So, today makes day three of the McCain campaign driving the news cycle with a bunch of manufactured, irrelevant drama. I’m sure the students of Rove are basking in their own personal brilliance at their ability to take over the airwaves with their baseless drivel. The fake lipstick flap, sex ed ad, and the stunning lack of a narrative focused on the issues that face America going forward is what the McCain camp has become, and in doing so they not only damage their own campaign, but also the brand that John McCain has worked so hard to nurture.
Simply put, the McCain camp may be attracting some attention, but it’s not the attention that will elevate him from the deadlock in the polls. Further, by going all in with the gutter politics that he himself has been victim to, and railed against, John McCain is playing fast and loose with his credibility. This may not hurt him today, or tomorrow, or next week even, but there’s little doubt that the American people will not like 55 more days of gutter politics, and if that’s all McCain’s got, he’s got a big problem in the most important place to his campaign, with independents.
Independents are the most fickle of voters. They have the same problems as Republicans and Democrats, but they don’t necessarily have any allegiance to either. They want solutions. So what will independent voters do when they see the McCain camp waste two weeks of news cycles on rhetorical rubbish? Some of them will start to wonder why there’s only one person talking about the issues. Some of them will get mad a John McCain for not being serious. If it keeps up, many of them will get tired of it and stop listening to McCain. This means that even if he did change his messaging, once people have checked out, they won’t hear it.
Now, I know that there’s this conventional wisdom out there that negative attacks, or other devices that distract from real issues work. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. My question to that conventional wisdom is, when was the last time there was such a negative opinion of one party or the other as this year? I can’t think of one. So while McCain may try to do everything he can to distract from the fact that he is a Republican with Republican positions, when voters go into the booths, as soon as a month from now, what’s going to be on their minds? Lipstick on a pig, or their friend who just got their house foreclosed? Are they going to remember an ad that ran for a day distorting Obama’s record, or that their kid is overseas fighting a war that they no longer understand or support? Whaddya think it’ll be?
I’m putting my money on issues, and that’s precisely why I’m glad that the Democrats have a candidate who is both keenly focused on the issues, and still willing to call the McCain campaign and their surrogates out as serial distorters, liars and the very same people responsible for the mess we’re in right now.
There’s another line of conventional wisdom that says that if Obama doesn’t attack in the same way that he’s attacked he’ll look weak. I reject that line of reasoning also. It doesn’t matter how you attack, it’s the effectiveness of the attack within the framework of your overall messaging. Obama would look like a fool out there gettin’ all mad at people and callin’ people names, just like the McCain campaign looks foolish right now doing the very same thing. Just because someone takes a swing at you doesn’t mean you have to swing back. How you react determines whether a punch was landed or not. I’ve seen more than my fair share of people beat their own ass while trying to beat someone else’s. It’s a beautiful thing.
This is exactly what John McCain is doing to the brand he has so steadfastly sought to build over his time in Congress. In less than a week he’s taken his image turned it upside down and started emptying the contents on the ground so his campaign people can stomp all over it. He’s taken his public image from that of a reformer to a conformer. He’s done a complete 180.
Earlier today, I linked to several people who’s opinion of McCain has shifted over the past week. I’d like to add one more. Andrew Sullivan, an Obama supporter who has held McCain in high regard over the years, said today,
McCain has demonstrated in the last two months that he does not have the character to be president of the United States.
That’s good enough for me.
When the guy who helped torpedo universal healthcare in the 90’s, and argued against affirmative action, both conservative hot button issues, leaves you, you’re on the way to being all alone.
It’s disappointing really. I wanted Obama to be able to dismantle many of the right-wing talking points that have been the focus of so many campaigns in my life. John McCain, and his diversional line of attack won’t give him that chance. But Obama will have the chance to strike down some of the conventional wisdom that has become so pervasive in our political culture by beating McCain with one of the cleanest campaigns in my lifetime. That’s change I can believe in.
Since the end of the Republican National Convention, national poll after poll has shown John McCain with a growing lead. These numbers have left many, particularly those on the liberal blogs, in a state of shock. The worry expressed by many in the liberal blogoshpere has been met by cool confidence from the Obama campaign. Perhaps they have something to be confident about.
Since the beginning of September, polling outfits have shifted the weighting of their polls to reflect more Republicans than previous polls. In a year that saw record Democratic turnout throughout the Primary season, and huge gains in Democratic identification and Democratic voter registration, polling outfits have decided, suddenly, to increase the number of self identified Repulicans in their samples by up to 6%. Further, in a poll taken by Gallup, not only did they increase the number of Republicans sampled, but they decreased the number of Democrats.
Now, this tells us something about polling. As the old saying goes, “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics”. Political polls are a statistical sample of the electorate based on a special kind of voodoo. Sometimes they poll “registered voters” other, the more fluid “likely voter”. The difference in a poll of “Registered” and “Likely” may not be much, probably within the margin of error, but adding an arbitrary number of one flavor of party identification or another will obviously net a more favorable result for the party that benefited from the gain.
Look, I’m not a big poll watcher. I pay attention to them, because they’re there. If they weren’t, I probably wouldn’t miss them. Hell, the daily tracking polls are just about useless. We’re not watching the frickin’ stock market here. On the flip side, from a news standpoint, polls seem to be the only indicator that gets any play, and that’s where it gets dicey.
If news organizations are going to focus on polls then they need to inform the public about the dirty secrets they hold. If we’re going to elect a President on something other than issues, like “story” or “popularity”, then at least tell the real story behind the sudden shifts in polling. I know facts turn people off, but they’re necessary, no matter what the McCain campaign says.
Further, nothing makes me angrier than something that brings the concern trolls or the “I told ya so’s” out from under the bridge. Yeah, I know we need them to get out and vote as much as anyone else, so I won’t go off and call them a dirty name, but these folks are unstable. You’re messing with their mental health here. The last thing we need is a bunch of depressed manic-depressives out there freaking out about something that they have made a conscious decision to not understand.
Finally, there’s a smell in the air of shenanigans. All of the polls mentioned in the article are either paid for by, or in cooperation with a news media outlet. Now I know boring politics can’t be driving eyeballs to their newscasts, but nothing excites Americans like watching an underdog rise up, or some smarty-pants pol fall from grace. What’s going on here smells a lot like national media outlets ginning up a horse race to drive ratings. I know, it’s out there, but remember, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
The past couple of days have been a flood of analogies, metaphors and other devices that neither fully express my frustration, not illustrate the situation with the Presidential race as I see it.
The Republicans spent the last week pulling every old tired rabbit out of their hat; liberal media, tax and spend, family values, you name it. From my perspective it was a truly pathetic display of desperation.
During that time, the Obama camp opened, and closed, and opened it’s war room, which got absolutely NO PLAY in the national media. I don’t want to fall into that category of the Chicken Little, but the response has been flaccid to say the least.
This is a “fool me twice” election in my mind, except it’s the third time. In the past 8 years we’ve fallen victim to jingoism, deception, criminal partisanship, and a litany of other abuses of power that I just don’t have the time or the inclination to get into.
Both candidates have taken on the mantle of change, McCain more recently than Obama.
Obama has chosen to refuse money from lobbyists, has held back supportive 527’s, much to the disappointment of many on the left, and generally run a transparent campaign…more than would normally be expected anyway. Honestly, it’s been a pretty clean campaign on his side of the fence, and I don’t just say that because I support him, I don’t think you can find a successful national candidate in the modern age that has as little financial support from K street as Barack Obama. Please try and prove me wrong.
On the other hand, McCain is taking money from anyone who will write him a check and some who didn’t. 527’s are a big part of his campaign, even though they can’t officially coordinate. Seriously? McCain’s brand of change is like wiping the poop out of the diaper then re-applying it to the baby…Good as new!
It’s time to start a fight.
The harsh reality is that we don’t live in a fact-based world. We live in a world where empty rhetoric and prejudicial buzzwords drive the emotions of the electorate at large and color their decision making process. After 1992, with Clinton’s brilliant question, “Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?” political rhetoric has shifted from some semblance of reality to a fantasyland of bull. Right now, the McCain campaign is engaged in smokescreening the “average” guys and gals of this nation with a story that has been both oft told and successful. Truly, it is the clarion call of our time, “Government wants to take your money, liberty, hot button issues of the time, etc.”
It’s garbage. It’s been crap, it will always be crap, and the Obama campaign should call it what it is, crap.
If Obama really wants to strike a chord he’s got to get out of the fact-based world and to the world of emotion, not a World of Magic. Americans don’t want aloof leaders we want passionate leaders. If they’re bozos, so be it. If they’re not, it’s a bonus. Show some passion Obama, like not that crazy passion, but the kind that makes us remember just how boring McCain is. Or vote for this kitten.
One more thing, don’t remind us that we’re stupid. We’re dumb as a pallet of bricks on the bottom of the ocean with a stack of 1040 forms on top. They don’t think we’re stupid, they know we are.
How about calling them stupid? That works for me. That’s a change that we can all believe in.
One theme that has reared its ugly head since the beginning of the Presidential cycle is that of questioning the patriotism of particular candidates. More often than not, the subject of this theme has been Democratic Presidential nominee, Barack Obama.
The most recent example of this was brought forward by Senator Jim Inhofe (R – OK). While it should not be surprising that Inhofe, a Global Warming denier and serial legislation blocker, would attack a Democrat in such a brazenly partisan way, it illustrates one of the hurdles that Obama faces in the last 57 days of the campaign.
One thing that both McCain and Obama have stressed for weeks now is that neither questions the other’s love of America. There has been, from the principals in both campaigns, a certain level of reverence reserved for each other in terms of the other’s love of country. Yet, it seems that Republican surrogates for McCain have, and will continue to try to call into question, Obama’s devotion to a nation that has given him the opportunities, probably unavailable anywhere else in the world.
This line of attack illustrates a disconnect, that no one in the media seems willing to acknowledge; How can one spend two years of their life running for the top job in the nation without loving their country? Would someone dedicate themselves and their future to a campaign to lead the United States without a certain level of patriotism?
This is the most ridiculous line of attack out there, and one that the media could and should debunk easily with this simple line of logic…one that seems fleeting in an environment that has the media on it’s heels, defending itself from attacks of bias from the right, despite it’s continual exultation of McCain as the consummate patriot.
Questioning patriotism, like calls of media bias, are distractions from the real issues of the campaign. As voters, it’s time to reject these distractions and focus on where the candidates intend to take us if they are elected. Without that focus, electing a President who is accountable to us, the electorate, is virtually impossible.
Ok, this is starting to irritate me. All the speculation, the wall to wall TV coverage, the waiting. I understand trying to dominate news cycles, but this is bordering on stupid.
Technically, it’s not Obama’s fault. He’s just using the media’s flaws to his advantage. This is really a good thing. One has to wonder how long they will allow this to go on.
I disagree with the conventional wisdom. I don’t think Veeps necessarily bring much to the table. You can’t guarantee that their state will come, once they’re in office they’re forgotten, except for Darth Cheney. All in all I’m just not loving it.
As for the people supposedly on the short list, I’m not too thrilled.
Biden – I like Biden ok, but he’s a media whore. He got no traction in the Presidential race, and I don’t know how he helps Obama in anything other than some Foreign Policy stuff. Even still, I’m not sure that he really helps anyone at all. In short, Joe Biden is all about Joe Biden and that bothers me.
Bayh – Bayh is my least favorite of the current media frontrunners. Really, I don’t know where to start except that I don’t like him at all.
Kaine – The current Governor of Virginia is anti-choice. Way to win over Democratic women! For Coal, there go the environmentalists…ugh, please say it ain’t so.
Kathleen Sebelius – She’s been mentioned less and less over the past few weeks. I think her lackluster performance in the SOTU response is partially to blame. Too vanilla in my view.
Others who haven’t been mentioned in a while…
Bill Richardson – I like him, but he’s a loose cannon. No one knows what will come out of his mouth. He’s good on the Foreign Policy though, and as a former Governor from a western state it could be a real possibility.
Tom Daschle – Ummm, no. Really, just no
Chris Dodd – If it’s Dodd, I’m cool with that. No one’s been talking about him, and I don’t think it’s likely, but weirder things have happened.
Hillary Clinton – I just about don’t see how this could happen, but it would shut up the “protesters” at the convention. They weren’t going to vote D anyway. They’re just mad that their Right Wing Attack Machine had to retool after spending all that time coming up with material. Hillary would be alright, so long as she and Bill stay on message.
Now that I’ve helped make the situation worse, I think it’s time for some breakfast.