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'Raw Politics': Horton hears a Suburblican

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  • Suburblican: Ex-Democrat turned GOP voter, believing the party abandoned them
  • In a race this tight, these swing voters will decide who wins, Foreman says
  • Foreman: McCain must summon support from Suburblicans to win
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By Tom Foreman
CNN Washington Bureau
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"Raw Politics" on "Anderson Cooper 360" delivers the latest political news with a wry sense of a humor and without spin.

(CNN) -- In the great book of Republican lore, the story lives on, read in reverent tones to tiny Red Staters even in their youngest years:

On the eighth day, Ronald Reagan reached into the suburbs, the burgeoning fields of new homes filled with families yearning for hope, and he picked up an average working-class Democrat.

Cradling him gently in his mighty hand, and speaking in soothing tones, Reagan said to the trembling voter, "I have terrible news. Your party has lost its way. Democratic leaders are no longer the defenders of middle-class jobs, values and security. They are pandering to special interests. Don't you want someone to be your president again?"

The voter cried "Yes!" and in that moment, the Suburblican was born.

Suburblicans: Former Democrats who believed their party had abandoned them, and who came to be Republican voters. They put Reagan into office twice. They helped elect George Bush. And now, Sen. John McCain must see if he can summon the mighty Suburblicans to work their magic once again.

In many ways, McCain may be the right man for the job. His moderate and much ballyhooed maverick ways appeal to many of these voters. His positions do not force them too far to the right, where they would have to cozy up to the hard-core conservatives. Yet his steely resolve and record of service project a certain stability that Suburblicans enjoy.

He faces real challenges. The war, which McCain supports, is disliked by a great many Americans. Yes, there has been much progress in the past eight months. Yes, public opinion is swinging back toward at least neutral. But it's still a sore point.

The economy is staggering, and McCain himself has said economic theory is not his strong suit.

The current president (a Republican, in case you haven't heard) is about as popular as outgoing New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer is, well, I guess, in his own home. That won't help.

There also is this: Remember, sometimes Suburblicans can undergo a remarkable metamorphosis. While holding onto virtually all their beliefs, expectations and principles, they can magically change into Suburblicrats. Sen. Barack Obama knows it's true. He has been doing well drawing those same moderate, independent and cross-over voters who McCain wants.

Sen. Hillary Clinton is firmly bolted to her Democratic base, so you might want to count her out of the Suburblican sweepstakes, and truth be told, her chances of cleaning up with that crowd do not look good.

But if we could predict with certainty where the Suburblicans will land, we could call this election tomorrow. Because the simple truth is, in a race this tight, these swing voters -- maybe more than the bases -- will decide who wins.

The defining characteristic of the Suburblicans right now is that they are migrating; great swarms of them are darkening the skies of the election, unwilling to make it clear which candidate they will ultimately favor.

But when the Suburblicans finally perch, and shake off their molting feathers, we shall see what emerges: New Suburblicans? New Suburblicrats? Or some fantastic new political animal no one has yet imagined.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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