"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”

Pericles



Saturday, September 6, 2008

Something to Talk About

The NY Times graphically shows the partisan differences between the convention speakers:



What stands out from this chart is:

Joe Lieberman said NOTHING.

Bill Clinton strayed from the foreign policy message the Obama camp had wanted -- but was rendered a non-issue considering his full-throated endorsement of the Democratic nominee.

Sarah Palin attacked the Dems less often (or perhaps less overtly) than my initial, real-time impression. Does this means her vindictiveness was subtle and snarky? If so, this is a trecherous path for a new candidate (at the risk of being called a sexist, it's especially perilous for a female) to tread.

Moreover, the Republicans simply echoed the call for change. Since anyone with half a brain has known since the 2006 midterms this would be a change election, it seems they're playing a desperate game of catch-up.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Clock is Ticking...

In the wake of the Republican Rapture in St. Paul it might be easy to overlook the potentially fatal weakness still haunting the McCain campaign.

McCain's desperate need to solidify his base going into St. Paul (resulting in the electrifying "roll of the dice" pick of pistol-packing Palin) means he lost his biggest opportunity to address the concerns of moderate voters.

Obama has been speaking to the middle/independent voters for MONTHS - even while the campaign was still battling Hillary in full primary mode. And what was McCain doing on Labor Day? Shoring up his far right base. Nothing that he or his surrogates said in Minnesota was aimed at attracting the middle or addressing the top concerns of the American electorate. It was nothing more than red meat for the Red Staters.

For a candidate who represents a shrinking party, playing to the base is simply not enough to win an election. It's clear McCain remains months behind with only two months ago.

Politics 101 says playing to your base this late in the game is a sure way to lose an election. Of course, as with almost everything else that has happened in this crazy campaign, this may rule may not apply.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Will Working Women Embrace Sarah?

Typically, I choose to watch events like Sarah Palin's convention speech on C-Span, in virtual isolation without the filter of the media's chatter. Last night I was only able to catch partial snippets of Palin's speech live and out in public. This provided the opportunity to gauge the reaction of average citizens.

As the Palin selection has been viewed as a play for women voters, the reactions of the women during the speech were quite interesting, if only anectdotal. Most were saying such "un-PC" things like, "How can she do that to her 17-year-old daughter? Putting her on a national stage like that?" Or, "How can she talk about a special needs child needing more attention and then go out on the road campaigning for the next two months?" The consensus emerged, "No mother I know would make these choices."

This morning, Mika Brzezinski over at MSNBC's Morning Joe is gushing over how Palin spoke to her as a professional woman. She berated Lawrence O'Donnell for saying, "There are lots of middle class families wondering, 'who's taking care of all those kids?'" She was completely offended and described the question as unfair and sexist.

This may indeed be true. However, I think there are LOTS of Americans - male and female - looking at this family and trying to imagine if they would have made the same decisions. Polling this accurately is probably impossible because the questions regarding family are personal and complex.

Despite decades of striving forward, women still bear the brunt of our society's expectations when it comes to parenting. This is why some professional women are going to be offended by questions they believe (perhaps rightly) shouldn't be asked of a female candidate. At the same time, other working women are likely to ask the questions I heard last night.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Game Has Changed

I am coming to the conclusion that the Palin pick was, indeed a game changer. A few things worth watching over the next couple of weeks:

1) The Palin image is still under construction - and the jury may be out for quite some time regarding how she will be ultimately perceived. Despite today's media hyper-speculation I don't think tonight's speech is actually a "make or break" situation. Think about how many moments over the past 18 months that the chattering class made a similar prediction about Obama's situation. Her sixty-day introduction to the American people is going to be a minefield for the McCain campaign. This morning some media are reporting Palin may not be out on the campaign until after Sept 11 - when her son ships off to Iraq. Will she be seen as a reformer? Or a hypocritical opportunist?

2) Will McCain's camp be successful in deflecting criticism of Palin by using the "sexism" card? Campaign surrogate Carly Fiorina was on MSNBC this afternoon using a diabolical argument that went along the lines,

"The Democratic Party stood by while Hillary Clinton was subjected to incredible sexism in the media. The Republican Party is not going to stand by. And I don't believe that millions of American women are going to stand by. Whether they agree with Sarah Palin or not, I think women are highly sensitized now to sexism. And when someone of accomplishment is described more as a show horse than a work horse women recognize that for what it is. It's sexism."


Somehow, the Republicans think they're going to claim the mantle of post-partisan feminists. It's a classic Rovian twist - take one of your opponent's strengths and turn it into a potential point of weakness. In this case, they've been lured by the Angry Hillary Voter, believing they can continue dividing the electorate - and convincing some disaffected group to vote against their own self-interest. It's coupled with their tried and true attacks on the media as biased against conservatives.

3) How does the 'love affair' between McCain and the media end? Typically, relationships built on illusions and deception come crashing to bitter ends, with recriminations all around. The media had been awakening to the real McCain (if he ever was a 'maverick,' he certainly hadn't been acting like one during the primaries) over the summer. I don't think the total surprise of the Palin pick is going to wear well within the tradmed, his core constituency.

Remember those old "I Can't Believe It's Butter!" commercials where the woman cloaked in flowing white bellowed, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!!!" Well, the media is another -(un)natural force and I don't think they like being played for fools or targeted as scapegoats. The media was clearly frustrated by Obama's 3AM text message to supporters announcing the Biden pick (as it took them out of the dialogue). That frustration may have been overwhelmed by the absolute surprise of McCain picking Palin. Already disoriented by their rapidly evolving and now less familiar role in modern politics, these latest developments may have awakened a docile press corps. Both campaigns could be subjected to heightened scrutiny as a result.

4) Where is the storyline about the disunity in the Republican Party? After the breathless media coverage of the barely existent "Hillary-Bill-Barack" schism leading up to Denver, the silence about the Ron Paul shadow convention going on in Minneapolis, the bruised Romney ego after being shunted aside as a VP, and the reopened rift between Dubya and McCain is remarkable.

The fact that the Palin pick plays well within the convention hall (she gets louder applause than McCain does almost universally) means there are far more differences within the Republican party than the media is covering. In fact, her selection by McCain is an admission of his own unpopularity with the base. But, the question lingers, "Are the establishment republicans (fiscal conservatives and national security hawks) happy about this pick?" They're being drowned out on the convention floor (and the spinners are remaining faithful to the RNC talking points) but are these rank-and-file voters energized or disheartened by Palin as the number 2?

5) The Palin pick has electrified the base on social issues and has threatened to subvert BOTH campaigns' main messaging objectives. Obama and the Democrats want to talk issues - economy, Iraq, energy - while the McCain camp wanted to resurrect his moderate maverick image. Everything is being drowned by social issues. Within the St Paul cocoon this may seem smart, but whether this translates into a successful general election campaign is uncertain. The elevation of the divisive social issues may -incite- excite the conservative base but there is a huge risk (for Republicans) that a significant backlash from the middle could overwhelm them.

A week ago, in the wake of Obama's once in a lifetime speech, I thought 'the only thing the Dems are missing this year is a 1992 Pat Buchanan hate speech from the GOP convention.' At the time, it was pure fantasy. Now, after watching the conservative rapture in St. Paul, I wouldn't be surprised if someone unpacks the pitchforks tonight.

It's been said before but it's worth repeating: this is the election year of a lifetime.