also the time when candidates road-test messages, strategies, speeches and ads for the general election. Not to mention the fact that it’s the run-up to the all-important party convention, and the time when the candidates pick their running mates.”

That way, by the fall, each party nominee will be a “man in full,” with a ticket, a message and a game plan. That is, if all goes well, Ms. Borger observes.

“During this summer interlude, the McCain campaign made a key strategic decision. Turn the fact that this campaign is about Barack Obama into a virtue. McCain advisers believe it’s better for them if this election is a referendum on Obama rather than on President Bush,” Ms. Borger continues.

Mr. Obama, meanwhile, can announce his running mate and get the show on the road, or wait until the Democratic national convention 15 days from now for some dramatic effect.

“All of which brings us back to this summertime thing: The lull is with us and the Olympics are upon us. Americans are headed on vacation and when they’re not engaged in the campaign, the polls stagnate. They will start moving again, no doubt about it. But for now, the candidate noise is all in the background.”

By the numbers

Observers suggest that the presidential election could prompt meaningful dialogue about race in America. Here are some new findings:

75 percent of Hispanics, 73 percent of whites and 85 percent of blacks agree that if Sen. Barack Obama is elected, it would be one of the most important advances for blacks in the past 100 years.

56 percent of Americans overall say racism against blacks is widespread in the U.S.

78 percent of blacks, 59 percent of Hispanics and 51 percent of whites agree.

67 percent of Democrats and 37 percent of Republicans say racism against blacks is widespread.

41 percent of Americans overall say racism against whites is widespread in the U.S.

42 percent of whites, 36 percents of blacks and 36 percent of Hispanics agree.

46 percent of Republicans and 38 percent of Democrats say racism against whites is widespread.

Source: A Gallup poll of 1,935 adults, conducted June 5 to July 5 with a margin of error of four percentage points.

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