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After the past eight years of a failed Republican regime, this election should have already been handed to Sen. Barack Obama and the Democrats on a silver platter¬ but, for some reason, that’s not happening.

Instead, a USA Today/Gallup poll published over the weekend showed Sen. John McCain leading Obama 50 percent to 46 percent.

How is it a campaign that should never have been close in the first place is now in such perilous condition for the Democrats?

As recently as Aug. 18, an L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll listed George W. Bush’s job approval rating as low as 25 percent. Just one month prior, a Research 2000 poll said it had sunk to 22 percent. Twenty-two percent!

With seventy-eight percent of people polled disapproving of the way Bush and his administration handled its jobs — a number that should reflect poorly on the Republican Party — this election should be a piece of pie for Obama.

Even Emily DeRose, communications director for the Arizona Democratic Party, admits they should have an advantage because of “John McCain’s support of [Bush’s] failed policies.”

So how come the Democratic Party has not been able to scoop up this election with the greatest of ease? How is Obama now struggling in the polls?

As much as the hard-core liberal in me would like to attribute the Democrats’ failing to the Republican Party, I can’t — the Republicans have given tons of ammo to the Democrats, but their use of it is why their campaign is having such little effect.

The McCain camp has had to deal with the shadow of the Bush presidency, a presidency that successfully hoodwinked the majority of voters last election cycle and throughout the invasion of the Middle East, but he’s been having no real problems. No one is stopping McCain from pulling the wool over voters’ eye once again.

Meanwhile, the Republicans have excelled at campaigning. Their political propaganda has even managed to take away Obama’s personal slogan of change and have succeeded in not only turning this into a “change” based election, but outshining the Democrats in it.

Because of their advertisements, we repeatedly hear and therefore we automatically associate John McCain and Sarah Palin with the words “mavericks” and “reform.”

This is happening because the GOP is so good at pounding in its single-word catchphrases.

Beyond the “maverick” and “reform” examples, we hear Obama is a “celebrity” and “inexperienced” all the time and it sticks. The Democrats have done very little in this vain.

But Democrats continue treading along, operating with business as usual. They have even written McCain’s elevated numbers off as a post-convention bounce.

“Traditionally that’s what these bumps are,” said DeRose.

Even Camilla Strongin, the director of communications for the Arizona Republican Party, agreed that the convention and news of Sarah Palin as running mate was “really energizing” for middle America.

Both agreed that “a poll is a snapshot in time,” as Strongin put it.

But that’s not the issue. There is a large gap in campaign strategy. The Republicans are much more ruthless and to the point.

“[The Republicans] lie,” said DeRose. “One of the most important things for [the Obama campaign] to do is to point out where those lies are.”

Yes, it is, but it’s not being done effectively.

As much as Strongin told me she believes “voters are smart,” and McCain and Palin have “clearly spoken to the American public,” it’s difficult to believe is enough to overcome the disasters of the past eight years.

Though DeRose assured me that the Arizona Democrats have “incredible volunteers,” and while I don’t doubt their dedication, the Democrats need to take this campaign to the next step.

I’m not a proponent of dirty smear campaigns, but the McCain camp is smothering Obama with dirty ads — and it’s working.

It’s time for Democrats to stand up for themselves and get a backbone — tell the voters the truth about McCain … and the truth about Obama, for that matter.

Then maybe the polls will swing the way the country needs them to — away from the last eight years of Republican rule.

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