Saturday, September 13, 2008

McCain Puts Country Last

Over at Dreaming Up Daily, I've posted my views on VP candidate Palin's qualifications to be commander in chief. Here I want to post some echoes of my view from a New York Times editorial today:

As we watched Sarah Palin on TV the last couple of days, we kept wondering what on earth John McCain was thinking. If he seriously thought this first-term governor — with less than two years in office — was qualified to be president, if necessary, at such a dangerous time, it raises profound questions about his judgment. If the choice was, as we suspect, a tactical move, then it was shockingly irresponsible.

One of the many bizarre moments in the questioning by ABC News’s Charles Gibson was when Ms. Palin, the governor of Alaska, excused her lack of international experience by sneering that Americans don’t want “somebody’s big fat résumé maybe that shows decades and decades in that Washington establishment where, yes, they’ve had opportunities to meet heads of state.”
The interviews made clear why Americans should worry about Ms. Palin’s thin résumé and lack of experience. Consider her befuddlement when Mr. Gibson referred to President Bush’s “doctrine” and her remark about having insight into Russia because she can see it from her state.

But that is not what troubled us most about her remarks — and, remember, if they were scripted, that just means that they reflect Mr. McCain’s views all the more closely. Rather, it was the sense that thoughtfulness, knowledge and experience are handicaps for a president in a world populated by Al Qaeda terrorists, a rising China, epidemics of AIDS, poverty and fratricidal war in the developing world and deep economic distress at home.

Ms. Palin talked repeatedly about never blinking. When Mr. McCain asked her to run for vice president? “You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission,” she said, that “you can’t blink.” Fighting terrorism? “We must do whatever it takes, and we must not blink, Charlie, in making those tough decisions of where we go and even who we target.”

Her answers about why she had told her church that President Bush’s failed policy in Iraq was “God’s plan” did nothing to dispel our concerns about her confusion between faith and policy. Her claim that she was quoting a completely unrelated comment by Lincoln was absurd.

In a dangerous world, Americans need a president who knows that real strength requires serious thought and preparation. "

Also in the Times, Bob Herbert's column asks some pertinent questions also on my mind these days:

While watching the Sarah Palin interview with Charlie Gibson Thursday night, and the coverage of the Palin phenomenon in general, I’ve gotten the scary feeling, for the first time in my life, that dimwittedness is not just on the march in the U.S., but that it might actually prevail.

How is it that this woman could have been selected to be the vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket? How is it that so much of the mainstream media has dropped all pretense of seriousness to hop aboard the bandwagon and go along for the giddy ride?

For those who haven’t noticed, we’re electing a president and vice president, not selecting a winner on “American Idol.”

John McCain, who is shameless about promoting himself as America’s ultimate patriot, put the best interests of the nation aside in making his incredibly reckless choice of a running mate. But there is a profound double standard in this country. The likes of John McCain and George W. Bush can do the craziest, most irresponsible things imaginable, and it only seems to help them politically. "

As I've written before here (and I think the American Idol line was mine as well), Barack Obama asserted last week that "The American people aren't stupid." So far, that's more of a hope than something borne out by the evidence of recent elections, or of recent days.

Friday, September 12, 2008


There will be plenty to say about the Palin Doctrine and her approach to foreign policy, assuming she can remember what she's been told it is a little better.

But her nomination has certainly been the buzz, and is largely credited with McCain's convention bump (which, by the way, appears to have peaked.)

There are so many polls now--and there are so many news ones starting soon--that they really are on the verge of being meaningless. I suppose the folks who average them or study the internals have some idea of what they mean, but there are so many premises, which may or may not reflect reality, that to depend on them is silly. Still, what else do we have to talk about?

As for the Palin bump, Nate at FiveThirtyEight suggests there is a theme in these recent polls: And what is that theme? Well, it's that the popular vote and the Electoral College are significantly diverging. Although the Republicans seem to be polling stronger than they were in the pre-convention period almost everywhere, the differences are much larger in traditionally red states, particularly in the South and the rural West.

In other words, McCain is gaining ground among his base in places where it doesn't matter if he gains ground. He was probably going to win that state anyway.

What the aggregate of polls suggests is that this race is very close, and a lot like 2004. We know that in many respects it is clearly different, but there is the possibility that the new factors wind up bringing us to the same virtually deadlocked place. So the few points McCain has moved up in some swing states is what makes this electorally closer.

That's right now, with the Palin convention bump. We don't know if this continues, or if this is the best that ticket can do. But we do know that Obama doesn't have much ground to make up. Bill Clinton said today he believed Obama would win "handily." That may be more a hope than a prediction, but it is still very much a possibility.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


It's an interesting moment in this campaign. The McCain-PALIN convention bump is likely at its height, and analysts going inside the numbers see that it may not have been much. One might infer the McCain campaign senses this because they are still acting like they're desperately behind, recycling discredited Alan Keyes gambits.

On their distortions of Obama and their own lies about themselves, they're starting to see a lot of media push-back. At this moment the Huffington Post is headlining at least 20 examples, from the leftish American Prospect and Glenn Greenwald, to the Old McCain centrists Joe Klein and Mark Halperin (both of TIME) to the conservative Jake Tapper (ABC.)

Meanwhile, VP candidate Palin has gone back to Alaska, where a world of pain awaits her, and John McCain has to figure out how to get crowds by doing more than standing woodenly beside Palin.

Obama struck just the right notes in his response to the latest McCainiac antics (in the video below), mixing humor, passion and poise : "The McCain campaign would much rather have the story [be]about a phony and foolish diversion than about the future. Enough! I don't care what they say about me. But I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies, phony outrage and swiftboat politics. Enough is enough! These are serious times and they call for a serious debate about where we need to take the nation."

Besides media pushback (NBC's Brian Williams pretty much echoed Obama's sentiments, which is pretty brave considering the hot water NBC is in with the McCainiacs) and Obama's pinpoint statement, an Obama surrogate and a woman--Stephanie Cutter, aide to VP candidate Biden--took the offensive:

I have to wonder why John McCain would want to raise something like this. And maybe [former Massachusetts Gov.] Jane Swift [who appeared earlier on MSNBC] doesn't know his record but I wonder where her outrage was when John McCain said he was going to beat Hillary Clinton like a drum. Or participated in an event where one of his participants called Hillary Clinton a bitch. Those are direct comments targeted at somebody's gender. And I didn't hear any outrage then... They are having a false offense on putting lipstick on a pig, when John McCain doesn't even stand for equal pay for women, doesn't stand for children's health insurance, thinks the economy is just going fine when millions of children are going without health care. I mean where is the offense at that?"

But at the moment my favorite analysis of where the race is was provided in a Kos diary by icebergslim. His advice: follow the money. McCain has just gone on the clock with his federal handout of $84M, and has yet to do much in organizing a ground game. The Obama campaign hasn't announced its August take, but they have said it is their largest to date, which means more than $55 million. And they've invested heavily in voter registration and get out the vote. There are more Obama offices in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh, PA--how bout them STEELERS!) than McCain has in some key states. Icebergslim:

Watch the movement. Not Barack's but McCain's. Watch what he will defend or what he will let go dark. Pennsylvania will be dropped. It cost a lot of money to defend the keystone state, along with advertising in the Philadelphia market. Keep an eye on Florida. This state has not been given much McCain love, the Florida market is expensive and you need MASSIVE offices open for GOTV. McCain will attempt to defend Virginia, but watch the ad buy for the expensive DC market. McCain will continue to campaign in Michigan, which the Detroit market is not cheap, but watch the state polling numbers. If McCain cannot pull that one from Barack, he will abandon it by mid October. McCain must defend Ohio. Ohio is the wildcard. Yes, they have a huge "fundy" base, but there are more non-fundy's who are hurting economically right now and McCain may not be their cup of tea. I look for New Mexico and Colorado to move to Barack. Yes, Colorado Springs got a lot of "fundys" but they are not the whole state, remember that. I am not sure about Montana, but a friend told me last night that Montana loves their guns, but hate the Patriot Act. This state could be Barack's.

This is what is going on. See what McCain must do? Again, folks this will be won on the GROUND."
Why Things Don't Change

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Fired Up! Ready to Go!

The Numbers That Count

Obama supporters are likely in for a few bad days, as the GOPer convention bounce shows up in the polls. Based on when Obama's bounce was strongest, it could go on until Wednesday in the tracking polls. (So far, McCain has come closer but Obama is still ahead.) There's no telling when the polls will change after that, absent a precipitating event.

Truthfully, it's bewildering, because McCain crapped out with his speech. Apparently a lot of people were watching the NFL football game and then watched McCain. So we'll see.

But as comforting as it would be if McCain peaks and starts falling again immediately--and possibly as energizing--the numbers that matter are coming in now: voter registration. And Democrats continue to register many more voters than GOPers. Overall: Since the last federal election in 2006, volunteers like Graham combined with the enthusiasm generated by the Obama-Clinton struggle to add more than 2 million Democrats to voter rolls in the 28 states that register voters according to party affiliation. The Republicans have lost nearly 344,000 thousand voters in the same states.

There's a reason in these numbers why the GOPer convention derided the Northeast: it's almost solidly Democratic. (Just about the only state that's still in question for Obama is New Hampshire.) New registration in PA may have put the Commonwealth out of reach for McCain.

The Obama campaign itself has registered nearly 50,000 new voters in Virgina just in August, and aims to register another 35,000 or so by October. The overall gains--with emphasis on this year's swing states--show here.

GOPer David Frum sounds the alarm--the GOP vote is vanishing. The question is whether it will be overtaken this fall, or further in the future. But demographics are such that victory in November could assure a Democratic coalition for many years to come.

Then there's enthusiasm. Despite VP candidate Palin's energizing effect for McCain, polls still show Democrats much more enthusiastic about voting for Obama than GOPers are about McCain. And Palin has energized for Obama: a 10 to 1 immediate flood of donations, and reports are coming in of unusually big crowds at the openings of Obama hqs, in L.A. and Pensacola, FLA for example.

Now that the campaign is underway in earnest, various analysts are looking at the electoral map. The New York Times notes that the Palin Drone may be putting some states more in play for McCain, but these are mostly states GOPers are expected to win. While fortified turnout from this base is probably not enough to assure victory for Mr. McCain, strategists said, it would be very difficult for him to win without it. Obama still has more paths to victory, although there are blue states that are uncomfortably close at the moment, like Michigan. The Times notes that while McCain and Palin campaigned in their base states, Obama was in Ohio (a battleground) and Indiana (rarely not GOPer, but next door to Obama's Illinois.)

Al G. at the Field's analysis has the race being decided by 8 states, and his looks to be a conservative approach. At this point, I suspect if Tim Russert were alive and holding his little blackboard, the name written on it would be "Michigan." It's at the top of McCain's wish list, but it has so far been unwaveringly in the Obama column. But apart from noting that Obama still has many more ways to win than does McCain, it's really too early to narrowly focus. That process might begin in a few weeks, when the convention noise is out of the polls, and possibly after the first (and usually most important) presidential debate.

But even then, new voter registration continues in key states into October. So no poll numbers are definitive.

Sure, it's nerve-wracking, but for most people, the worst thing would be to get obsessed by numbers. Leave them to the pros. It's enthusiasm that's going to win or lose this election. So get fired up--and ready to go!