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.

03 October 2008

That sound you heard last night...

...was the Republican Party collectively exhaling.

Like the first debate, who "won" or "lost" last night's Joe/Sarah showdown is simply determined in the eye of the beholder. If you're a partisan Republican, Gov. Palin won. If you're a partisan Democrat, it was Sen. Biden. The following things are true, however:

First: It was nice to see two candidates who seemed to genuinely enjoy one another. Now, we'll return to the McCain/Obama frostiness.

Second: Somewhat incredibly, neither candidate made a major gaffe. 

Third: Biden unquestionably won the debate on substance. He showed a command of the issues far beyond what someone with Palin's limited experience could possibly have, and he's playing the old, wise hand to Obama's freshness. It's an effective combination.

Fourth: Palin performed very well. Admittedly, the bar was quite low. Many who tuned in (including myself) wondered if she would be able to demonstrate the ability to form complete sentences or tie her own shoes. However, not only was she adequate, she held her own against one of Washington's most seasoned veterans, attacking Obama's record, lauding McCain's maverick tendencies, and -- in perhaps the most effective line of attack we've seen to date -- brought up Biden's own criticisms of Obama's naivete from the primary season. Palin did a fair job distancing a potential McCain/Palin administration from Bush and Cheney, but a better command of the issues would have helped in this area.

Fifth: Palin's performance likely (well, hopefully) will reassure many of those who have broken away in recent weeks from McCain that she is, in fact, sufficiently competent. For better or for worse, that was last night's challenge, and she passed with flying colors. For the first time since her convention speech, she looked like she belonged on the national stage. 

Sixth: It's time to let Palin be Palin. Blast her out to the masses, aimed at swing voters, not just at scripted, rah-rah campaign rallies in front of people who are already in her corner. She's going to make mistakes -- the key is to allow swing voters to feel comfortable with the way she's able to connect with them. She's a valuable asset, and last night should have proven to Team Maverick that she can hold her own.

01 October 2008

On the eve of the slaughter...

Sarah Palin could surprise me tomorrow night. I just highly doubt it.

I don't mean to write the eulogy for the McCain/Palin ticket. The race is far from over, and few polls have seen Sen. Obama creep above 50%. Two debates -- plus tomorrow night's VP showdown -- remain, and the looming specter of race will undoubtedly haunt this campaign until the final vote is tallied. But the bottom line is this: The tide has turned against the Senior Senator, and part of the slide is due to the performance and handling of Gov. Palin.

I initially voiced strong approval for the Palin pick. I thought she highlighted McCain's best qualities, she's young, she's immensely popular in her home state, she appealed to the base while still reaching out to disaffected supporters of Sen. Clinton, and she's a legitimate outsider. But along the way, the wheels have come off. The "drive-by" gotcha media, combined with Team Maverick's kid-gloves treatment of Palin and the governor's own idiocy in prime-time interviews have painted Palin as an aw-shucks know-nothing who has no business on the national stage.

I believe Gov. Palin is equally qualified for the office she seeks as Sen. Obama (which is to say, not very). That said, it has been nauseating to watch Steve Schmidt (who, admittedly, I lauded in a prior post) and the rest of Team Maverick restrict press access to Palin in an almost obsessive way. Palin is a skilled politician, and McCain's advisers have put the clamps on her. Why shouldn't she be appearing on Matthews, O'Reilly and Larry King? If she makes mistakes, who cares? That's to be expected in her first go-round on the national stage.

Additionally, what is often forgotten is that Sen. Biden is a walking gaffe machine. Obama himself has made myriad misstatements throughout both the primary and general election. McCain's team should have seized on the energy surrounding the unconventional VP and blasted her out to the masses in every format possible -- not just at highly scripted campaign rallies.

By reducing the press' (and really, the voters') access to Palin to prime-time interviews on the big stage (Sean Hannity, Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric), Palin's missteps are amplified. She looked extraordinarily stupid by failing to name a single media outlet that she sought out on a regular basis -- "all of them" doesn't cut it. She appeared even dumber stammering through an answer about Supreme Court decisions outside of Roe v. Wade that she disagreed with.

When I endorsed Palin's candidacy for VP, I assumed that she would be able to answer these questions without sounding like an uninformed dunce. Further, I assumed some base level of knowledge about American politics and conservatism in general. I'm not sure whether she has looked uninformed because she actually is uninformed, or because she has been instructed to recite bulletpoint after bulletpoint no matter what the question.

Either way, it's clear that tomorrow night likely is the governor's last chance to save her image.