- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The 2008 presidential election to this point has been subject to a great deal of indecision by the American people and the candidates. Some issues seem too complex for voters to determine which candidate has the right answer. But that is because the candidates themselves waver and flip-flop.

Barack Obama has certainly helped to confuse Democratic voters - changing his position on the surge from “failure” to “success” and wanting a similar surge in Afghanistan, and changing his position on oil drilling from “no drilling” to a compromise that would increase drilling in tandem with alternative fuels. There also are, for example, questions about his faith.

John McCain has been equally confusing. His summer gas-tax holiday seemingly mimics Hillary Clinton’s. Yet voters are concerned about funding the nation’s infrastructure (bridge collapses and flooded roads across the Midwest). This while the highway trust fund shrinks because America is using less gas, thereby decreasing the taxes that go into the highway fund. Amid this is Mr. Cain’s shift from “no tax increases” to payroll tax increases that are needed to fix Social Security. In other words, tax increases, as Mr. McCain said, are “on the table.”

Are Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama in sync with voters?

The recent Washington Times/Rasmussen poll this week showed a great deal of indecision by Democratic voters on the war, and it is clear that Republicans aren’t too sure about the virtues of the oil and gas industry.

On the question “Do Oil Companies make too much profit at the expense of consumers?” 75 percent of respondents said yes, including 57 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of Democrats. Clearly, more Democrats feel cheated - and it is their candidate who wants to institute windfall-profit taxes on oil companies. But Republican voters, despite wanting more oil and gas drilling, don’t seem to be clear as to how much the oil and gas companies are earning. The oil and gas industry averaged about 8.3 percent profit last year. That is not a lot of profit to work with for any company to reinvest in its existing infrastructure, pay employee bonuses maybe, and in this case, expand into more drilling.

On the war in Iraq, 72 percent of Republicans said American troops should stay in Iraq until the mission is complete, even as the question was prefaced with “We’re just about finished.” If we are “just about finished,” doesn’t that mean we should start bringing troops home, as Mr. Obama consistently proposes? It would seem that many Republicans view the Iraq war as part of the war on terror - and are comfortable with the reality that we may never leave. The Cold War lasted 50 years, and the war on terror may last that long, or it could go on longer, as Mr. McCain said. Republicans seem comfortable with that. Democrats were less certain - 30 percent said remove the troops immediately and 54 percent said bring the troops home within a year.

It is clear that when it comes to the war and gas prices, both candidates have yet to articulate their messages.

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