23 December 2008

Team Maverick's final requiem

To finish our multi-part analysis of the McCain campaign, about six weeks late:

Finally, at the risk of sounding like E.J. Dionne or a HuffPoster, I believe that McCain made a fundamental mistake by putting his presidential ambitions in the hands of so many Bush operatives. To be sure, Steve Schmidt was generally an asset more than a liability; and in GOP circles, most of the big guns worked for the Bush/Cheney operation. But Nicolle Wallace was largely responsible for the handling of Gov. Palin, and Wallace was an utter failure. Schmidt's operation was peppered with more and more Bush/Cheney folks after McCain clinched the nomination, and even more after the Democratic primary ended. The campaign was obviously run much like the GOP's presidential operation in '04. 

The focus on Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko so late in the game was a colossal mistake; the ads (one claiming Palin was a forceful opponent of the Bridge to Nowhere; another ludicrously warned that Obama supported teaching sex education to kindergartners) were often half-truths at best; the strategy to attack Obama's character in ads approved by the candidate himself (instead of third-party 527 ads) was a terrible idea; the ground game was atrocious; and while Schmidt prided himself on talking point after talking point, day after day, the lack of an overall campaign narrative (described in a prior post) was perhaps the campaign's biggest failure.

Perhaps most simply, McCain wasn't himself. The gregarious guy that I saw in an airplane hangar in suburban St. Louis in February was funny and likable; he seemed to delight in even poking his supporters in the eye from time to time, but by October, that character was gone. I'm not quite sure how or why this happened. His transformation from happy warrior to angry old uncle happened sometime during July or August, around the time that Schmidt took the reins from Rick Davis, a longtime confidante of the Senior Senator's.

If you don't believe it, juxtapose his cool performance in the February debate while under attack from Gov. Romney, with his angry persona in the first debate against Obama.

That said, I don't entirely buy the idea that the John McCain of 2000 was markedly different than the John McCain of 2008. That's a liberal talking point. But I was disappointed that the guy whose hand I shook last February had a clearly different temperament than the one I saw angrily debating Barack Obama in October. Maybe a presidential campaign does that to one.

While McCain's aforementioned back-of-the-bus free-for-alls with reporters obviously had to be curtailed, McCain himself became distant, short and, by all accounts from reporters, visibly unhappy. He once called the press (only half-jokingly) "my base." Why shun them? McCain was truly the last political celebrity before Obama blast on the scene. By shunning the press and pushing reporters away, Team Maverick gave away a huge advantage.

Cindy McCain was once asked whether, if Karl Rove walked past her, she'd stab him in the back. "No," she responded. "I'd stab him in the front." I will forever revile Rove for what I believe were carefully orchestrated, take-this-cash-and-don't-tell-anyone-about-it-who-asks on McCain's character in 2000. The Bush team of 2000 engaged in character assassinations of the most vile kind against an American hero, particularly in South Carolina. While Rove might have won two elections, we have seen a seismic shift away from this slash-and-burn, divide-and-conquer strategy that drove George W. Bush to eight years in power. 

There were overtures of this as the calendar turned to fall, especially once Schmidt took control. And it didn't ever seem that McCain was ever totally on board. 

The campaign rhetorically asked, "Who is Barack Obama?" while ignoring McCain's remarkable record of political independence. It didn't take up Obama's sometime-socialist tendenices until the Changemaker's telling "Joe the Plumber" incident, which was far too late in the game to make a dent in Obama's lead. It highlighted the exact wrong aspects of what was wrong with an Obama presidency. Even worse, it allowed Team Hope to drive the narrative about McCain and dictate how the electorate viewed him.

21 December 2008

Change we can believe in

Caroline Kennedy has laughably tossed her hat into the ring to replace Sen. Clinton, who will leave her cushy, carpetbagged Senate seat for Foggy Bottom in January.

So, too, have the forces of nepotism reared their head even closer to the office of the president-elect. Vice-president-in-waiting Joseph R. Biden, Jr., has handpicked his close aide Edward Kaufman to replace him as Delaware's emissary to the U.S. Senate. It's easy to presume that the vice-president elect will ensure that his son, Beau, will assume the seat when he returns from his tour of duty in Iraq, in 2010.

Barack Obama promised "change we can believe in," and a new, transcendent style of politics that connects with the common man.

But he has stayed eerily silent on the topic of America's most nepotistic family, and perhaps the most wholly unqualified candidate to run for public office since, well, Caroline Kennedy's esteemed uncle.

Edward McCormick, Ted Kennedy's opponent in his 1962 battle for President Kennedy's vacant Senate seat, famously remarked, "If his name were Edward Moore ... with your qualifications, Teddy, your candidacy would be a joke."

Caroline Kennedy's record is even shorter than Uncle Teddy's -- fundraising for the American Ballet Theater, penning Kennedy-related books and serving on various nonprofit boards. 

The Democratic Party likes to pat itself on its collective back as the party of the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden and those unable to help themselves. 

But they'd rather you not notice the tawdriness of the Biden and Kennedy tales, as well as the posturing over the president-elect's own vacant seat. 

To be sure, nepotism has handed us our most impotent president since Jimmy Carter (much more on that later).

But it also has come to define the modern Democratic Party. One not need look at just the Kennedys or Bidens, but the Clintons as well. Although Sen. Clinton has carved out her own niche in Congress, she carpetbagged her way to the United States Senate and has built her career on the coattails of her husband.

And this is the party throne to which Barack Obama has ascended. 

The president-elect is expected to assert that his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, did nothing wrong by merely suggesting to Gov. Blagojevich that Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett should be appointed to replace the Pope of Hope. But Jarrett has never before held public office. If Obama were interested in replacing the "politics as usual" that he spent so much time decrying, his office wouldn't have engaged in such behavior. Instead, he either would have chosen a candidate with any sort of meaningful record of public service in elected office, or worked with the Illinois Secretary of State's office to organize a special election.

Nor would Obama sit idly by as his vice-president has orchestrated a replacement system that smacks of brazen nepotism. He likewise would call for a qualified candidate to replace Sen. Clinton in New York, and doing so would immediately torpedo Caroline Kennedy's house of cards. 

He's the supposed leader of his party.

If you were one of the tens of millions who voted for Barack Obama, I'd like to paraphrase President Clinton's thoughts about the Changemaker:




Get over yourselves.

19 December 2008

The bailout cometh

This morning, in the wake of Senate Republicans killing a $30 billion handout for Detroit's "Big 3" automakers late last week, President Bush approved an $18 billion rescue package, spitting in the face of Congress, taxpayers, the Constitution, the legacy of Ronald Reagan, the era of small-government conservatism, and, once and for all, putting the finishing tarnishes -- er, touches -- on his legacy. 

In exchange for the money, the administration will have the ability to acquire stock in the Big 3, partially nationalizing the auto industry.

There is no word on why the $750 billion "economic stimulus" fund that the Bush administration obtained in October couldn't be tapped.

The administration took the automakers' bait hook, line and sinker, falling for GM's posturing that if it did not receive a check from the government, it would consider bankruptcy. 

Senate Republicans, led by Bob Corker, and others like Mitt Romney, noted that Detroit's biggest problem is that their wage and benefit packages are disproportionate vis-a-vis their foreign counterparts. For this reason, the Big 3 have been in financial trouble for years, while the likes of Toyota have flourished.

As of this writing, it does not appear that the administration's agreement with the Big 3 addressed this issue. However, the Bush administration managed to obtain promises from the Big 3 to curtail executive compensation packages. 

Which, you know, is a huge deal when a company is hemorrhaging billions of dollars a year.

The administration seemed terrified of the prospect of any one of the Big 3 filing for bankruptcy. I genuinely wonder if the president actually understands what bankruptcy entails. It is not a process where a company shutters its factories and ceases operations. Rather, bankruptcy simply is a process whereby a company's assets are inventoried, its debts are restructured, and collection efforts against it must cease until the "bankruptcy estate" is finalized. It can be a quick process, and while it effectively destroys a company's credit, it does not mean that tens of thousands of workers will be laid off. 

It's no surprise that the Bush administration once again disregarded the wishes of Congress -- even its Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill -- and wrote the automakers an enormous check. From warrantless wiretaps to brazenly denying natural-born American citizens the protections of the 14th Amendment to an unheard-of amount of executive orders and "signing statements," the legacy of George W. Bush should forever be remembered as one big executive branch power-grab.

I vehemently opposed Barack Obama for the presidency, and was bitterly disappointed when he won.

But how can he possibly be any worse?

17 December 2008

On the Obama cabinet, Part II

A follow-up post on our earlier remarks on the president-elect's cabinet seemed appropriate.

In addition to being pleased by the general makeup of his advisory team, I also offer my full endorsement for the selections of Bill Richardson, Ken Salazar, Tom Vilsack and Larry Summers -- all moderate Democrats -- to the Changemaker's cabinet.

I'm further heartened by the direction Obama appears to be headed vis-a-vis foreign policy. In particular, I'm extremely pleased with the nomination of Gen. Jim Jones as national security adviser and the retention of Bob Gates as defense secretary -- two men, who Sen. McCain noted, would probably would have been part of his own cabinet. The third key member of the foreign policy team is of course Sen. Clinton, who will replace Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State.

Many on the right revile the Clintons, Hillary in particular. Much of their distaste stems from President Clinton's marital infidelities, and the acrimony toward HRC seems to be a result of her efforts to socialize American health care during the early part of Bill's first term. In terms of her voting record, Sen. Clinton was rated the 16th-most liberal senator in 2007, according to the nonpartisan National Journal. That means that in general, while an extremist by no means, she's a reliable liberal vote. 

However, the many faults I find with her are mainly on the domestic front. She is by no means anti-war; in fact, she continues to stand by her vote in favor of the Iraq War resolution. She has criticized Obama's laughable, weak-kneed stance toward negotiating without preconditions vis-a-vis Iran and Cuba, and has criticized her boss-to-be for his faux-hawkish attitude toward military action in Pakistan. Furthermore, she is regarded among her Republican colleagues on the Hill as hard-headed and pragmatic, and she has the deep respect of Sens. McCain and Lieberman, among others.

Had Obama chosen Sen. Clinton as his chief of staff or HHS czar, I would have a completely different opinion. On the domestic front, I agree with her on very little. However, she is a far better choice than the waffly, dovish Sen. John F. Kerry-Heinz (the other frontrunner for the State Department post). She is nothing if not tough, and if she is to have a position within the new administration, taking charge of foreign policy is fine with me. 

However, the HRC choice is revealing in another way. As Dick Morris pointed out, the case Obama made for his candidacy was his divergence from Sen. Clinton on foreign policy issues -- Pakistan, Iran, Cuba and especially, what to do with Iraq. Completely ignoring the feedback from commanders on the ground, Obama maintained that a cut-and-run strategy was the only practicable way out. (Even his own vice-president criticized this view as dangerously naive.) He claimed that, as an esteemed member of the Illinois State Senate, he was prescient with his anti-war views in 2002 and 2003. He built his case to the Democratic Party on this alone. 

And now he has chosen his main rival -- whose main, and really only, difference, concerned foreign policy -- to be in charge of ...

Foreign policy.

*Bangs head against table.*

Secondly, the presumed appointment of senator-turned-lobbyist Tom Daschle to head up Health & Human Services is another ludicrous appointment. Not only is Daschle's only qualification for the post the fact that he was a brash, obstructionist Washington insider for years, but it's hypocritical vis-a-vis Obama because Daschle has worked as a lobbyist since he was unseated by John Thune in 2004.

Obama spent much of his time assailing Sen. McCain for stacking his campaign with former lobbyists. The Hopemonger promised "change we can believe in," a new kind of politics, and a post-partisan Washington that will do away with the old, tired politics of yesterday. Lobbyists were barred from working on his campaign. He took the moral high ground, decrying the influence of big money and promised to make government responsive to the needs of the common man.

Now, he has picked a guy who has worked as a lobbyist at one of the premier K Street firms since he was ousted in 2004.


15 December 2008

Mr. Transparency?

You'll notice that in a prior post concerning Gov. Blagojevich, I mentioned nary a word about our president-elect. 

On one hand, I completely disagree with the RNC's immediate propaganda blast on the day of Blagojevich's arrest, attempting to tie Obama in with Blagojevich, noting that -- gasp! -- the president-elect not only has made public appearances with the governor in the past, but had the audacity to endorse him in 2006! While the Republican Party is making good-faith efforts to find its footing in the wake of its November 4 beatdown, Roveian crap like this exemplifies everything that is wrong with the GOP. 

Let me be clear: I applaud Team Hope for, according to the FBI's complaint, completely rebuffing any pay-for-play scheme that Blagjevich floated with respect to filling the Changemaker's Senate seat. Blagojevich's alleged reaction to Obama's team's flat refusal to cough up cash in exchange for nominating their preferred candidate (presumably, Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett) tells me everything I need to know about what the incoming administration thought of such an idea.

However, the fact that questions still hang over the office of the president-elect speaks volumes about Obama's "new kind of politics" mantra. During the campaigns, the Hopemonger spoke often of transparency in government, and roundly criticized the Bush administration's lack thereof. I accuse the president-elect of no wrongdoing vis-a-vis Blagojevich, but believe that the inability to answer simple questions about who spoke with Blagojevich when and what was discussed is another example of the Changemaker saying one thing and doing another.

As noted by a number of astute analysts, Obama's inner circle is a group of people (save chief of staff Rahm Emanuel) that has little or no executive experience. 

It's showing.

Frankly, ignoring questions and blowing off the press is utter hypocrisy, considering the nature of Obama's supposedly transformative candidacy. If I remember correctly, he ran as a supposed agent of "change we can believe in," promising to bring a new kind of politics to the Beltway.

Obama's team could have made this story go away overnight by sending out the following statement: "Shortly after the election, the office of the president-elect was contacted by Gov. Blagojevich regarding a disgusting pay-for-play scheme. Not only did the office of the president-elect rebuff such overtures, but we now call on Gov. Blagojevich to tender his resignation, effective immediately."

Instead, by failing to be forthright and refusing to answer completely legitimate questions about the nature of his team's communications with Blagojevich (that any incoming administration, by the way, would owe the American people), Barack Obama is combining the worst excesses of the past two presidencies: The word-splicing and truth-parsing of the Clinton administration, and the secrecy and bellicosity of the Bush years.

Especially from a man whose claim to the presidency was his "superior judgment," the silence is deafening. 

13 December 2008

Bob Corker, bailout-killer

Perhaps the thing that aggravates me about political extremists is the parochialism. 

There will always be Republicans who defend President Bush's every move as they fall over the cliff with him, and there will always be Democrats who try to excuse some of President Clinton's late-second-term antics or unabashedly root against the U.S. military to succeed in Iraq.

Over the last 8 years, Medicare Part D, out-of-control deficit spending, military blunders overseas, secrecy, bureaucratic incompetence and, now, enormous bailout checks from the federal government have all come about as a result of the efforts of a Republican administration.

I can't comprehend how 3 in 10 people still approve of the job our president is doing.

But for the efforts of a Republican senatorial contingent led by Tennessee's Bob Corker, this brilliant Republican administration that has all but spat on the grave of Ronald Reagan would have put another $30 billion bailout package on the collective back of the American taxpayers. 

Mitt Romney wrote a thoughtful op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last month, reversing his primary-season stance and arguing that it's time for Detroit to reinvent itself on its own. Bloated wage and benefit packages ($30 an hour for working on an assembly line?!) and an unholy alliance between the Big 3 and the UAW have nearly bankrupt at least one of the automakers and have brought the Big 3's executives crawling to Washington for a handout. Bailout checks, Romney said, would only postpone the inevitable -- until Detroit becomes more responsible in how it spends its money, it deserves nothing from the federal government.

Sen. Corker, echoing some of Romney's thoughts on Friday, noted that had the Democrats been willing to acquiesce by mandating that Detroit's benefit packages be brought in line with those of Toyota (whose costs per man hour come out to around $29 per hour), more than 90% of the body would have come to a resolution. It's no secret, as Sen. Corker pointed out, that Senate Democrats, long in the pockets of the UAW bosses, were one of the key culprits in this deal.

But where was the supposedly conservative Bush administration? How in the world, after a $700 billion bailout of the financial sector, could this administration possibly afford to write another enormous check to another completely irresponsible industry?

Hats off to Sen. Corker for a job well done.

09 December 2008

Rod Blagojevich is a contemptible piece of trash

Does "staggering" even do this story justice?

Attempting to extort money from a children's hospital.

Trying to force out members of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board who criticized him.

Discussing how to "monetize" the relationships he's made as governor.

Bribes around every corner.

Attempting to sell the Changemaker's vacated seat in the United States Senate.

Planning to appoint himself to that seat, so that -- get this -- he would have more protection from federal prosecutors as a member of the U.S. Senate. 

Bartering for a cushy lobbying gig for his wife.

And perhaps at perhaps his most audacious, soliciting favors -- considered to be either an ambassadorship or the HHS czar -- from the office of the president-elect in exchange for Team Hope's preferred choice to replace Obama.

Many in the media -- and virtually everyone in the Democratic Party -- are calling this a sad day for Illinois and for America. 

I completely disagree.

This is a wonderful day.

It's a day when the kingpin of the most corrupt political machine in North America was brought to his knees.

The Daley/Blagojevich axis of evil has been dealt a crippling blow.

It's a great day for the rule of law.

It's a great day for the citizens of Illinois, who are rid of the least popular (approval rating: 13 percent), most ineffective and most personally and politically toxic governor in the country.

David Gergen had the line of the day: "I have a hard time pronouncing his name. I just call him 'the idiot.'"

Patrick Fitzgerald has been assigned to prosecute the case. He's the U.S. attorney who prosecuted the Valerie Plame leak. 

He must refuse any and all overtures from the governor to plea bargain. 

Blagojevich needs to go to prison for a long time. His comfortable life, as he knows it, needs to end.

I hope Fitzgerald goes for the jugular.

04 December 2008

Matthews 2010?

You'll notice that forever-wired Chris Matthews' home page on MSNBC.com is linked up to the right on this blog. 

We at Bipartisan Rules are simultaneously fascinated, educated and amused by Matthews, the host of MSNBC's "Hardball" since 1997, in spite of the leg thrills he receives from President-Elect Obama's rousing oratory, and his February 12, 2008 proclamation that the Changemaker was "the new testament."

Though overtly bombastic, Matthews is a comparatively moderate Democrat, as well as one of the most astute political observers on the planet.

Now, per our friends over at Politico, it appears that Matthews is planning to challenge Sen. Arlen Specter in 2010. Some believe that Matthews' interest in Specter's seat is a ploy to force MSNBC to re-up his contract, which expires next year. Matthews currently makes about $5 million a year, but with Keith Olbermann slated to make around $8 million annually, it's possible that the network might tell Matthews to hit the road. Matthews has also been mentioned as a possible replacement for Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation," and odds are good that, even if he doesn't pursue elected office, Matthews will no longer be working at MSNBC in 2010.

I like Matthews. I can't help it. He's a refreshingly straight shooter and the type of moderate Democrat -- like the pro-life Sen. Bob Casey, who unseated Rick Santorum in 2006 -- that could make serious headway in a state-wide race in Pennsylvania.

MSNBC would be making a grievous mistake by letting Matthews walk. I believe that if they offered him a multi-year contract at $3-4 million per year, he'd stay put. If the network managed to lose both Tim Russert and Chris Matthews -- its two most valuable, insightful journalists -- in a 12-month span, while elevating Keith Olberman (in salary) and Air America graduate Rachel Maddow (with a prime-time slot), it would cement even further their status as the official channel of the Obama administration, and in my view, render the entire crew nothing more than lapdogs.

In the event that Matthews in fact left journalism entirely and challenged Sen. Specter, it would be a fascinating race. Specter is from the John McCain wing of the Republican Party, seethingly derided as a "RINO" by the likes of Hannity and Ingraham. To put it nicely, Specter doesn't "energize the base." But he's an independent-minded straight shooter who has been a bastion of integrity as the corrupt Republican house of cards has collapsed around him in the twilight of the Bush administration's tenure.

As much as I hope to continue to be entertained by Matthews' presence on MSBNC, he'd be a tremendous public servant and a refreshing blast of honesty -- not to mention bombastic, unabashed opining -- in Washington.

Can you imagine Matthews trying to behave himself as the stodgy, impotent Democratic "leadership" -- Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin -- takes to the floor in weekly Party meetings?

Me either.

03 December 2008

The Obama cabinet

If Barack Obama's cabinet picks are any indication of the type of president he intends to be, conservatives can -- at least until inauguration day -- breathe a little easier.

The Changemaker easily could be clamoring for a mandate (a la Dubya) based on his 52% figure (a single percentage point above President Bush's re-election haul in 2004) and swing the country hard to the left. His voting record in the Senate, among other things, gives rise to worry that this is still more than possible. Although Obama's virtually nonexistent record of working across the aisle in the U.S. Senate won't go away until he demonstrates the ability to forge a bipartisan consensus on anything of much substance, his Cabinet picks -- most of them, at least -- indicate to me that he does not intend to govern as an overt leftist. 

To be sure, the people a president surrounds himself with aren't necessarily dispositive of the type of chief executive he will become.

However, when reviewing Obama's cabinet picks, I'd ask conservatives to live in reality: Joe Lieberman is not Bernie Sanders. Ben Nelson is not Dick Durbin. Hillary Clinton is not Dennis Kucinich. And Bill Clinton certainly wasn't Jimmy Carter.

The idea (held by many on the right) that every Democrat hails from the far left of the political spectrum is simply not accurate. Democrats are not, as Rush Limbaugh posits, a group of wayward infidels who must be beaten back at every turn. There is often great diversity of viewpoints in the Democratic Party, much as there is great diversity within the GOP.

Instead of complaining that he is stacking his cabinet with Democratic retreads, I'd ask you to keep in mind two particular wings of the Democratic Party that often see spillover into the conservative camp -- first, the hawkish wing (formerly called "Scoop Jackson Democrats" and from whence Joe Lieberman came), which the moonbats on the left absolutely abhor; and the fiscally moderate wing of the party, which has grown in size thanks to President Clinton's focus on economic growth and responsible government. The Chairman subscribes to both of these wings -- that's why we tend to get along.

Let's allow Obama the chance to become an effective president, and applaud him for some -- but obviously, not all -- of the choices he's made thus far. 

22 November 2008

More on the president-elect

Now it's time to govern.

My greatest concern with President-Elect Obama is this: While he has proven to be a magnetic political presence, he has never shown himself to be a leader in the Senate on anything of substance. 

When pressed by critics to name a single significant bipartisan accomplishment of his, Obama clumsily stammered responses about his work with Sen. Richard Lugar on rounding up loose nukes in the former Soviet Union (legislation that was, by the way, passed unanimously) or his supposed support of tort reform. Despite all this talk of post-partisanship and "change we can believe in," Barack Obama the senator was a markedly different man than Barack Obama the candidate. I worry about the power of Sens. Reid, Schumer and Durbin, and Reps. Pelosi and Frank. These are extremist liberals whose voting records largely mirror President-Elect Obama's, and will undoubtedly move even harder to push through their leftist agendas now that the Bush administration is gone from power.

Obama likely will be faced with the same quandary that President Clinton saw in 1992: Congressional Democrats who will have his back only if he follows their leftist agenda. As our buddy Dick Morris recalls, Clinton came to the White House intending to govern as a centrist, but was rattled by a meeting with his congressional "allies" shortly after his inauguration, where they insinuated that the new president would have their support as long as he didn't reach across the aisle. 

As a result, Clinton lurched left, the move blew up in his face, and the GOP stormed back to power in 1994. When Clinton returned to the center, he was much more effective, cutting the federal bureaucracy in a way that Reagan would have been proud of, reforming welfare, executing free-trade agreements and, in perhaps his most notable accomplishment, approving a balanced budget. 

While he is still reviled by many on the right because of his marital infidelities (the same people, as I've noted, who would give admitted philanderer Sen. David Vitter a standing ovation if he walked in the room), President Clinton can be proud of a number of considerable accomplishments during his two terms in the White House -- accomplishments that any Republican president would be proud of. And these things came to pass because of Clinton's willingness to reach across the aisle.

On January 21, 20o9, it will be time for President Obama to put his money where his mouth is.

Will Obama have the stomach to stand up to his so-called "allies" in Congress? Can he use the bully pulpit of the White House to govern from the center? Will he include Republicans in his Cabinet? Will he include them in major pieces of legislation, such as health care reform or a platform for energy independence? Will he really do away with the rampant partisanship peddled by both the Bush administration and Obama's congressional allies? Will he really choose to govern as a centrist, reaching across the aisle to really usher our country into a different kind of political era, as he has promised?

Or will he revert back to being the old, reliable liberal rubber stamp, as he was for three and a half years in the United States Senate?

I genuinely believe that if Obama chooses to work across the aisle to lower taxes, balance the budget, finish off the war in Iraq and fully claim victory in Afghanistan, solve the looming Social Security crisis and give the country a good start toward energy independence, he can cement himself as a successful president, and win re-election going away in 2012. Many of President Clinton's greatest successes were a result of reaching across the aisle and finding solutions to big problems that ailed America. 

Come to think of it, that's exactly what this site is about.

So how will President-Elect Obama govern? 

I know my prediction. 
But as promised, I'll give him a chance. 

20 November 2008

On Obama (the nice edition)

Sen. McCain has no bigger supporter than me. However, the day after the election, I noted in a post on this site the historic nature of the 2008 election -- no matter my disappointment in the Senior Senator's defeat, the fact that America has elected its first black president a little more than a generation removed from the era of segregation is truly a remarkable thing.

Furthermore, I refuse to be among those moonbats who says things along the lines of, "Not my president." If you've caught yourself saying something like that after Nov. 4, we'd rather you just leave this site. I took umbrage at many liberals uttering that phrase after President Bush's victories in 2000 and 2004, and I believe such a remark reveals a shallow callousness and, to be frank, a complete lack of patriotism. You're not just an American when a Republican is in the White House. It doesn't work that way. 

Barack Obama is my president. I expect to be one of his harshest critics in my future, but I support him and genuinely hope he succeeds. Do hope otherwise is to literally root against the country, and I'll leave that childish behavior to the left.

Any suggestion that Republicans should root against Obama (much like congressional liberals publicly cheerleaded against the Iraq troop surge in 2006 and 2007, and like many liberals across the country did against Bush post-2004) is asinine. Obama is your president. Period. If you don't like it, move to Canada, and don't let the doorknob hit you on the way out. The Republican Party has proven itself wholly incapable of effective governance, and the voters decided it was time for a change. 

15 November 2008

The Russkies are coming!

On Tuesday, November 4, Sen. Obama decisively defeated Sen. McCain to become the 44th president of the United States. On Wednesday, November 5, three things of note happened: The stock market dropped 500 points; Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai called on the president-elect to stop killing Afghani civilians; and Russia announced plans to move missiles to the small Russian enclave west of Lithuania on its border with Poland. 

Let me repeat that: Each of those things happened the day after Obama's election.

Then, late this week, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev announced plans to visit both Cuba and Venezuela later this month. A Russian flotilla is currently on its way to Venezuela to conduct military exercises with Venezuelan troops. Under the iron rule of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has moved to buy millions of dollars in Russian weaponry and has invited Russian energy companies to begin drilling in its oil fields.

Is all this a coincidence? Highly doubtful. Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, obviously relieved that Russian antagonist McCain won't be in the White House come January (McCain has gone so far as to call for Russia's expulsion from the G-8), see an obvious weakness. When Russia invaded their tiny neighbor Georgia in August, Sen. Obama presciently noted that Russia's aggression "violated the spirit of the Olympics" and called on both countries to calm their aggression toward each other. I can only imagine Putin and Medvedev doubling over in laughter. 

The hard reality is this: While the world might have cheered an Obama victory on Nov. 5, America's antagonists and enemies cheered it for very different reasons than our allies in western Europe. Putin and Medvedev have a very clear agenda, and their actions -- jailing dissidents, crushing opposition, severely curtailing freedom of the press, attempting to rig the 2006 presidential elections in Ukraine, invading Georgia, allying themselves even closer with communist states and now moving missiles to their border with Poland -- should be a wake-up call to our new president that sticks must be used and not just carrots. The mere fact of Obama's election has not, as many of his supporters implied, appeased the aggressors across the globe, nor has it altered the agendas of people like Iran's Ahmadenijad, Belarus' Lukashenka or the Castro brothers in Cuba. Putin and Medvedev, in particular, will walk all over Obama if he is as spongy in the White House as he was on the stump. 

Did Obama's supporters -- and did the candidate himself -- really believe that Russia's agenda would be different on the morning of November 5?

This should be a further wake-up call to our president-elect that he had better be serious about energy independence as well, as Russia and Venezuela remain two of the largest exporters of oil in the world.

As much as his supporters might disagree, the hard reality is that Obama's election has changed very little in the rest of the world. And if he thinks mere diplomacy or fireside chats at the White House will convince Putin and Medvedev to scale back their aggression, then he will have proven himself to be a wholly incapable commander in chief.

12 November 2008

On the McCain campaign, Part III

Fifth, it must be said again: In an act of sheer political malpractice, Gov. Palin was badly mishandled. I supported her selection in late August because I believed that she could reach across the aisle to disaffected supporters of Sen. Clinton, as well as highlight McCain's independent credentials like no other candidate except Sen. Lieberman. I'm unsure about whether I will support her in 2012 (given that she's damaged goods, it's doubtful). I'm also unsure of how to react to the backbiting that reared its head in the campaign's final days, which all too often implicated Palin as a know-nothing crank. I don't believe she's dumb, as many liberals do. I do, however, understand why many people believe she is. 

And that's Steve Schmidt's fault.

Palin gave a slam-bang performance at the RNC in late August, with many conservatives (including the Gipper's son, Michael) calling her "the next Ronald Reagan." I was far less effuse with my praise, but noted that she has the unteachable political skill of effectively twisting the knife with a smile on her face. Bill Clinton, among few others, was great at this. Her approval rating back in Alaska is in the 80s, and she's wildly popular in her home state for a reason: She's shown that rare instinct to kick party demagogues in the teeth from time to time, and she's an incredibly skilled politician. 

I believed that Schmidt, Rick Davis, Mark Salter and the rest of the McCain team needed to blast her out to everyone who would listen. What good does it do to add a tremendously skilled, genuinely likable politician to the ticket and limit her to three major interviews in six weeks? Further, what use is it to use her only to toss red meat to long-since-converted supporters at highly scripted campaign rallies? If she was added to the ticket to appeal to undecideds, why not use her to target them?

In her interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric, the highly coached Palin painfully grasped for bulletpoint after bulletpoint. Many of her answers made no sense given the context of the question. Even when Couric tossed her a softball, asking about the media outlets from which she gets her news, Palin stammered, then answered, "All of them." It was a cringe-inducing moment. She was over-coached and overly saturated with many of the same talking points that McCain hammered at every day. Steve Schmidt, a highly disciplined GOP operative, believes in driving home a consistent message day after day. With Palin, it backfired.

And when these train wrecks of interviews were the only points of reference that voters had to judge Palin, the opinions that she was "dumb" or "ignorant" were certainly well-founded. Why limit her? Why shouldn't she go on Larry King, Chris Matthews or the late-night talk shows? Everyone makes gaffes -- that's to be expected. 

The vice-presidential debate was a classic example of why I believed Palin, if used wisely, could have been a tremendous asset to the McCain campaign. She talked forcefully, appeared confident, made a number of very good points, hit Sen. Biden hard on several occasions and was generally affable. At the end of the debate, it seemed that both she and Biden had genuinely enjoyed each other's company. She more than held her own. Every one of her redeeming qualities came out, even though she hardly won the debate on substance. 

I talked in a prior post about the die having been cast. By the time the VP debate rolled around, previously independent voters had already decided they had seen enough.

Perhaps I made a mistake in supporting the choice of Palin, as I assumed that she knew at least as much as I do about national and international affairs. Perhaps I made too great an assumption in endorsing her selection as VP that she could name one Supreme Court decision that she disagreed with, other than Roe v. Wade. And perhaps I overestimated her ability to form complete sentences or tie her shoes. 

I don't think I believe Palin is that stupid. And if she is, Schmidt & Co. made a horrific mistake by choosing her. 

Sixth, the McCain team's ground game was just awful. State party leaders openly complained to the press about the lack of communication between Schmidt & Co. and the rank and file. While Obama's team sent community organizers into places like Iowa and New Hampshire, working from the ground up, by all accounts, McCain's team did very little to attract new recruits. (Again, check out Newsweek's 7-part expose', which lays out Obama's ground game in detail. The level of organization was remarkable, and it probably will revolutionize how candidates campaign for president.) Point six is very simple: In an election where the playing field was already tilted against him, McCain and his team did themselves no favors by having a terrible get-out-the-vote campaign and ground game come election day.

10 November 2008

On the McCain campaign, Part II

Continuing our postmortem on the McCain campaign's failures...

Third, it's clear that Sen. McCain's team horribly mismanaged the bailout issue, as the Wall Street meltdown (and the Senior Senator's reaction to it) were clearly the tipping point in this election. In a mid-September entry, I suggested that Sen. McCain return to Washington for a few days in the wake of the forthcoming bailout. He did this. However, I also suggested that he personally sit in on Finance & Banking Committee hearings and hold regular press conferences, so as to give the impression (real or implied) that McCain was the one driving the bipartisan compromise that was sure to come. The point, of course, was to tout his bipartisan, problem-solving credentials. Whether it's something like campaign finance reform or reworking the country's immigration laws, this is simply something that has been a hallmark of his career, for better or worse.

What I didn't suggest that he do was skip out on Letterman, threaten to cancel the first presidential debate, suggest firing SEC Chairman Chris Cox, and appear at the White House with Sen. Obama. The first three gave the impression that he was erratic; the fourth -- where he was photographed sitting at an opposite end of the table from the Changemaker, with the president in the middle -- dashed any hopes of a presidential, problem-solving moment that he could glean from the crisis. Seven weeks from election day, what good is such a bold move if your opponent is invited to do the exact same thing? 

Fourth, in an election that pitted a purported change agent against a Washington veteran of three decades, McCain's trademark dry wit (he likes to crack that it's always darkest before it goes completely black) and engaging personality were too often neutered. At times, McCain appeared angry -- during the first debate, he barely looked at Obama. In the second, while he performed much better, he was widely seen as lecturing his younger opponent. McCain's age clearly was an issue, and he seemed to be baited into overreacting at times by Obama's cool demeanor. He looked like the angry old uncle.

Remember the Saddleback Forum? Rick Warren asked McCain a very good question about whether he thought his age would be a factor in the election, and in response, McCain slumped over in his chair and pretended to fall asleep. It was hilarious, and it's the McCain that I've come to know and admire over the past few years. Unfortunately, the happy warrior of 2000 and the 2008 Republican primary -- he of the endless riffage sessions with reporters, myriad town-hall meetings and yes, the trademark humor that allowed him to seem 8 or 10 years younger than he really was -- was noticeably absent from the last several months of his campaign. Even in his cherished town-hall debate format, McCain looked unnatural and uncomfortable. It wasn't until the final debate that he actually began to look like himself again, and by that time, the die had been cast.

For instance, in early October, after press access had been severely curtailed, McCain sat down for an interview with two reporters from Time magazine. The reporters tape-recorded the interview and their editors published it verbatim. The short, curt politician snapping at his questioners just didn't seem like McCain. It was moments like this that played directly into Obama's hands.

Overall, McCain's team allowed Obama to paint him as an aging, out-of-touch Washington insider who was ill-equipped to deal with America in the 21st century. How exactly this happened, I'm not quite sure -- but the burden clearly fell on Team Maverick to combat this perception, and they failed.

08 November 2008

On the McCain campaign, Part I

In the wake of Sen. McCain's defeat, I've struggled to apportion blame among the various actors, and to decide where I think the sure-to-be-reformed GOP should be headed. I'll take on the GOP on a different day -- there is much sorting out and soul-searching to do. But what of McCain's campaign?

One thing must be made clear: From early July until the selection of Gov. Palin as McCain's #2, the McCain campaign was nearly flawless. Steve Schmidt -- the Bush/Cheney '04 communications guru, and Team Maverick's chief strategist who formally took the reins in late June '08 -- was fighting an uphill battle from the start, and the fact that the McCain campaign kept their candidate within the margin of error, and even at times ahead, of their opponent was impressive. But the country obviously was tired of the Republican Party, thanks in large part to the incompetence of the Bush administration, and Sen. Obama found himself with a perfect storm at his back.

The playing field was tilted from day one, no matter who the Democratic nominee was. I believe Sen. Clinton would have won by an even bigger margin than did Obama. So McCain's team was forced to, at times, take an outside-the-box approach.

As a result, they clearly did not run a perfect campaign -- far from it. From early September to the finish line, I was bitterly disappointed in Schmidt's operation.

Also, to all you conservatives: Let's live in reality and not expect that every post-mortem account of the McCain campaign is being exaggerated by liberal media elites. Media bias pervades everything from Joe Klein columns to the "all-star panel" on FOX News. That's precisely why you get your news from more than one source. Newsweek recently ran a fascinating seven-part series on the McCain and Obama operations, as the mag's embedded reporters enjoyed virtually unbridled access to the two campaigns (as well as that of Sen. Clinton) for over a year. While you might think that each one of these reporters has an axe to grind, please remember that the election is over. 

What have the last eight years taught us? That Republicans can and do make mistakes. Sometimes big ones.

So where exactly did McCain's campaign -- and Steve Schmidt, in particular -- fall short?

First, the McCain team never settled on a narrative or a message to drive until it was far too late. Footsoldier in the Reagan Revolution? Experience? Change? Country first? Which one was it? For 18 months, Obama ran on "change we can believe in." Truth be told, campaign slogans mean nothing to me, and I believe Obama's obsessive fixation with platitudes was a clear effort to dress up his extremist record. (The record and the left-wing platform are there, folks -- he just didn't run on them.) But they exist to drive the campaign's narrative and to reach undecided voters. 

So what was McCain's message? Robert Draper wrote a fascinating account of Team Maverick's meandering ways that appeared in the Oct. 26 edition of the New York Times Magazine. It wasn't meant to be critical of McCain -- Draper was complementary toward the candidate and told the story of the McCain team attempting to recast the Senior Senator upon the happenings of major events along the way -- Obama's trip to Europe, the selection of Gov. Palin, the onset of the Wall Street meltdown, and so on. Each time, the campaign's narrative changed. Obama's stayed the same. 

I've mentioned this in a prior post, but it's worth repeating: David Brooks (a longtime McCain admirer) pointed out that Sen. Obama's operation was very much about the whole being more than simply the sum of the parts -- that is, while Obama's concrete policy proposals might be mentioned here and there, Team Hope ran a "change" movement. The Hopemonger seized upon an electoral discontent, simultaneously reached out to disaffected voters, and drove a consistent narrative for 18 months. Every single response or press conference was couched within this overarching message. It was truly a brilliantly executed campaign. 

Second, McCain's economic message (which clearly differs from the overall narrative of his campaign) was just awful. At the first debate -- during which the economic crisis dominated the first 40 minutes -- the candidate focused on earmark abuse, out-of-control spending, and stump-speech catchphrases like the DNA of bears in Montana or the Woodstock museum. No one disputes that pork-barrel earmarks and irresponsible spending are problems. But McCain's tepid, almost dismissive response to the Wall Street meltdown was highly damaging. During the second debate, Sen. McCain went the other way, taking a page from the John Edwards playbook, proposing that the Treasury Secretary buy up bad mortgages and renegotiate them. It was perhaps merely a coincidence, but Team Maverick chose to begin hitting Obama on Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko during this time. And what kind of message is that supposed to send to voters? That John McCain is more interested in negative personal attacks than solving the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression? Because that's exactly what swing voters heard.

What was most disappointing about McCain's directionless message during this time was that Sen. Obama was even less ready than McCain to handle the meltdown. The idea that Obama is prepared to deal with a crisis of this magnitude because he "ran" a presidential campaign for the better part of two years is beyond laughable. (I'm qualified to deal with this crisis because, well, I'm Barack Obama!) By that logic, any CEO of a company with more than a couple hundred employees is qualified to be the leader of the free world. 

05 November 2008

What did the voters really say?

Was yesterday's result a function of an acceptance of a new, liberal Democratic agenda advanced by Sen. Obama, or was it simply a rejection of the incompetence and failures that we've seen over the last eight years?

It's clearly the latter.

With all due respect, the Obama campaign was never about policies or ideas or a political platform. It was a movement. The man who I've derisively called "the Changemaker" ran on the same, tired Pelosi/Kerry/Dukakis platform that the Democratic Party has put forth for the better part of a generation and that voters have repeatedly rejected. He is much more Carter than Clinton.

Obama's campaign was about image and platitudes, and about the whole being more than the mere sum of the parts. As David Brooks so astutely noted in early October, the reverse was true of Sen. McCain's campaign: He probably had the more practical ideas, and likely, the policies that resonated with the majority of the population. But Team Maverick lurched haphazardly among themes and never seemed able to drive a consistent message. Team Hope enjoyed a monopoly on vagueries.

Yesterday, a well-reputed exit poll asked voters, among other things, to identify their partisan affiliation. Forty-four percent of voters identified themselves as "moderate," about a third "conservative," and less than a quarter identified themselves as "liberal." This indicates to me that the country remains center-right, or at least firmly moderate. And it also indicates to me that Obama -- who ran in every way as the anti-Bush and attempted to tie the president around McCain's neck at every turn -- successfully made this election a referendum on the Bush administration. 

Sen. Obama is a smart man. His chief strategist, David Axelrod, is a brilliant man. They seized upon this pervasive anti-Bush, anti-Republican sentiment among a center-right electorate and used it to bury the quintessential center-right candidate. The fact that Obama successfully ran as a middle-class tax cutter and talked of fiscal discipline is a damning criticism of what the Republican Party (sans McCain, Coburn and a few others) has become: A corrupt (Stevens, Craig, Vitter, Delay, Cunningham, Abramoff ... need I go on?), incompetent (Rumsfeld), do-nothing (the 109th Congress), big government (the Bush administration generally) party. Just like with the Democrats in 1994, voters decided it was simply time to throw the bums out.

It thus can be said that George Bush beat John McCain twice -- once in the GOP primary in 2000, and again in the general election campaign in 2008.

What's most disappointing about this election to me is not that the Democrats have swept back into power, or that the Republican Party is in disarray, or even that a Republican candidate lost the race for the White House. It's about the Republican who lost. John McCain is an honorable man, an American hero, and his independent streak was exactly the tonic for what ails our country and our government. He's perhaps the most qualified candidate for the presidency that we'll ever see. Among the Senior Senator's many admirable qualities, his affinity for the hard challenge is perhaps his greatest asset. I'm genuinely disappointed for him. He deserved better.

It's bitterly disappointing that George Bush beat him again.

The sun still rises in the east

While I expect to be one of the harshest critics of the incoming Obama administration, I'll put that aside for at least the next few hours and offer some nice words.

I am not an ideologue. I firmly disapprove of the Bush administration. I break with the GOP on numerous issues -- the Gang of 14, warrantless wiretapping, tort reform, deficit spending, its focus on social issues, etc. In addition to voting for Sen. McCain for the presidency and voting to re-elect Rep. Todd Akin in the 3rd congressional district, I also crossed party lines and voted for two Democrats for statewide office in Missouri: Jay Nixon for governor, and Chris Koster for attorney general. I don't hate Democrats; I don't think they're always wrong; and I don't think the Democratic Party is evil incarnate, as many conservatives do. The reason I supported Sen. McCain was, in large part, because his policy positions matched up closely with mine, and the reason I so voraciously opposed Sen. Obama was because of his extremist record.

That said, it's is an incredible thing for America to have elected its first black president. Despite my strong affinity for Sen. McCain, I appreciate the historic nature of the 2008 election. We all should. It says quite a bit about our country that, barely a generation removed from the era of segregation, we have elected a black man to be president.

I'm willing to give Sen. Obama a chance. I hope he governs like Clinton and not like Carter. If he surrounds himself with centrist Democrats, reaches across the aisle with some regularity and shows a desire to take on legitimately tough challenges (see: Social Security), I will be at least placated. There are certain issues that will require a legitimately bipartisan effort to move forward. Obama has long claimed to be post-partisan savior, even though his thin record indicates that he's anything but. I hope my expectations are wrong.

Despite the cultish attitude that often surrounded him, Sen. Obama inspired millions of new voters to come out to the polls. Although many of them couldn't give you many good reasons why they were voting for him -- other than the vagueries and platitudes belted out at his campaign rallies -- political involvement is always a better option than political apathy. As Sen. McCain noted with relative frequency, that's something to be commended.

03 November 2008

The Commish's predictions

We at Bipartisan Rules wholeheartedly endorse Sen. John McCain for the presidency. However, the unfortunate realities of the current political climate -- thanks in large part to the the crushing economic crisis and the mismanagement and incompetence of the Bush administration -- are such that Sen. Barack Obama will become the 44th president of the United States.

First off, the Democratic Party will make enormous gains in the U.S. Senate. I expect the Dems to pick up seats in Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina and Virginia. I do not believe, as many pundits do, that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will be knocked off in Kentucky, nor do I think that Republican Saxby Chambliss will lose in Georgia. I also expect Sen. Norm Coleman to stave off Al Franken in Minnesota. This would give the Democrats 56 seats, plus "independent" (see: socialist) Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The Republicans would then have 42, plus Joe Lieberman, who presumably will caucus with the GOP once he's tossed out of his chairmanship.

I don't much care to predict the House races, but needless to say, the GOP is in for another long night on that front.

Finally, with respect to the presidential race, I do not believe Sen. Obama will approach the 350-vote threshold that many pundits are gleefully predicting. That said, the Hopemonger will almost assuredly flip Iowa and New Mexico to his column (both were Bush states in 2004). I also expect Obama to win in Nevada, Colorado, and crushingly, by a razor-thin margin in Virginia. The Changemaker will hang on by four points in Pennsylvania, and will win by eight in McCain-friendly New Hampshire.

I expect McCain to hold on to win in Ohio, Missouri, North Carolina, Montana, North Dakota and Indiana. 

I have no clue about Florida, which has decided the last two elections and on which Obama has zeroed in heavily. The most recent poll -- conducted by Rasmussen -- put McCain ahead 50-49, but given the toxic political climate in which the Senior Senator finds himself, I can't imagine that he'd win every single toss-up state. 

Thus, the prediction: Obama 317, McCain 221.

This will be no means be a blowout. I expect Obama to reach 51% nationally, with McCain at 48 and Nader and Barr taking a combined 1 percent.

Is there still hope?


Reason one: The guys at Politics1.com -- who are, notably, predicting the Dems to win a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate -- have predicted that 80% -- yes, eighty -- of undecided voters will break toward Sen. McCain. Although their methodology still puts Sen. Obama with 300 or more electoral votes, they instructed to watch the polls closely -- if the two candidates are even in a particular state, or if Obama is polling at 48% or less, expect that state to tip red.

Reason two: A national Zogby poll of 1,000 likely voters conducted Friday night actually showed McCain with a 48-47 lead.

Reason three: State polls tend to lag behind national polls.

Reason four: Missouri, the ultimate bellwether, is trending back toward McCain.

Reason five: People are racist.

So how can McCain possibly win tomorrow night? Here are two scenarios.

As has been noted, if both candidates start at the same place the 2004 election left off -- with Obama taking all the Kerry states and McCain all the Bush states -- the margin is 286-252. Iowa and New Mexico will almost assuredly tip blue, leaving McCain at 274. 

First, let's note the Senior Senator's must-wins -- if he loses any of these, he's cooked: Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, Montana, Ohio and Florida. The three 2004 red states that will potentially cost him the election are Virginia (13 votes), Colorado (9) and Nevada (5). If McCain won all of these states, he'd win 274-264. Polls in both Virginia and Nevada show an Obama lead of 4 or 5 points. It's not implausible to think that McCain could win one of these, especially with so many undecideds (some national polls still put the number above 10%) this late in the game. 

(Let's also be clear that in all of the above "must win" states, the margin of victory for either candidate will be within five points. Even thought the polling data looks more favorable to McCain than it did two weeks ago, nothing is guaranteed.)

Scenario two: McCain wins all of his "must wins," takes Virginia, and somewhat miraculously swipes Pennsylvania from the blue column. Polls show great fluidity in the Keystone State, and its incredible diversity (white, do-gooder liberals outside of Philadelphia; blue-collar, Reagan/Hillary Democrats in and around Pittsburgh and rednecks in the western part of the state.) If there is a state in which race will be factor, Pennsylvania is it. The most recent Rasmussen poll put Obama up by just six, and political analysts across the spectrum agree that Pennsylvania is the most difficult state to get a handle on. If McCain snatched victory in the Commonwealth from the jaws of defeat, pulled out a Pennsylvania miracle and gave up Nevada and Colorado, he'd win 281-257. 

Scenario three: McCain wins all of his must-wins, keeps Virginia and picks up Pennsylvania. He could then lose Missouri, Colorado and Nevada and win 270-268. 

The reason many believe Virginia -- perhaps the most crucial state this election cycle -- is up for grabs is its large percentage of undecided voters. A Mason-Dixon poll late last week showed a 47-44 Obama lead, with 9 percent still undecided. To be fair, that's the only poll that's showed Obama under 50% in the last week or so. But if we use Politics1's methodology, if McCain won three-quarters of those undecided voters, he'd win the Commonwealth by a margin of approximately 50.5-48.5. Plausible? Yes. Likely? Meh ...

The Commish's final electoral predictions will be up later tonight. As an aside, I correctly predicted a 286-252 margin of victory for President Bush in 2004.

Needless to say, I don't expect to be forecasting the Hopemonger anywhere near the 350 mark that some are hoping for.  

30 October 2008

Just for fun...

Betcha didn't know anti-war moonbat Cindy Sheehan was running against Nancy Pelosi for the Speaker's San Francisco congressional seat. Thought you couldn't get any further left than Madame Speaker? One look at some of Ms. Sheehan's more distinguished supporters will show you how wrong you are:

Melissa Etheridge and her "wife"
Cynthia McKinney
Ralph Nader
Willie Nelson
Rosie O'Donnell
Sean Penn
Gore Vidal

Among the noteworthy organizations offering Ms. Sheehan their support include the San Francisco Green Party, the League of Pissed Off Voters and the League of Young Pissed Off Voters.

God bless America.

Grasping for optimism...

Two reasons that there remains a glimmer of hope:


FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll from Oct. 20: Obama 49, McCain 40. 

FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll from Oct. 29: Obama 47, McCain 44.


NBC/Mason Dixon poll of likely Pennsylvania voters from Oct. 28: Obama 47, McCain 43, Undecided 9.

28 October 2008

One week out

Despite the upbeat tenor of the last post, it's clear that Sen. McCain's chances of winning the presidency appear to sit somewhere under 20 percent. Here's the obstacle he has to overcome:

Assuming McCain is unable to flip New Hampshire or Pennsylvania to the red column (more likely than not that he won't), and also assuming that Sen. Obama flips Iowa and New Mexico from red to blue (also, more likely than not, with the latter almost a slam dunk), the Pope of Hope need only flip one more red state to the Democratic column. Unfortunately for the Senior Senator, there exist a group of 7 or 8 swing states -- Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Missouri, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina and even Indiana -- in which he must play defense. 

Colorado and Virginia are the two most likely scenarios for the Hopemonger to pick off must-win states, as his lead has stabilized at around five points in each. The Changemaker has routinely enjoyed leads within the margin of error in Ohio and Nevada. Florida and Missouri appear to be toss-ups. North Carolina, mercifully, is trending back McCain's way, and it appears that he'll also hold onto Indiana.

That's still a pretty bleak outlook. 

It's clear that McCain's economic message is working, as his five-point deficit in national tracking polls is better than the 8- or 9-point deficit he was in before the third debate. But he's still never convincingly explained why it is that Obama's tax plan would be so disastrous: It's because businesses -- no matter what their size -- will always look to recoup the profits lost from higher tax rates. And it's also inevitable that these profits will be made up by these businesses cutting jobs. Additionally, McCain hasn't dealt with the fallacy of giving people who don't pay any income tax whatsoever a tax cut. 

It's maddening.

Is the race over? Of course not. As a rule, state polling tends to lag behind national numbers, and the margin within which McCain has closed the gap since the last major shift in polling data toward Obama is at least encouraging. If McCain can continue to eat away at Obama's national lead -- a likely prospect, since the "Joe the plumber" message is clearly resonating -- Nov. 4 could be a long night. 

McCain's problem is that he needs to win too many states (specifically, Colorado, Virginia and Nevada) in rapidly changing areas of the country where he is too far behind. 

Several conservative commentators have examined Obama's laughably thin and remarkably hyperpartisan record, come to grips with the state of the race, and asked, "Now what?" Some have likened Obama to a dog chasing a car down the street. It appears that he's finally caught it, and it appears that we must come to grips with the fact that a hardcore partisan Democrat running as a faux moderate with no significant legislative accomplishments in the United States Senate will take office in less than three months.

Many of us are ready to be done with the Bush administration, with its excesses, with its incompetence, with its ideological bankruptcy, but yet, its own hyperpartisanship.

But now what? 

26 October 2008

Painting a rosy picture

Nine days out, the following things are keeping me optimistic about Sen. McCain's chances:

1. According to Dick Morris, based on the way most polls are conducted (taken over the span of 3-4 days, with at least one day of tallying and splicing the numbers), we should begin to see any measurable effect of McCain's "Joe the Plumber" message begin to take hold either tomorrow or Tuesday. Why would McCain's 11th-hour populist message work? ...

2. As David Brooks noted last week in his excellent column about "Patio Man," this remains a center-right nation. While Sen. Obama's message has connected with many people across various walks of life, he is a quintessential tax-and-spend liberal in the vein of Pelosi, Durbin and Sanders. And although the vast majority of Americans are fed up with the Bush administration, the Changemaker is an extraordinarily abrupt lurch in the other direction. 

3. I believe that in virtually all of the swing states (with the possible exception of Florida), race will be a factor. The "Bradley Effect" has been debated ad nauseum, but the reality is there are many areas of the country -- downstate Missouri, eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania -- comprised of a substantial number of racist voters. Will these people actually pull the lever for a black candidate for president? And is having a lead in hand that's within the margin of error in many of these states a comfortable place for Team Hope to be?

4a. I wonder whether the enthusiasm gap has been overstated. Here in St. Louis, despite most polls showing a virtual dead heat, Obama yard signs outnumber McCain yard signs 3 or 4-1. It's remarkable. I'm Sen. McCain's biggest supporter and think he would make an excellent president, but I don't have a sign in my front yard. 

4b. Furthermore, at the risk of sounding like Ann Coulter, it's the fashionable thing to do to support Sen. Obama. As a McCain supporter in a generally liberal environment, one sometimes feels compelled to at least throw a few nice remarks the Hopemonger's way. I really do wonder if people's responses to pollers' questions are affected by this pervasive pro-Obama sentiment among not only his voracious supporters, but virtually every media outlet.

5. Team Hope expected to garner an early lead from early voting in both Florida and North Carolina. The results have shown a dead heat in both states.

6. With the exception of the Iowa caucuses, the Hopemonger's record of closing the deal in the Democratic primaries was quite poor. A perfect example is in New Hampshire, where Obama was running even within the last week of polling, and Sen. Clinton won the state by nearly ten points. The reason for this continues to be batted around.

7. Despite the assault from "unbiased" media types such as Chris Matthews and Joe Klein, Sen. McCain still enjoys a remarkable amount of respect across voting blocs, party lines and demographic groups. Virtually every poll confirms this.

8. McCain's path to victory is fairly simple: He can allow Obama to flip Iowa and New Mexico -- two states that Bush won in 2004 -- into the blue column. The Senior Senator would then need to simply hold the remaining red swing states from four years ago (Ohio, Florida, Missouri, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina and Nevada). If he were to manage to flip New Hampshire to the red column (a place where he remains quite popular), he could afford to lose any one of those states except Florida and Ohio. If he could pull off an upset in Pennsylvania, he could lose two or three of them. Team Maverick seems to think that their internal polling data justifies keeping the Hawkeye State in play. In each of the aforementioned red swing states, Obama's lead is generally close to or within the margin of error.

9. An enormous amount of voters are still undecided. Sixty-plus million people tuned into last month's vice-presidential debate. The McCain/Obama showdowns each drew 50 million viewers or more. Aside from we politicos, most people do not tune into the debates for their entertainment value. And virtually every poll tags the number of undecided voters around 10 percent. This late in the game, that's remarkable.

10. Finally, as noted above, Sen. Obama has connected with tens of millions of people. His core constituents are the young and previously apathetic; college professors; tax-and-spenders in the vein of John Kerry; anti-war moonbats; and, of course, black voters. These are a number of sizable constituencies. However, there are tens of millions more (see number 9, above) who still find it hard to buy what he is selling. Do I think the Hopemonger will win? Probably so. But I'd love to climb into the head of a swing voter in southern Michigan, in a run-down mining town in Ohio or in suburban Denver. When they draw the curtain behind them, or stand alone in front of a touch screen where no one else can see their choice, what will they do? At that point, what will be going through their mind? That's what makes this particular election cycle so fascinating.

The reality is that Obama should be headed for a 1984-style blowout -- and yet Sen. McCain continues to hang around. One thing's for sure: This ain't over yet.

23 October 2008

Thursday night's random sampling

Michael Gerson: "The main reason Obama has escaped the political consequences of his poor judgment on the surge has been the success of the surge itself, which has taken the issue almost entirely off the table. ... So Obama is left with a pleasing paradox: The successes of a strategy he opposed may have paved his way to the presidency. And McCain is left with a poignant comfort: He once said he would rather lose an election than lose a war. He may lose an election, in part, because he helped win a war."

Jon Stewart: "How do you spend $150,000 on clothes in two months? What, do you buy the original 'Thriller' jacket off eBay?"

On Monday, David Brooks christened the new swing voter "Patio Man." He says Patio Man has gravitated from the Reagan GOP to softening on the Clinton administration in the late 1990s, to a vote for Bush at the height of the disaster in Iraq in 2004, to an uncertain outlook in 2008. "There is a deep distrust of bourgeois culture running through American suburbia. It is not right wing, but it is conservative: a distrust of those far away; a belief in convention and respectability; and a strong reaction against anything that threatens to undermine the stability of the established order. ... Patio Man wants change. But this is no time for more risk and more debt. Debt in the future is no solution to the debt racked up in the past. This is a back-to-basics moment, a return to safety and the fundamentals."

Speaking of the those on the payroll of the gray lady, Robert Draper has a fascinating multi-part article in this Sunday's Times Magazine on the McCain campaign's many reinventions from spring to summer to fall, which is available somewhere on the Times' website. It's highly recommended. 

And finally, in case this site is branded anti-liberal: The Commish plans to cross party lines and vote for Jay Nixon, Missouri's fantastic and well-respected attorney general, in the gubernatorial race against Rep. Kenny Hulshof. As his formal study of the law mercifully crashes to a close and private practice beckons, the potential repeal of the utterly disastrous (not to mention unconstitutional) tort reform doctrine is enticing.

20 October 2008

The Powell endorsement

Obviously, yesterday was no great day for Sen. McCain.

But at the risk of sounding like Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter, it's difficult to see Gen. Powell's endorsement of Sen. Obama as motivated by anything other than race. Limbaugh is bombastic, self-absorbed and sometimes offensive; that doesn't mean he's always wrong. As El Rushbo noted, you'd be hard-pressed to find an equally liberal, equally unqualified and equally inexperienced white candidate that Powell has endorsed at any level.

Powell spent much of his time assailing Team Maverick. He took aim at Gov. Palin's inexperience (that's fine). He criticized McCain for making Bill Ayers an issue this late in the game (that's fine too). But he also tried to draw a distinction between the two sides, and made McCain's campaign out to be the one poisoning the race with its negativity. Obama, he implied, has been squeaky clean.

As a McCain supporter, I readily admit that not every charge from the Senior Senator and his surrogates has been above-board. Not every ad has been entirely truthful; the campaign has grown increasingly hostile; and various rednecks at McCain events have verbalized their abject hatred for the Changemaker. I've been disappointed at many aspects of how the McCain team has run this race.

However, Obama has run an equally negative, divisive campaign. Over the summer, he claimed McCain was "losing his bearings." The self-styled post-racial candidate played the race card multiple times against both Sens. McCain and Clinton. He's distorted McCain's record. He's aired more negative ads. He has shown himself to be two-faced, going back on his promise to accept public financing and abide by the limits that go along with it. And quite simply, he's running as something he's not -- a sort of post-partisan healer. Gen. Powell, like Keith Olbermann, Jonathan Alter, Joe Klein and millions of others, are seemingly so captivated by the man's rhetoric that they haven't bothered to pay attention to his actions.

That said, Powell's endorsement -- like the support of the Chairman's boy Sen. Webb and other highly regarded military men -- further validates the Hopemonger's credentials to voters still wary of an Obama presidency. 

17 October 2008

Eighteen days out

I have begun to outline a post tentatively entitled, "The colossal failure of Steve Schmidt." Schmidt, of course, has been in charge of Sen. McCain's campaign since early July. In the now-likely event that McCain loses, it will be posted the day after the election. I'm hoping it never sees the light of day.

However, as was noted by an astute Washington Post columnist, eighteen days is an eternity in presidential politics. As dark a picture as some polls have painted, a national Gallup poll released today shows the Senior Senator down to Sen. Obama by just two points. Two separate polls -- one from Rasmussen and another from SurveyUSA -- released in the last 24 hours have McCain tied with Obama in Florida and up two in Ohio. Given the fluidity of the race to this point, the Changemaker needs to keep his foot on the pedal.

McCain was clearly at his best for most of Tuesday night. The "if you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago" line was perhaps the high point of the entire election season. He addressed Obama directly instead of speaking simply to the moderator. He hit the Hopemonger hard on taxes, and scored huge political points with his 15 (really -- they counted) references to "Joe the plumber."

Most analysts asked rhetorically whether this performance was enough to close what was becoming a sizable Obama lead. My question, however, is where was this guy several weeks ago? This is the John McCain that people want to elect president.

His performance was not without its flaws, however. McCain had two choices with the Bill Ayers issue -- either hammer Obama over the head with it and back him into a corner, or don't bring it up at all. Instead, McCain simply asked the Pope of Hope to provide the American people with "answers," and Obama laid out well-rehearsed explanation of his long-ago ties to the hippie now sitting comfortably in his ivory tower.

After the response, McCain didn't press the issue -- and that was his mistake. While I think Obama's actions ten years ago were entirely unbecoming of a man who styles himself presidential material, he made an articulate case to voters why it is that Bill Ayers isn't an issue, and clearly scored points.

I thought Team Maverick's choice to make an issue out of the aging hippie was a colossal mistake. While Ayers is a despicable human being, and Obama's associations with him were far closer than Team Hope wants to admit, such is not a valid talking point at the height of the most dangerous economic crisis since the Great Depression. Sen. Clinton's campaign brought the Ayers issue to light during the primary season, and many voters were already well aware of the connection. Obama was not only able to explain away his ties to Ayers, but also used the attack as a way to paint McCain as further out of touch with the economic hardships of normal Americans. Unbelievably, Obama was the winner of the Ayers exchange.

To its credit, Team Maverick has finally grasped the reality that their candidate must act like he cares about voters' economic concerns if he is to have any shot at the Oval Office. By painting Obama as a tax-and-spend wealth distributor, McCain is giving himself one last shot.

As Howard Fineman has noted, John McCain has been left for dead more than once before.

14 October 2008

Three weeks out

And Sen. McCain's underdog campaign is in big trouble. It appears that Sen. Obama's swing-state spending spree is working, as the Hopemonger has a legitimate chance to win virtually every swing state (including Ohio, Florida and Missouri) and either approach or surpass 350 electoral votes. 

Team Maverick has languished in the wilderness for far too long, cobbling together a piecemeal approach to dealing with the country's financial woes. While Obama's irresponsible tax plan -- crank up taxes on individuals and small businesses making more than $250,000 a year -- has the potential to plunge the country into a full-scale depression, McCain has been largely unable to articulate any sort of cognizable attack on the Changemaker's underlying socialistic tendencies, or the economic benefits of helping out small businesses to stimulate job creation. As Obama has charged that McCain's tax policies benefit only the rich (to be fair, they'll get the lion's share of the tax cuts), the Senior Senator has far too often replied with "spending," "earmarks" or "bears in Montana." 

When the Dow drops more than 30% over a several-week period, promising to veto a few billion dollars in earmarks is not the way to assuage voters' concerns.

Nor is the McCain campaign's inexplicable decision to bring up Obama's long-ago associations with admitted domestic terrorist Bill Ayers at the height of the economic crisis.

Another analysis of the state of the race will be posted sometime after tomorrow's third and final debate between the two candidates. 

Needless to say, the prognosis won't be terribly optimistic.

08 October 2008

Conservatism: Up the creek?

How can American conservatism make a comeback when, in the void left by Newt Gingrich's departure in 1998, Rush Limbaugh is now the man who defines its parameters? 

In the 1960s, it was Goldwater. In the 1970s and 80s, it was Reagan. And in the 90s, the conservative movement's leader was Gingrich. 

But since Newt's ugly exit, conservatism and the GOP in general have lurched in various directions, most of them with minimal success. 

Not only has President Bush taken the party over a cliff, but the current faces of the movement (Limbaugh, Hannity, and Beck) simply get paid to babble. The Democratic Party is full of stars, the brightest of whom likely will be elected president in 26 days. The one disadvantage of conservative dominance of talk radio is that these "personalities" -- the stupidest descriptor in the history of the English language -- become more important than the politicians themselves. In fact, these "personalities" go out of their way to crucify those -- like McCain, Schwarzenegger, Guiliani, even Romney -- who dare stray from the reservation.

There is no magic bullet. The events of the last several weeks have proven that, at least in the near term, it's not a winning argument in the current climate to return to the small-government mantra of the Reagan years.

The GOP needs a leader who can articulate a new direction that leaves the Bush wing of the party in the dust and can combat the patronizing populism of Obama, Edwards and Dean. Eight years ago, McCain could have been the guy. But at 72, his time has passed.

And no -- Gov. Palin is not the tonic for what ails the GOP. 

So if McCain fails (which he most likely will), can Govs. Jindal or Pawlenty save the party in 2012?

Even if McCain pulls off the most remarkable of comebacks, he'll face an uphill battle against Sen. Clinton if he seeks reelection. 

It's not a good time to be right of center.

07 October 2008

Liveblogging the debate, Part 2

The debate tonight should be viewed through the lens of Howard Fineman's column today: 

"It's do or die for Sen. John McCain, but he is used to that. The guy's been left for dead -- literally, in one case, and politically in many others -- more times than a pack of General Custers."

8:01 p.m.: "Gerald Ford dead today, at the age of 83 -- eaten by a pack of wolves! Now wait a minute, this is getting ridiculous..."

8:02 p.m.: Will McCain be able to hide his utter disdain for the Hopemonger when they're introduced?

8:03 p.m.: Yes! Wow! McCain looks like a happy dude. Remember, this is his turf...

8:04 p.m.: What kind of a town-hall is this, where follow-up questions aren't allowed? Apparently a town hall Obama can agree to.

8:06 p.m.: Obama's first answer is a simple recap of his stump speech. I'm guessing this will be his strategy tonight. Yawn.

8:06 p.m.: "Sen. Obama, it's good to be with you at a town hall meeting." Veiled zing!

8:07 p.m.: Wow. McCain wants the Treasury Secretary to renegotiate the value of foreclosed-upon homes? He sounds like John Edwards.

8:08 p.m.: McCain is on his game. He actually looked at Obama. McCain looks absolutely in control and, unlike a couple weeks ago, looks like a president.

8:11 p.m.: The first "Sen. McCain is right" of the night. Will there be another seven like last time?

8:12 p.m.: McCain hits Obama -- hard -- and his "cronies" -- about resisting change to Fannie and Freddie in 2006. Over the final three and a half weeks, this could be a winning argument.

8:13 p.m.: McCain's is hitting the home value thing hard. This is his fix.

8:14 p.m.: And Obama's is Republican deregulation. Will this be the fight from here on out? 

8:17 p.m.: I've noticed something. Obama is just like Gov. Palin -- when he's confused, it's random bulletpoint after random bulletpoint until the dead space is sufficiently filled.

8:18 p.m.: McCain looks at Obama a second time. Someone's been practicing!

8:24 p.m.: Anyone playing the drinking game based on McCain's use of "my friends?" If so, you're probably on the floor.

8:28 p.m.: Some of these questions are just exceptionally hard. I can't fathom the level of preparation required to sound as well-versed as both men, even when they're grabbing at pet bulletpoints ("middle class" or "earmarks").

8:30 p.m.: McCain goes back and has an excellent re-follow up to a previous question on attacking multiple priorities at once. He's clearly at his best and very much at ease in this format.

8:32 p.m.: Obama sounds considerably clunkier tonight. In a question about sacrifices he'll ask the American people to make in this economic crisis, he's somehow found it relevant to talk about fuel-efficient cars. 

8:36 p.m.: Obama is looking at McCain like he's a crazy old uncle. Sort of an amusing shot. 

8:40 p.m.: Obama: Cutting taxes on the rich "isn't fair." I'd love a "wealth redistribution" or "class warfare" rebuttal from the Senior Senator, perhaps with a Lenin reference tossed in.

8:41 p.m.: McCain: A few snickers, then, "I'll answer the question."

8:42 p.m.: McCain: Obama never proposed the middle class tax cut he promised. Obama voted to raise taxes or against tax cuts 94 times. That was another hard hit, and I think in (McCain voice) "these tough economic times," this is another winning argument. McCain looks like a different guy tonight. 

8:43 p.m.: McCain gets another softball from an unwitting audience member, allowing him to highlight his sharp break from the Bush administration on climate change, and allowing him to hammer Obama on his refusal to support nuclear power. Again: On his game.

8:46 p.m.: Obama agrees with McCain ... that's two!

8:48 p.m.: McCain hits a home run citing his vote against the Bush energy bill "loaded with goodies for the oil companies." Notes Obama voted with the administration -- and you know what? He did it with a smirk on his face. 

8:57 p.m.: So Obama admits he's willing to mandate that parents cover their children's health insurance, or they'll be fined? Good grief. If we were in 1940s Russia and Stalin was talking, we wouldn't bat an eye.

8:59 p.m.: On to foreign policy...

9:01 p.m.: There's a glibness and a smoothness to many of McCain's answers that, for some reason, I think is an excellent thing for voters to see tonight.

9:02 p.m.: The third agreement between the candidates, as articulated by the junior senator from the great state of Illinois!

9:04 p.m.: I'm thoroughly impressed by Tom Brokaw's performance as moderator tonight. He followed up a national security question by asking both candidates what the "McCain Doctrine" and the "Obama Doctrine" would be in their respective administrations. He's cut Obama off when he ran over time and followed up on both candidates with tough but fair questions. 

9:06 p.m.: McCain's "cool hand at the tiller" line was strong, that the president must evaluate decisions with the ability to beneficially temper the situation, and be cognizant about sending America's most precious asset (American blood) into harm's way. Perhaps McCain's most powerful moment of the entire campaign, and a tremendously a forceful response after a tepid articulation of the Obama Doctrine.

9:10 p.m.: Obama: "We will kill bin Laden." Tough guy!

9:15 p.m.: It could not be more obvious that these two hate each other. The last 8-10 minutes have been mostly McCain and Obama sniping at each other.

9:18 p.m.: It might fly under the radar, but in a foreign-policy response, McCain just uttered the words, "some of which Sen. Obama is correct on."

9:21 p.m.: "For the most part, I agree with Sen. McCain." That's four!

9:23 p.m.: How did Obama and not McCain score the points on tying Russia's aggression to energy independence? 

9:25 p.m.: McCain scores back those points by thanking the retired Navy officer and getting a big smile and a handshake in return. This is the side of McCain that undecideds need to see.

9:27 p.m.: Come on, Sen. Obama. Give me fifth "Sen. McCain is right" ...

9:29 p.m.: Darn it.

9:32 p.m.: And the debate ends with a whimper.


That's it -- the number of days that Sen. McCain's team has to right what appears to be a fast-sinking ship.

I've read opinions from all over the web as to what McCain needs to do to rescue his falling poll numbers. But since I'm so obviously always right, here's what Team Maverick needs to do:

1. Find a 527 group that will do the dirty work of blasting out the Obama-Rezko and Obama-Ayers narratives. Sen. Kerry was defeated in 2004 in large part because of the Swiftboat attacks, but the Bush team made sure to distance themselves from and condemn the 527s attacking Kerry's service. Bush benefited in two ways four years ago: 527s took shots at his opponent and called his character into question, and Bush looked like the good guy by condemning them. In 2008, it's been the candidate's team themselves who have brought these matters up. Right or not, this looks very un-presidential, and I'd farm this work out to someone else.

2. Create a sensible, articulable economic policy and find a way to combat Obama's populism. The Hopemonger's two strongest policy arguments are that he plans to give the bottom 95% of wage-earners at tax cut, and that McCain's tax policies will benefit only the rich. The Senior Senator looked terrible trying to respond during the first debate. Point out that McCain too wants to give out a middle-class tax cut. Point out that cutting the corporate tax rate will stimulate the economy and spur job creation. Ask Obama how higher taxes on small businesses and even large corporations will breed anything but job loss and plunge the country further into a recession. Point out that Obama has no experience with economic matters and highlight any work McCain done in the Senate on anything of economic substance. Obama has tried to paint McCain into a corner as out-of-touch and ill-equipped to deal with this historic economic crisis. And because McCain has no interest in economic matters, it's worked.

3. While we're on the topic of domestic issues, stop talking about earmarks, the Bridge to Nowhere and the DNA of bears in Montana. It sounds stupid, and I'm sick of it.

4. Stop playing the grumpy old man. It's painfully obvious that McCain can't stand Obama, but it shouldn't be the first thing many voters talk about after the debate is over. In 2000, McCain managed to simultaneously be sarcastic and affable, and masterfully walked the line between irreverent and serious. Even at 72, he's still the guy who sits in the corner of weekly GOP Senate luncheons and cracks jokes, razzes the speaker and generally raises hell. Let the voters see that guy, and start tonight.

5. Finally, stop wasting Gov. Palin. She is a tremendously talented politician who Team Maverick has limited to three major interviews in six weeks and who only has appeared at highly scripted campaign rallies, recycling the same stump speech over and over. Palin performed very well last week in her debate against Sen. Biden, and she must be turned loose. She can be both an effective attack dog against Obama and a forceful proponent of McCain's policies. If she is continued to be kept under lock and key, campaign manager Steve Schmidt never should work in politics again.

Here's to hoping he pulls it off.