Friday, August 29, 2008

The Palin pick: now that's what I call desperate

John McCain has stunned the political world by selecting Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. Palin is a former runner up in the Miss Alaska beauty pageant and former Mayor of the tiny town of Wasilla, AK. She has been the Governor of Alaska since December, 2006. She holds a Bachelor's degree from the Univeristy of Idaho, and she enjoys mooseburgers.

Whew! What to say? Palin is a total unknown to Americans. She has no foreign policy experience to go with what is already a mighty thin resume. Currently, she's embroiled in an investigation into her conduct during her brief tenure as Governor.

So what's McCain doing? First of all, it seems like he's making a play for Hillary Clinton supporters. Second, since McCain is not a social conservative, he's been heavily pressured to choose a running mate that will appeal to the Party's evangelical base. But to choose someone with as little experience as Sarah Palin has made McCain look desperate for something to shake up the race.

Forget about what Democrats will say about her, conservatives themselves are expressing alarm at the choice of Palin:

Pat Buchanan: "She Just Is Not Ready to Be Commander-in-Chief."

The National Review: "
a reckless choice; it strikes me that way. And McCain's age raised the stakes on this issue. Can anyone say with a straight face that Palin would have gotten picked if she were a man?"

AP conservative Ron Fournier: "She is younger and less experienced than the first-term Illinois senator, and brings an ethical shadow to the ticket. Just 20 months ago, she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, a town of 6,500 where the biggest issue is controlling growth and the biggest annual worry is whether there will be enough snow for the Iditarod dog-mushing race. "

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough: "It Sounds Like a Harriet Miers Decision. Let's Find a Woman, Whether She's Experienced or Not."

But here's my favorite: Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney expressed anger today that they had both been given serious consideration but had then been passed over for Palin.

I have been worried about Pawlenty as McCain's choice, because it would significantly reduce Al Franken's chances of beating Norm Coleman in Minnesota's Senate race this year. Without Pawlenty on the ticket (and hopefully with Minnesotans angered by that fact), Obama might beat McCain in Minnesota by a big enough margin to help Franken win.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Convention pre-game show

The Democratic Convention in Denver starts Tuesday. Next weekend, the spotlight shifts to the Republicans when John McCain will select his VP pick just before the GOP Convention kicks off in St. Paul. Here are some observations on the current landscape.

* I believe that the McCain campaign has reached high tide. His recent ads attacking Obama have been giving him a little bump in the polls, bringing him to within a point or two of Obama in the popular vote. McCain has also done a good job of shoring up support in the red states, to the point that I can only name a couple of states that Bush carried in 2004 that Obama would be guaranteed to carry this time around. On the other hands, I haven't seen McCain making any inroads at all in the blue states.

Two reasons why I think McCain is as close now as he ever will be to Obama. First, The Democrats' Convention is likely to be a much bigger success than the Republicans'. While Obama will be appearing before upwards of 100,000 people this Thursday, the GOP Convention is likely to be more funeral than celebration, with Republicans choosing to stay away from St. Paul in large numbers. The debates begin less than two weeks after the conventions. I expect Obama will again have the edge, giving him a further boost heading into election day. The second reason why I think Obama will start pulling away is his recent decision to fight back against McCain's barrage of personal attacks. This was in evidence this week when Obama began running an attack ad against McCain pointing out that the Arizona Senator doesn't know how many houses he owns.

*Obama picks Biden. I'm satisfied with Biden. Traditionally, it's a good idea to pick a VP candidate who can serves as an attack dog, and this is job that Biden does well. Certainly he'll do it better than our last two wishy-washy VP picks, who let Dick Cheney beat them in the 2000 and 2004 debates. Biden has a few scandals, but they're too old for any one to care. Funny how that works. You would think the fact John McCain dated Cindy for most of a year while he was still married to his first wife would disqualify him in the eyes of the public, but few people care simply because the affair took place three decades ago. Did I mention that McCain is 72 years old?

*Democrats have two goals this year. The first is electing Obama, the second is electing enough Democratic Senators to break the disgraceful Republicans filibusters of the last two years that have made it nearly impossible for the Congress to accomplish much of anything.

Here's how it works. Any Senator can place a "hold" on a bill that can keep it from moving to a vote. It takes 60 "yea" votes to invoke cloture and break a filibuster. Currently, Democrats control the Senate 51-49. I would say Democrats are guaranteed to pick up five seats in November, and maybe a couple more. With 56 to 58 votes in the bag on any bill, it then just becomes a matter of siphoning off a couple of Republican votes, and Democrats can pass any bill they want to. Another important note: 2010 will also likely be a good year for electing more Democrats to the Senate, and with 60 seats or more in the hands of the good guys, the sky's the limit for doing what's needed to fix the country.

* Link of the week: This article on the resurgence of liberalism in America is music to my ears.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

McCain campaign finally gets organized, jumps straight into the gutter

New Senate race updates 8/2, click here.

Observers agree that while Obama and Clinton were in their protracted struggle for the Democratic nomination this past spring, the McCain campaign failed to take advantage of the situation. The Arizona Senator's campaign was instead hindered by resignations of staff members and a lagging effort to build a national organization.

Recently however, McCain seems to have finally settled on a consistent theme to carry him through to November. That theme is: Abanbon completely earlier promises to run a clean campaign free of personal attacks. Instead, try to destroy Barack Obama with vicious smears and attacks on his patriotism. And no accusation, no matter how demonstrably untrue, is off the table.

The public got a taste of Senator McCain's new gutter-based game plan in July when he suggested that Obama "would rather lose a war than lose a campaign," and McCain also began running an ad showing Obama side-by-side with Fidel Castro.

More recently, McCain has desperately tried to counter the positive news coverage of Obama's trip to the Middle East and Europe by running an ad suggesting that Obama called off a planned trip to visit wounded troops because he was told he could not bring cameras with him. In reality, Obama called off the visit only because he was informed that it would not have been appropriate because the was on trip paid for by his campaign and because he was accompanied by campaign staff rather than his Senate Office staff.

In squabbles such as this, most journalists usually avoid taking sides because they value the appearance of objectivity. But in this case even the mainstream media is calling the McCain ad "literally untrue." Ironically, McCain also prepared an Obama attack ad scheduled to run if Obama had made the hospital visit, this one suggesting that was using wounded troops as campaign props.

Can McCain go any lower? Yes! This week, it's an ad implying that Obama's support is nothing more than media hype, and suggesting that he be compared to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Is McCain proud of himself? Yes he is.