Posts Tagged ‘John McCain’

Where is John McCain?

October 14, 2008

“Let me give you the state of the race today. We have 22 days to go. We’re 6 points down. The national media has written us off… My friends, we’ve got them just where we want them.”

John McCain, Virginia Beach, 13 October 2008

Time for a little reality check, Senator. After a week of desperate-looking mud slinging that made even your own people gag, your opponent is further ahead than at any point in the campaign (at 50% to 42.6% in the RealClearPolitics poll average and by 304 to 158 electoral votes on the RealClearPolitics map; and peaking at 8.3% ahead on yesterday). Some of us have noticed that you’re now spending an awful lot of time in Virginia and North Carolina, states you wouldn’t even dream of losing in a tight race. (Update: And Indiana!)

More reality… You’ve just been compelled to downplay your attempts to whip up hate and hysteria, either because they clearly aren’t working or because you are uncomfortable with the ugly stain on the body politic that will be your lasting legacy. Or both.

Over the last month, your negative advertising has been at 100% and your no-nothing disgrace of a running mate has been plunging ever deeper into the sewer in pursuit of votes. But your opponent has pulled ahead on practically every measure of confidence and favourability. Your own net favourability has been falling over the entire month. You still lead on security, but that’s it.

You’ve managed to screw your own brand, without so much as smudging your opponent’s. You were supposed to be the straight-talking, independent-minded, tough, honourable one, remember? The war hero who could keep a cool head in times of crisis. When people are losing their jobs, homes and pension savings, they expect a little more than vague fear mongering about rather tenuous associations with a couple who never actually harmed anyone, a long time ago. The voters think that you’re more interested in personality attacks than policies. And they’re right.

(Hey, it’s not as though you and your running mate don’t have some very unsavoury associations yourselves.)

There are just three more weeks to go. Keep this up, Senator.

Update: I should make it clear that the presidential race will likely tighten over the next few weeks. Despite recent gains Obama hasn’t by any means dispelled all the doubts many people retain, and the RNC is still poisoning the well with nasty ads. It is clear that McCain is trying to launch a “comeback narrative” with this speech. Drudge and Faux News have, for some days now, been highlighting any poll that shows the gap narrowing, despite all the other polls showing no such thing. It will be interesting to see, when the polls do eventually show the gap narrowing, whether the non-Republican media run with this “story”.


The Mad Bomber

October 5, 2008

“How can you countenance someone who was engaged in bombings that could have or did kill innocent people?”

John McCain, Republican candidate for President, 2008.

McCain’s plane was shot down in 1967 over the city of Hanoi during his 23rd air mission over North Vietnam. It is not clear how many “innocent people” McCain’s bombs killed.

Obama wins debate

September 27, 2008

Well, yeah, I would say that. Both campaigns are claiming victory too. So why do I say Obama won?

It’s not as simple as who was on the offensive most, as some (generally Republican) commentators think. McCain was on the offensive more, and Obama missed some opportunities to push substantive points. Often, however, the lasting effect comes from the almost subliminal — subliminable if you’re the President — messages picked up by the watchers from the body language and general demeanour of the debaters.

There is evidence that voters perceived Obama as winning. In a CNN poll of more than 500 US voters (4.5% margin of error), a large majority (51% to 38%) of Americans say Obama was the victor (“Who did the best job in the debate?”). He was also considered better able to handle the economy (58% to 37%) and Iraq (52% to 47%).

Further, a CBS poll of undecided voters who watched the debate found 40% thought Obama won, 22% thought McCain and 38% thought it a tie. Of those  uncommitted voters polled, 46% said their opinion of Obama got better tonight, and 32% said their opinion of McCain got better. Like the CNN poll, 68% voters thought Obama would make the right decision about the economy, to 41% for McCain. But 48% thought Obama would make the right decisions about Iraq to 56% for McCain.

If this judgement holds up in the other polls (and given the margins I can’t see why it shouldn’t) then this is a major victory for Obama. Those who thought it a fairly even contest may be influenced by the poll findings and the overall judgement come out in Obama’s favour.

At another level it’s a clear victory for Obama. He is ahead in the polls and arguably only needed to put up a good showing and avoid gaffes. But his major hurdle in this election is the lingering doubts some democrats and independents have about his readiness. He looked presidential. Very presidential. Best of all, he held his own with an experienced adversary who was playing on his own turf — foreign affairs.

Readiness was the main line of Republican attack, and it failed. Miserably. McCain even managed to anagonise the unaligned “independent” voters in one focus group by being so patronising.

Remember, debates have only a very small immediate effect, unless there is a major “sound-bite” blunder. Neither candidate blundered. but McCain needed to win, gave it all he had, and Obama walked away looking presidential. Something he needs to do.



After the glitz, US voters still don’t get the full story

September 11, 2008

I’m off to Waiheke for a couple of days. Back Saturday morning. By then Winston Peters will most likely have been sacked, or resigned, but it won’t affect anything much in and of itself. So I’m looking forward to resting and enjoying some of the delights that Waiheke has to offer. (That doesn’t include Business Roundtable indoctrination conferences.)

In the meantime, ex-pat political consultant Neil Stockley shares his thoughts on the US presidential election in a guest post.

So, the Republicans and Democrats have finished their conventions. Which of the candidates, John McCain or Barack Obama, is telling the strongest story?

The answer is, neither.  That may explain why they are, in effect, tied in the latest opinion polls.

Since he first ran for the Republican nomination in 2000–-and got wasted by the Bush-Rove attack machine–-McCain’s narrative has been about a straight-talking, maverick Republican who took on his own party, over taxes, campaign finance reform, climate change, environmental regulation, stem cell research and immigration. The message is that he could rise above party and clean up Washington.

By the beginning of this year, however, McCain had moved back to the right, for instance on oil drilling, to immigration to tax cuts for the wealthy. Hardly surprising, that’s where the votes were in the Republican primaries. Over the summer, the new, conservative McCain took on some of Bush’s team and got nasty, trying to paint Obama as an out-of-touch, elitist, snob –- not “one of us”. This sort of toxic politics oozed through the Republican convention. McCain’s gang continued to play on what they see as voters’ resentment at liberal political elites who seem to look down on them. Paul Krugman has brilliantly dissected the sheer cynicism of this Nixonian ploy.

Then, in his (mediocre) convention speech on Thursday night, Americans mainly saw the old John McCain, speaking with quiet civility about fighting corruption, acknowledging that the Republicans “had lost the trust” of the American people and deploring “the constant partisan rancour that stops us from solving” problems. Senator McCain promised to reach out to “any willing patriot [and] make this government start working for you again” to use “the best ideas from both sides” and “ask Democrats and independents to serve with me.”

As E.J. Dionne jr. points out, the Republican nominee no longer embodies this narrative:

. . . because McCain has capitulated to the very Washington he condemned [on Thursday] and is employing the very tactics that were used ruthlessly and unfairly against him when he first ran for president eight years ago.

McCain is trying to run with these two different narratives by, in the words of the New York Times, “talking loftily of bipartisanship [while] allowing his team to savage his opponent.” The latter will be Sarah Palin’s one of main jobs, with her deliberate distortions of Barack Obama’s policies, eloquence and record. (McCain also questioned his opponents’ patriotism and Obama’s position on energy.) The logic is a bit strained but this gambit worked – just – for George W. Bush. How’s that for cynicism?

There’s more: McCain and co. will also try to bridge these two narratives by using an even bolder one: “reform”, which became the watchword of the Republican convention, appearing no fewer than 11 times in McCain’s own speech. They are trying to steal Obama’s “change” narrative.

Where the story runs aground though is that it’s not exactly clear what McCain’s “reform” means. Jonathan Weisman of the Washington Post says:

“In McCain’s attempt to fire up the Republican base without losing his “maverick” image, calls for reform have come to mean a pledge to “change” Washington — with little explanation of what that change would be or how that change would take effect. “

Is “reform” in Washington about programmes, systems, or governing style?  We haven’t been told.  And:

“It does not appear to have much to do with campaign finance reform, immigration reform, reforming the selection and confirmation of judges — all issues that McCain had something to do with and have helped define his career in the Senate.”

The reason is obvious: these issues would drive wedges between McCain and the conservative voters, lobbies and dollars that he needs. And what would he do for people struggling with rising bills and worried about losing their jobs?

That leaves McCain’s story only half built. Successful narratives aren’t just about personal stories and records, which McCain’s speech emphasised. They are also about issues and policies, framed these days as “solutions”. The two need to work together, with the candidate’s (or party’s) persona making the policy narrative more authentic.

Obama should have the edge. His promise of change is more credible. He can embody that narrative. [click here] He is new to Washington, unlike McCain, and the Democrats have been out of the White House for nearly eight years. But his economic narrative has still not struck a chord with voters.

The conservative pundit Michael Barone believes that both candidates have a problem:

“The Obama convention contended that the Democratic nominees understood people’s woes from personal experience and that their programs would provide economic security. But the substance of those programs — refundable tax credits (i.e., payments to those who pay no income tax) and a national health insurance option — are unfamiliar to voters, and their details can be hard to explain.

“The McCain convention’s thesis is that higher taxes on high earners in a time of slow growth will squelch the economy (this was Herbert Hoover’s policy, after all).

These assertions, too, are unfamiliar to voters. And, up to this point in the campaign, neither party has set out its programs clearly (or characterized the other side’s fairly).”

On energy, the other big issue of the campaign so far, this is playing out in the much the same way.

Neither Obama nor McCain will prevail until they have got their narratives together, the policy and the personal.

Bettin’ on Palin goin’

September 4, 2008

Fortune reports on the Intrade prediction market on “Sarah Palin to be withdrawn as Republican VP nominee/candidate before 2008 presidential election.”

It opened Tuesday morning US-time, and has traded mostly in the 10%–15% band:

Update: MacDoc alerts us to the new epidemic, Palin Derangement Syndrome or PDS, a variant of Bush Derangement Syndrome, here.

Palin into significance

September 2, 2008

Only a few days after his rushed decision to chose the most inexperienced veep candidate in modern history, it is becoming clear how little McCain knew about his pick.

Marc Ambinder lists the unpleasant revelations that are threatening to make Palin the sort of campaign issue McCain doesn’t need:

They’ve bragged that Palin opposed the famous “Bridge to Nowhere,” only to learn that Palin supported the project and even told residents of Ketchikan that they weren’t “nowhere” to her. After the national outcry, she decided to spend the funds allocated to the bridge for something else. Actually, maybe it’s more fair to say that coincident with the national outcry, she changed her mind. The story shows her political judgment, but it is not a reformer’s credential.

Likewise, though she cut taxes as mayor of Wassila, she raised the sales tax, making her hardly a tax cutter.

She denied pressuring the state’s chief of public safety to fire her sister-in-law’s husband even though there’s mounting evidence that the impetus did indeed come from her. … (I am told that the campaign was aware of the ethics complaint filed against her but accepts Palin’s account.)

McCain’s campaign seemed unaware that she supported a windfalls profits tax on oil companies and that she is more skeptical about human contributions to global warming than McCain is.

They did not know that she took trips as the mayor of Wasilla to beg for earmarks.

They did not know that she told a television interviewer this summer that she did not fully understand what it is that a vice president does.

While we’re about it we can probably add that McCain, who has just unveiled his “Country First” campaign slogan, probably had no idea that his would-be veep is a former member of the fringe Alaskan Independence Party, according to the AIP. The AIP stands for Alaska’s secession from the United States.

And did he know that when she was mayor of the metropolis of Wassila, Palin was almost recalled?

Update: Left blogs in the US are running sweepstakes on when Palin pulls out of the race.

Update: There’ll be plenty more before the GOP comes to its senses and pulls her from the ticket, but this is the best satirical piece on Palin I’ve read to date.

Rove denounces “political” choice of running mate

August 31, 2008

“I think he’s going to make an intensely political choice, not a governing choice,” Rove said. “He’s going to view this through the prism of a candidate, not through the prism of president; that is to say, he’s going to pick somebody that he thinks will on the margin help him in a state like Indiana or Missouri or Virginia. He’s not going to be thinking big and broad about the responsibilities of president.”

Rove’s right about that, and right to condemn the choice of a running mate based on political calculations, not the person’s readiness for the job. But wait, it gets better …


McCain — homes sweet homes

August 23, 2008

If you thought it off that a “silver-spoon fed Navy brat” married to a $100m+ heiress who wears $520 black leather Ferragamo shoes should call a scholarship kid from a poor broken home “elitist”, then here’s some good news.

Last Wednesday McCain was asked in an interview with Politico how many houses he and his wife own. He couldn’t remember:

“I think — I’ll have my staff get to you. It’s condominiums where — I’ll have them get to you.”

Now that’s what I call serious money, top drawer, solid gold elitist! McCain’s campaign is desperately trying to spin this by saying that the McCain’s have “really only four” houses, while Obama’s single house is a “frickin’ mansion.”

However, Progressive Accountability counts 10 homes, ranches, condos, and lofts, worth an estimated $13,823,269 all up.

“John and Cindy McCain own a plethora of houses spread throughout the United States, including: two beachfront condos in Coronado, California, condo in La Jolla, California, a two-unit condominium complex in Phoenix, Arizona, three ranch houses located outside of Sedona, Arizona, a high-rise condo in Arlington, Virginia, a rental loft, and, according to GQ, a loft they bought for their daughter, Meghan.”

Not bad for an anti-elitist.

Let’s compare McCain’s net worth with that of his “elitist” opponent. The non-partisan Sunlight Foundation did an analysis of their net worth in 2006 based on their personal financial disclosure.

No prizes for guessing which candidate is worth about $36 million and which one is worth $799,000. Yep, that old anti-elitist McCain’s net worth is over 45 times greater than Obama’s. Or, Obama’s is 2.2% that of McCain’s.

When it comes to elitism, there’s really no competition. (See also this earlier post.)

MacDoctor thinks that this post illustrates the trivial nature of American politics. In a way it does. It is both sad and bizzare that the most important election in the world should be decided on the basis of patently ridiculous smears as McCain’s. The problem is that they appear to work.

Neil Stockley: Clever frames, shame about the policy

August 22, 2008

A Neil Stockley guest post looks at McCain’s success in framing an issue on which he’s weak (the economy) in a favourable way. The problem is, it’s pure deceipt. For more on framing, policy and the US elections, see this recent post of Neil’s.

Politics isn’t just about getting the frames; it’s about moving them too. If you can’t win on the issues being talked about, change the subject, and fast.

Framing Science explains this week how John McCain’s campaign has successfully framed “the economy” as being about “energy”. They quote one pollster as saying:

“The Republicans’ biggest problem in this election is that they are viewed as lessable to fix the economy. When the economy is defined as job loss, mortgage foreclosures, high health care costs, that’s Democratic territory. Obama wants to play on that field.

“McCain wants to define it as being about energy, because his being in favor of drilling is on the right side of the [opinion poll] numbers.”

That’s an impressive bit of framing. But the policy is bad. Climate Progress and Tom Friedman (to name but two) have demolished the notion that allowing more offshore drilling will solve America’s energy problems.

Around the blogs

August 14, 2008

Bryce Edwards at Liberation posts on the Independent Financial Review’s pre-election survey of business opinion.

Apparently the business community is really down on Labour (surprise!) and doesn’t give it a show of winning (who cares, apart from Labour’s fundraisers, who must be finding it tough going). On the other hand, they’re not convinced that National will do their bidding, which is kind of reassuring.