Hmm… this is interesting:
The presumptive GOP nominee tells voters in an afternoon Pickersville,
Pennsylvania town hall that the state will pick the winner in November
Ã¢â‚¬â€ and he will be behind until right before the polls close.
McCain’s point seems to be simply that he’s the underdog, which is undoubtedly true. But, if the election is close, it’s quite possible that he’ll be literally right; indeed, he might seem to be behind even after some polls close… until the combined impact of the Bradley-Wilder Effect and the Exit-Poll Liberal Selection Bias Effect (see: the Seven-Hour Presidency of John Kerry) is revealed, when actual vote totals — as opposed to final opinion polls and leaked exit polls — reveal a narrow McCain victory.
I’m not predicting it. I’m just saying it’s a possibility.
Just a thought: it would be nice to see John McCain clarify his non-answer about Barack Obama’s patriotism in the same sort of straightforward, no-nonsense, not-open-to-interpretation way that Obama responded today to Wesley Clark’s comments questioning the value of McCain’s military service.
The John McCain of 2000 and 2004 would have done it. Will the John McCain of 2008?
P.S. Incidentally, Obama also criticized MoveOn.org — specifically its "General Betray Us" ad — in the same speech.
UPDATE: It seems Obama’s answer on the Clark front isn’t good enough for the McCain campaign, which appears to be implicitly adopting the position that a candidate can be faulted for anything his supporters say, even after the candidate clearly and explicitly disavows it. I trust the McCain folks won’t mind when this same standard is applied to them.
McCain’s only hope in this election is to make the case that he is the true candidate of change, reform, "straight talk," etc. In short, he needs the "McCain brand" to both survive the collapse of the "Republican brand" and to trump the shininess of the "Obama brand." It’s a tough task, but Obama has recently opened the door for McCain with his reversals on several issues, particularly campaign financing. (For that matter, the MoveOn.org thing is something of a flip-flop; Obama pointedly did not vote on the resolution to condemn the ad, back when it was primary season and a "Yes" vote might have hurt him with the base.) McCain is obviously trying to take advantage of the opportunity he’s been handed. But, in this still-undecided voter’s view, he’s doing so in precisely the wrong way.
McCain needs to kill Obama with kindness, honesty and straightforwardness, not heavy-handedly twist and contort his words in a blatant political game that ultimately holds Obama’s statements and actions to a standard that McCain himself cannot possibly meet. The latter course might be enough to fool some low-information voters, but those folks aren’t paying attention yet anyway, and in the mean time, opinion leaders in the media and blogosphere — who are crucial to the survival of the McCain brand — are going to see right through McCain. You can’t become perceived as the candidate of the "high road" by taking a short cut on the low road. It just won’t work.
I suggest that McCain read Mark Halperin’s advice from last week, particularly:
14. Recognize that gimmicks … are seen as just that Ã¢â‚¬â€ gimmicks. …
17. Avoid personalizing your disdain for Obama. …
22. Protect the McCain Brand at all costs Ã¢â‚¬â€œ it is the only thing that gives you a chance to win!!
Remember Tom Buffenbarger, the machinists’ union blowhard who unleashed a hilariously unhinged anti-Obama rant on Hillary Clinton’s behalf during her post-Wisconsin-primary rally back in February? I’ll refresh your memory:
[During his speech introducing Clinton,] Buffenbarger derisively dismissed Obama as a mere "wunderkind," a
"man in love with the microphone," and "a poet, not a fighter." He
repeatedly and pointedly called him "the junior senator from Illinois"
(as if Hillary isn’t the junior senator from New York?). He compared
Obama to "Janus, the two-faced Roman god of ancient times." And then he
really got going:
"The Barack Show is playing to rave reviews, sold out on
college campus after college campus, standing-room-only crowds to hear
his silver-tongued oration. Hope! Change! Yes, we can! Give me a
break! I’ve got news for all the latte-drinking, Prius-driving,
Birkenstock-wearing, trust-fund babies crowding in to hear him speak! This guy won’t last a round against the Republican attack machine!"
… Buffenbarger [also made the] blatantly anti-intellectual argument — repeated twice
– that Obama can’t "fight" for the working class because he was "the
editor of the Harvard Law Review." I guess Hillary’s stint as an editor
of the Yale Review of Law and Social Action establishes her credentials
as a real union stiff?
Buffenbarger blustered so buffoonishly that I proposed a new verb to describe his actions: "to buffenbarger," meaning "to engage in an inappropriately vitriolic attack on a member of one’s own political party." (TPM Cafe contributor David Schlitt had a similar idea.)
Well, it turns out ol’ Tom is still buffenbargering after all these months:
Now is not the right
time for the [International Association of Machinists] to endorse Senator Barack Obama… Our members feel
the economy squeezing their family finances for every last dime, every
single week … But those meat and potato issues have not found a place
in the message frame developed by Senator Obama’s campaign. To us, hope
and change are not antidotes to the economic pressures blue-collar
families face… In the Machinists Union, a predominately blue-collar
union, the impression continues to grow that Senator Barack Obama could
care less about folks like us.
McCain-Buffenbarger ‘08! ;)
Powder blue, of course, used to be a UCLA school color, back when I was at USC. But the Bruins switched in 2003 to a different shade of blue, so I guess I can forgive the Dems for their use of what I’ve always considered a rather distasteful shade of an otherwise fine color. Still… for future reference, I’d recommend either Notre Dame blue or Newington blue. :)
Anyway, here are some more photos from the Obama-Clinton rally in Unity.
Around midday today, the former Democratic rivals will make their first joint public appearance since she dropped out of the race — and the event will be held in Unity, a tiny town in western New Hampshire where Obama and Clinton each received exactly 107 votes* in the January 8 primary.
Here’s a quick primer on Unity, from Wikipedia:
is a town in Sullivan County, New Hampshire, United States. The
population was 1,530 at the 2000 census and an estimated 1,715 six
years later. The town includes the villages of East Unity, Quaker City,
and West Unity. … The racial makeup of the town
was 99.35% White, 0.07% African American, 0.13% Asian, and 0.46% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.72% of the population.
The percentages from the 2000 census indicate that Unity had literally one black person, two Asians, seven mixed-race individuals, and eleven Latinos. Oh, and 1,509 non-Hispanic whites. Heh.
Anyway, here’s an AP article about how Unity is gearing up for today’s big event. It opens with the obligatory quote from a local old lady: "I don’t remember having any presidential candidates here in my time," says 84-year-old Roberta Callum. And then there’s this, regarding the expected crowd of 2,500: "Locals say the last time there was a crowd that big was for a 1970s performance by folk singer Arlo Guthrie." Heh.
The Concord Monitor is unimpressed with the meta-pun that today’s event represents:
[N]o one would have mistaken these two policy wonks for the jokesters of the New Hampshire presidential primary.
Nonetheless, nearly six months after the local vote, Obama and Clinton return today, going to extreme lengths for a corny gag.
They’re coming to Unity, N.H. - get it? Unity? It’s a place where they
split the local Democratic vote, 107-107. It’s a place so far out in
the boondocks that voters and reporters will require shuttle buses from
Sunapee, for Pete’s sake.
Earlier today, I read this article by Bob Beckel making the strategic case for an Obama-Clinton ticket, and I found myself almost beginning to doubt the ferocity of my oft-stated belief that such a choice would be “wolf-face crazy.” Then I read the little biographical blurb at the bottom:
Bob Beckel managed Walter MondaleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 1984 presidential campaign.
LOL! And Obama should take this guy’s advice on political strategy, why exactly? ;)
Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Dan Balz argues that, so far, McCain vs. Obama is politics as usual:
Whatever substance they may contain has been buried in negative counterattacks from the opposing camp, designed to turn ideas into stereotypes and candidates into caricatures. In the hands of Obama’s advisers, McCain is nothing more than the third coming of President Bush. To McCain’s staff, Obama is merely a liberal, naive, arrogant extension of what Democrats have been offering for years.
Gone in the early stages of this campaign is any sense of the uniqueness of the two nominees. McCain is certainly no garden-variety Republican and the historic possibilities of Obama’s candidacy cannot be overstated. But those realities have been submerged beneath a tactical shouting match that feeds the cable culture of contemporary politics.
Don’t blame the media for this. The campaigns have deliberately adopted postures of hyper-aggressiveness to set the early tone. The testosterone levels appear extremely high. No charge however small or incidental can go unanswered. No proposal, no matter how innocuous or provocative, can be discussed calmly or intelligently.
That led a McCain surrogate to respond to Obama’s comments on the rights of terrorist detainees, a topic on which reasonable people can differ, as “delusional.” It led to an Obama surrogate to describe as “stupid” the positions McCain has taken on the Iraq war, though it is clearly arguable that the surge strategy has helped to reduce violence and U.S. casualties. …
Of all the candidates who sought the presidency this year, McCain and Obama seemed the least likely to fall so quickly into old habits. The question is whether the opening weeks are a true reflection of their characters and the kind of campaigns they intended to run or a temporary departure.
(Hat tip: Halperin.)
The L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll finds the following national breakdown in a four-way race: Obama 48%, McCain 33%, Nader 4%, Barr 3%, Undecided 10%. Even if we assume that most of those 10% will eventually vote for McCain, in accordance with the Bradley Effect, Obama’s still clearly winning.
What’s particularly intriguing is that, although Nader does slightly better than Barr, their combined effect hurts McCain far more than Obama. When only two candidates are mentioned, it’s Obama 49%, McCain 37%. Another 4% volunteer their intention to vote for "someone else," while 10% remain undecided. The poll write-up explains:
Eighty-seven percent of McCainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s voters would stay with him [in a four-way race featuring Nader and Barr], but 11% would vote for another candidate, with 2% undecided. Almost all of ObamaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s voters (95%) would still stay with him even when the race opened up to include more candidates.
More specifically, when the two-way race becomes a four-way race, 5% of McCain voters switch to Barr, and 6% switch to Nader, while 2% say they "don’t know" how they’d vote. By contrast, just 2% of Obama supporters switch to Nader, 0% switch to Barr, 2% "don’t know," and — just to prove that you can always find a tiny segment of poll respondents who’ll say things that don’t make any sense whatsoever — 1% switch to McCain! (Remember, he’s an option in both scenarios; why anyone would vote for Obama in a two-way race, but McCain in a four-way race, is beyond me.)
Other interesting findings:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ "More than 80% of Obama voters said they were enthusiastic about their candidate, including 47% who are very enthusiastic. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s another matter for McCain. Just under half (45%) of McCain voters said they were enthusiastic about voting for him, but 51% were not enthused about the prospect."
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ "While almost a fifth of moderate Republicans would support Obama, just 7% of moderate Democrats would support the Republican candidate. Overall, almost four out of five liberals support Obama, just 58% of conservatives support McCain."
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ "[M]en are somewhat divided — 40% for Obama to 37% for McCain — but women give the Democratic candidate a 25 point lead (54% to 29%)."
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Among whites, it’s McCain 39%, Obama 39%, Nader 5%, Barr 4%, someone else 2%, undecided 11%. (If Bradley/Wilder holds, McCain will get the bulk of those undecideds in the end.) Among blacks, Obama gets "nine out of 10" or thereabouts, while McCain gets just 2%, and 2% are undecided. Obama wins 61-23 among "other ethnic groups."
State-by-state polls, it should be noted, have been trending in the same direction. Five Thirty Eight, which was projecting an extremely close race as recently as a few weeks ago, now has Obama winning 344 to 194 in the Electoral College, with a map that roughly resembles Clinton’s win over Dole in 1996.
Caveat: It’s still very early, and polls at this point can be extremely misleading, arguably to the point of meaninglessness. It’s clear that Obama is doing very well right now; it’s not at all clear what, if anything, that means for November.
P.S. It should also be noted that, although some pre-election polls in 2000 showed him in the high single digits, Nader ultimately got just 2.73% that year, and in 2004 he managed a paltry 0.38%. It seems highly unlikely, then, that in a high-stakes election offering such a stark issue-based contrast as Obama vs. McCain, he’ll ultimately get anywhere near 4% of the vote. In fact, given that Obama is practically a liberal’s dream candidate (at least as plausible Democratic nominees go), I find it hard to believe that Nader will do better than the 0.38% he got in ‘04, when he was running against the far less dreamy John Kerry. (On the other hand, I suppose Nader’s numbers could be boosted by the "racist liberal" vote — folks who won’t vote for McCain because he’s a Republican, but won’t vote for Obama because he’s black.)
The only way I can see Nader breaking 1% is if he truly does pick up a whole bunch of erstwhile McCain voters — and that itself seems highly unlikely, given how anathema his views are to anyone who is remotely conservative or libertarian-ish. My guess is that those 6% of McCain voters who currently gravitate to Nader in a four-way race are simply disaffected with their candidate, and are casting a "protest vote" for the third-party candidate whose name they recognize, namely Nader. But once they start paying more attention, I’d imagine that most of ‘em will realize Nader is really not their kind of guy. Nader is a liberal candidate; it’s hard to believe he can build a sizable support base that’s based fundamentally on anything other than liberal voters.
In the end, most of the disaffected conservatives/Republicans will either stay home, vote for Barr, or hold their noses and vote for McCain. The "conservatives for Nader" movement is about as plausible as the "elderly Jews for Buchanan" movement in Palm Beach County eight years ago. ;)
TNR’s James Kirchick asks an intriguing question: "Will the Candidates Recognize Morgan Tsvangirai as President of Zimbabwe?"
Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the
Movement for Democratic Change, is the legitimately elected president
of Zimbabwe. Or at least he should be. He won that country’s
presidential election (and his party won its parliamentary election) on
March 29th, a victory that has been denied to him and his colleagues
over the past three months as Robert Mugabe has murdered nearly 100
opposition supporters, tortured many more, and driven thousands from
their homes. A week after the election, the Zimbabwean junta announced
that Tsvangirai did not win an outright majority, thus forcing a
runoff scheduled for this Friday. On Sunday, however, Tsvangirai announced
that he was dropping out of the election, stating that "we cannot stand
there and watch people being killed for the sake of power."So here’s a question for
Senators Obama and McCain. Back in April, Assistant Secretary of State
for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer declared
Tsvangirai the winner of the March 29th election, and certified that he
won over 50% of the vote. Recognition of him as the duly elected
president of Zimbabwe — with all of the diplomatic measures that would
imply, specifically spelled out today in a New York Sun editorial — should have been forthcoming, yet the State Department has been reluctant to go that far. With Tsvangirai hiding in
the Dutch Embassy for fear of his life, will either of you call upon
the United States to recognize him as the elected president of
Sounds good to me. But wouldn’t that constitute "regime change"?
"John McCain and the Republicans will lose if this campaign is about issues. They only mismanaged the economy and mismanaged the hurricane and mismanaged the budget and mismanaged the war and mismanaged the hunt for Osama bin Laden and mismanaged the world." –John Brummett, Arkansas News Bureau. (Hat tip: Ben Smith.)
P.S. Meanwhile, on an unrelated note, the Obama campaign takes some MSM heat for its less than entirely progressive attitude toward the American Muslim community. Money quote from Congressman Keith Ellison (he’s the guy who was actually photographed being sworn in with his hand on the Koran), regarding Obama’s aggressive denials of those pesky "smears" alleging that he’s a Muslim: "A lot of us are waiting for him to say that there’s nothing wrong with being a Muslim, by the way." More here and here.
Joe Biden: hell yeah, I’d be Obama’s veep!
As I’ve said before, I think Biden is a great choice in theory — an experienced hand, sensible on foreign affairs, forceful on the war on terror, etc. In practice, he’s a bit trickier: he’s as slippery and slimy a Washington insider as they come, which doesn’t exactly jive with Obama’s message of change, and he has a bad habit of putting his foot in his mouth. (See: “articulate and clean,” Indians at 7-Eleven, etc.)
Still, since I ultimately rank national security and foreign policy as my #1 voting priority, I’d be reassured by Obama picking Biden. I kind of doubt it will happen, though, especially now that he seems almost to be campaigning for it.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have statistical evidence of the Bob Barr effect! A new poll in the blood-red state of Georgia, where the Libertarian nominee is from, shows a dead heat: McCain 44%, Obama 43%, Barr 6%. Wow!
Now, a major grain of salt is called for here. It’s very early, and I seriously, seriously doubt these numbers will ultimately hold up. But this sort of polling data (see also: close races in Alaska, North Carolina) can’t make the McCain people happy. Indeed, I bet they’re getting some serious heartburn from the combination of: 1) the recent state polling numbers generally, which show a definite Obama bounce in red, blue and purple states alike, and 2) the noises Obama is making (backed with action) about competing in states like Texas and Indiana.
With regard to Georgia and point #2, the real issue is that, in light of Obama’s decision to change his mind and reject public financing — a tactical no-brainer, notwithstanding its dubiousness in principle — he can afford to put his (abundant) money where his mouth is, and at least force McCain to waste precious resources in these states.
P.S. His mom’s white! He’s from America! Heh.
After all the blood and blunders, people are right to be sceptical when good news is announced from Iraq. Yet it is now plain that over the past several months, while Americans have been distracted by their presidential primaries, many things in Iraq have at long last started to go right.
This improvement goes beyond the fall in killing that followed General David Petraeus’s Ã¢â‚¬Å“surgeÃ¢â‚¬Â. Iraq’s government has gained in stature and confidence. Thanks to soaring oil prices it is flush with money. It is standing up to Iraq’s assorted militias and asserting its independence from both America and Iran. The overlapping warsÃ¢â‚¬â€Sunni against American, Sunni against Shia and Shia against ShiaÃ¢â‚¬â€that harrowed Iraq after the invasion of 2003 have abated. The country no longer looks in imminent danger of flying apart or falling into everlasting anarchy. In September 2007 this newspaper supported the surge not because we had faith in Iraq but only in the desperate hope that the surge might stop what was already a bloodbath from becoming even worse (see article). The situation now is different: Iraq is still a mess, but something approaching a normal future for its people is beginning to look achievable.
The article proceeds to explain the improvements in greater detail, and then concludes:
In highlighting the improved conditions in Iraq we do not mean to justify The Economist’s support of the invasion of 2003 (see article). Too many lives have been shattered for that. History will still record that the invasion and occupation have been a debacle. Iraqis even now live under daily threat of violent death: hundreds are killed each month. They remain woefully short of the necessities of life, such as jobs, clean water and electricity. Iraq’s government is gaining confidence faster than competence. It is still fractious, and in many places corrupt.
Nor does it follow that a turn for the better necessarily validates John McCain’s insistence on America staying indefinitely. A safer Iraq might make Barack Obama’s plan to pull out most American troops within 16 months more feasible, though at the moment a precipitate withdrawal looks foolish. But to guard the fragile improvements, the key for America must be flexibility. Both candidates have to keep their options open. If America’s next president gets Iraq wrong because he has boxed himself in during the campaign, all the recent gains may be squandered and Iraq will slide swiftly back into misery and despair. That would be to fail twice over.
You know those "House Divided" license plates — they’re really popular here in the South — for families in which the spouses root for rival schools? Well, the governor and first lady of California have something similar going on, except it relates to politics rather than sports, and it’s on their house instead of their car:
(As for those license plates, I need a customized USC/Notre Dame version that says "A Man Divided." Heh. Okay, not really, but it’d look cool, anyway…)
Kimberly Kagan, president of the Institute for the Study of War, and Frederick Kagan, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, claim in the WSJ:
America is very close to succeeding in Iraq. The "near-strategic
defeat" of al Qaeda in Iraq described by CIA Director Michael Hayden
last month in the Washington Post has been followed by the victory of
the Iraqi government’s security forces over illegal Shiite militias,
including Iranian-backed Special Groups. The enemies of Iraq and
America now cling desperately to their last bastions, while the
political process builds momentum.
These tremendous gains remain fragile and could be lost to skillful
enemy action, or errors in Baghdad or Washington. But where the U.S.
was unequivocally losing in Iraq at the end of 2006, we are just as
unequivocally winning today.
(Hat tip: Youngblai.) I have no idea whether the Kagans are correct, but in general, the problem with claims like theirs is one of credibility: back in 2006, most folks on the Right did not contemporaneously admit that we were "unequivocally losing in Iraq," so it’s hard to know how much credence to lend to their claims now. (Honest query: I’d be curious if somebody can find an example of the Kagans bucking this trend back in ‘06, and forthrightly admitting then that we were losing. Maybe they did; I have no idea. But many conservatives — and administration officials — didn’t.)
Listening to a hawkish conservative who always claimed we were winning say, "we were losing then, but we’re winning now," is sort of like listening to a far-left liberal who opposed the war in Afghanistan say, "we should have stayed out of Iraq and focused on Afghanistan." Maybe they’re right, but they have no credibility saying it!
Actually, though, the former example is arguably worse than the latter one, because whereas a lefty who rallies ’round a war he opposed is making a self-contradicting statement of opinion, a hawk who rewrites the war’s history is making a self-contradicting statement of fact. And, as the saying goes, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but nobody’s entitled to their own facts.
That’s what makes this Iraq debate so frustrating for someone like me — someone who is by no means an expert on what’s happening in Iraq, but who wants to support the right course of action based on sound
reasoning and properly understood facts. Both sides are so committed to their ideological preconceptions that it’s seemingly impossible for them to agree on what the facts are. The Left will claim we’re losing, or are inevitably bound to lose, and must therefore get out, whether that’s factually true or not; and the Right will claim that we’re winning, and can succeed if only we keep at it for a little longer, and must therefore stay the course, whether that’s factually true or not.
For many on both sides, I think, it’s past the point of being dishonest: they’re so committed to their argument that they convince themselves to honestly believe their version of reality. One of the reasons I’m undecided between Obama and McCain is because I feel like I’m choosing between these two camps, both of which have ideological blinders on, which is not exactly an appealing choice — and meanwhile, I don’t have the requisite information to decide whose preconceptions are closer to the truth, largely because I don’t trust either side to present that information accurately! Nor do I trust the liberal media, or the conservative media, or the right-blogosphere, or the left-blogosphere. On this issue, it seems like everybody has an agenda.
What are the actual facts? Are we winning or losing? Is there a reasonable hope of genuine success in building a reasonably stable and at least somewhat democratic Iraq, or are we just wasting our time on a quixotic and unsustainable effort to do so, and suffering needless losses in the process? If we leave, will things get better or worse — and if worse, how much worse? The "facts on the ground" that would help answer these questions are absolutely essential pieces of information for any rational decision-maker, yet they get lost in the fog of war — and, perhaps more pertinently, of politics. Argh.
Back in the long-ago dark ages of late 2007, when it appeared that Hillary Clinton was the inevitable Democratic nominee, there was much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over the notion that the 2008 election — and a potential Clinton Administration — was going to turn into a re-hash of the 1990s.
Now, with Barack Obama the nominee, it appears we’re going to re-hash the 1970s instead:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Senator Obama says that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m running for BushÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s third term," McCain
said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Seems to me
heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s running for Jimmy CarterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s second.Ã¢â‚¬Â
TPM’s Greg Sargent says we can "expect more evocations of Carter. Lots more." Politico’s Jonathan Martin seems to agree, writing that Carter is one of the few "convenient and resonant Democratic bogeymen" available.
P.S. On an unrelated note, John McCain wants to veto beer!