So this weekend, the McCain camp called up all the reporters they're still speaking to to be like, "fuck it, we're going negative." The reporters were like, "going?" And McCain's people were all, "no, like super negative!" Then Sarah Palin showed up saying nonsense and the press backlash was immediate. You don't call up the press corps to announce that you're finally utterly trashing your Honorable Brand, for good, when they're in the middle of tearing you apart for abandoning your Honorable Brand to begin with, guys. Sheesh. But Steve Schmidt can't grasp that it's not 2004 and, more importantly, John McCain thinks he is still the honorable one, because he personally dislikes Barack Obama. Regardless, Obama's in a fine position right now! He's winning, his favorables are great, his Brand is still in tip-top shape, and everyone is crowing about how much smarter his campaign has been. So why's he going and ruining that with this Keating 5 business? Obama's people called the members of the press in their tank today to point them toward Keating Economics, an Obama campaign site about John McCain's role in the Charles Keating mess, because no one remembers that anymore. Their problem was not so much in doing this, it was in making it an official Obama-funded campaign stunt announced to the press, and not just quietly pushing Keating stories, Rove-style. Yes, the Keating 5 scandal is a legitimate talking point. Yes, McCain is certainly more tangibly and credibly "linked" to misdoings by Keating than Obama is linked to misdoings by a hippie mad bomber in 1968. But guys, you are just opening yourselves up now to the worst story in the world: "Both campaigns intensifying attacks! Film at 11! Obama sez McCain's corrupt, McCain says Obama's a terrorist, boo hoo how the standards of discourse have fallen!" (Hi there Politico!) Now indications are the newly emboldened press will not treat the factually accurate if slightly spun Keating story as equivalent to the sleazy insinuations of Palin. But it's still a dumb move when all the momentum is already in your favor. (Or, of course, maybe it's brilliant. We're sure as hell no experts.)
Vice Presidential debate moderator Gwen Ifill broke her ankle last night, TVNewser learned. She says she tripped, at home, by herself, down the stairs. Suspicious! Especially because CBS keeps slowly leaking more clips of Sarah Palin babbling nonsense while Katie just stares coldly (but warmly! it's weird) (see attached). Meanwhile, the AP says John McCain has a 1 in 4 chance of dying before the end of his second term (or, to put it another way, "McCain has a health expectancy of 8.4 years). They asked some actuaries. This went out on the wires to everyone, it will probably upset the GOP. Now you are informed about the newest in useless minutia.
Democratic strategist Peter Feld, who recently warned Gawker readers not to underestimate Sarah Palin's visceral appeal, checks in occasionally to rain on your parade. Today he warns against declaring the McCain capaign dead in the water.
So the bailout plan was cock-blocked by the very same House Republicans who John McCain had promised to bring on board in last week's trumped-up "campaign suspension." A cool trillion of investor dollars was wiped out in under half a day. Elsewhere, the now-mortified conservative base has been frantically bailing on Palin. Swing voters — though not some instinctively despondent Obama diehards — declared Obama the debate winner. And Barack Obama hit the magic 50 mark in the two leading tracking polls, Rasmussen and Gallup. So, time for doubters to stop whining about Obama's supposedly cold, passive strategy that's keeping him from "sealing the deal." Right? Maybe. It's certainly looking much better. Jay Cost at RealClearPolitics explains this nicely with charts and statistics, but basically, Obama's support has risen slightly through the two-week financial crisis, after holding steady for months, while McCain's numbers have been bouncing around like bedbugs since June and are now at low ebb. However, his support's gone mostly to undecided, not to Obama. With Barack at just around 50, there is still — barely — room for McCain to bounce back. But wait - wasn't Obama behind? And now he's up by 8? Yes — in some polls, though the RCP average has him up now by 5 points, 48%-43%. But to read these polls better than the press usually does, ignore the margin. The key is to watch the separate Obama and McCain numbers individually. First, Obama. Since locking up the nomination, his numbers have held to a narrow trading range — rarely below 45% or above 48%. He's occasionally flirted with 50%, but until this weekend, never in two trusted polls for several days running. McCain's trading range has generally been a little lower, but more importantly, twice as wide. His volatility is a result of his shaky base — Republicans who don't like him, whether because he's not conservative enough or they think he's too erratic, too old, or whatever. When he rallies them, he's guaranteed about 46%. At his peak, McCain scored 48% after picking Sarah Palin (which then briefly put him ahead of Obama, who was drawing 46% or 47%). But numerous times, he has dipped into the low 40s or even below — down to 36% in several polls last June. My own instinct is that the verdict on McCain's past week is mixed, and that after a debate performance some saw as winning, politically tuned-out swing voters don't yet see him in the same harsh light as, say, Letterman fans. If so, McCain can get himself back to 46% with little trouble and stay alive, as long as Obama is under 50% and there are still enough undecided voters to make up the gap. A solid debate performance, perhaps, or some new stunt like pretending to "rescue" the bailout with provisions that "protect the taxpayers" the House GOP can support (on Thursday night, ideally, to distract from his veeptard's debate performance) — would let McCain bring back his wavering supporters more easily than some Obama supporters realize. Some may reasonably think McCain has already permanently branded himself as a desperate, washed-up gambler holding his campaign together with flypaper and selfishly disrupting delicate negotiations at the exact moment when Americans are begging for a rational grown-up who'll take charge. If that's so, look for Obama's numbers to tip above 50 and stay there — which will mean that McCain has run out of road. Until that happens, I'd keep the irrational exuberance in check. For the time being, I would mentally spot McCain 46% in any poll. Assume that the remaining undecideds could break two to one in his favor (yes, racism's a factor), do the math, and see if that still leaves Obama ahead. Right now, it looks like that's the case.
We've already seen that Wasilla, Alaska, Sarah Palin's hometown, is a mix of wild animals and Jesus freaks. But did you know it has a Taco Bell and a Senor Taco! Diversity. Hollywood liberal columnist Steve Lopez of the LA Times went for a visit to Wasilla, and found one guy who heard Palin say she would "see Jesus" in her lifetime!
So the United States is entering financial turmoil, what with all of our banks collapsing and the world's largest insurance company needing a bailout from the State of New York and the stock market tumbling and thousands of fancy jobs on the line. Honestly, though, let's get to the heart of the matter: will this news secretly (or openly!) thrill political partisans? It seems, on its face, that news of Wall Street turmoil helps Senator Barack Obama. And why not? The initial careful ventures into political exploitation of this maybe-catastrophe are already underway. How will it play out? How To Attack Josh Marshall tosses out a readymade almost-true attack line: "The man most responsible for the financial services and banking deregulation that made today possible, fmr. Sen. Phil Gramm, is the man John McCain wants to put in charge of the whole economy." Ok. The "man most responsible" part is defensible, if exaggerated. Gramm deregulated the hell out of the banking sector as a senator. And he lobbied for lax oversight of predatory lending as vice chairman of UBS's i-banking arm. The "man McCain wants to put in charge of the whole economy" bit seems a little less true. We don't know who the hell McCain would let run things. McCain does love Gramm, and Gramm taught McCain everything he needs to know about the economy. McCain's limited grasp of economics basically consists of Gramm's strict anti-regulation philosophies with a bit of pandering to the middle class tossed in. But Gramm is McCain's former campaign co-chair. All signs point to a bigger role played by the less unpopular Carly Fiorina handling the economy in a McCain presidency, even if Gramm's ideas rule the day. Still. That's the kind of fact-checking that gets us nowhere! It's a fine line to use: McCain doesn't get the economy, and the guy he has around to explain it to him is personally responsible for this mess. Some variation on that line will probably be repeated by the Obama campaign over the next week. (Obama has already siezed on a mostly innocuous McCain remark—way to adapt, guys!) Watch Your Own Ties But here are some of the potential pitfalls for Obama. This bit of trivia has already made it to Politico:
Simplicity—which often involves leaving things unsaid—is a rare tactic in advertising today. We want every bell and whistle listed and explained for us completely and quickly so we can get back to playing Wii! Political ads are no exception. Here's Barack Obama's newest ad attacking McCain; it takes the trouble to spell out, on screen, the same things the announcer is saying, because Americans have lost our ability for inference along with our attention spans. It lacks three crucial things that the classic 1964 LBJ ad, titled "Merely Another Weapon" (after the jump) has: One clear message; a trust that viewers will understand that message themselves; and awesome atom bomb blasts: Click to view [LBJ ad via The Living Room Candidate]
That's two weeks of media coverage dominated completely by Sarah Palin and her doddering creepy old uncle John McCain. The Palin/McCain ticket is still enjoying a residual "bounce" in the polls from Ms. Palin's selection and the GOP's 1.5 night mini-convention. Obama's been on the defensive for a remark he made that somehow threw the McCain camp on the defensive in such a way as to make Obama look on the defensive. Barry Hussein Obama did acquit himself pretty well on Letterman last night, but the headlines continued to be dominated by the "pig" comment (at least in the New York Post, which FORGOT ABOUT 9/11). What does he do from here? Look, we're no expert. But we're something better than an expert: a blogger. So we know what to do! Keep On Keepin' On Fundraising concerns aside, the Obama camp has and is spending money on targeted advertising in states it will probably win and states it hopes to win. They're still building their ground game in the four or so states that will decide this election. They're still polling above 50% in enough states to win it, national polls be damned. GOTV drives in swing states will win this thing. Debate Prep! There's a large number of Americans who tune out or actively avoid political coverage, tuning in only for the big events—conventions and debates. There's no doubt in our mind that Obama can "win" a debate against McCain on strength of positions, grasp of issues, and temperament. Where he'll falter is in his delivery—he's thinky and halting, as we all know, and McCain is glib and confident. Obama's debate coaching is probably focusing on that right now, while McCain's is focused on cramming to make sure he doesn't fuck up Sunni and Shiite again without Joe Lieberman around to help him out. Advantage: Obama, slightly. Don't Worry About Biden and the Clintons Biden is the king of the Gaffes, but the national press has known him forever and ever. He's generally liked and also expected to put his foot in his mouth again. Unlike a screwup by the candidate, a screwup by Biden will be largely forgiven. As for the Clintons, even if Bill says something idiotic, well, Obama's hardly associated with him. In fact it's generally assumed that they hate each other. So Clinton behaving himself = good for the party, Clinton not behaving himself = drawing distinctions between Obama and The Angry Old Man (hey, what a useful frame). As for Hillary, she won't do anymore more than she has to unless specifically asked. They'll specifically ask her to if they actually seriously need her. Angst Is Good. According to the Wall Street Journal and Politico, Obama's bewildered by the Palin phenomena and his campaign is struggling to keep up. Democrats are freaking out! Frustrated at Obama's inability to get back on the attack! Some of this is concern-trolling from passive-aggressive old Clintonites, some of it is genuine worry, all of it has the potential to be helpful. Worry boosts fundraising. Worry energizes volunteers and staffers. It's good motivation. You don't want it to become defeatism, obviously, but that feeling of inevitability that suddenly began following Obama around as he slowly destroyed Hillary was not helpful against John McCain, even if that guy did seem like a loser. The Media War This largely pointless except as a diversion and game. This is Steve Schmidt and David Axelrod's war, and they're enjoying it as their candidates suffer. (You think either McCain or Obama like the inane umbrage-fest this has become?) So try to plant some messages about how Palin is lipstick on McCain's pig! Claim McCain is too old and addled to understand the economy! The GOP is painting Obama as a sexist baby-killer who wants to teach your 6-year-old how to use a dental dam, so you can feel free to go nuts too. Honestly, it's just something to occupy the news until September 26. Related: Hasn't Gail Collins been kinda great lately?
Democratic strategist Peter Feld, who recently warned Radar readers that the polls are indeed bad news, checks in occasionally to rain on your parade. Today he explains the visceral appeal of Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
I wouldn't have counted on Maureen Dowd to illustrate the cluelessness of the liberal media who are losing the election for Obama. But she did. The conceit of today's Dowd column — burdened, as so many of hers are, with an ill-fitting pop culture framework (My Fair Lady, this time) — is that Sarah Palin's interview later today with ABC's Charlie Gibson is a moment of high peril for the putatively unprepared VP candidate. Dowd mirthfully suggests a few questions for Gibson to ask Palin, such as: "Why was Sarah for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against the Bridge to Nowhere, and why was she for earmarks before she was against them? And doesn't all this make her just as big a flip-flopper as John Kerry?" It's a question a lot of the fight-the-last-war press seems to be asking. The savaging of Kerry four years ago still rankles Joe Conason, whose Observer column today about Palin is subtitled: "She was for ill-conceived pork projects before she was against them." And, like Dowd, Clarence Page still expects America to wake up and notice that McCain didn't vet Palin sufficiently. Like Dowd — and the Obama campaign — Page believes that when Americans learn that Palin once supported the bridge boondoggle she now boasts of stopping, her selection will "backfire" on McCain. And Politico counts yesterday — a day when six fresh polls showed McCain even or ahead of Obama — as an Obama victory, because his campaign had succeeded in getting the media to fact-check Palin's bridge-blocking claims. "Bridge to nowhere" is an apt name for this Obama strategy. What Obama ("You can't just make stuff up!") and his sputtering media supporters miss is that the "for-it-before-I-was-against-it" quote damaged Kerry, not because America hates a flip-flopper, but because it captured exactly what made him seem so ridiculous. It was a line Kerry had used on himself, something Palin would never do. Palin may be many things — unprepared, phony, right-wing, LensCrafter model, aerial wolf-hunter — but she's not John Kerry. Her appeal, as at least Tom Friedman seems to understand, is visceral, not logical. The swing voters who have to decide between McCain and Obama recognize themselves in her, something the Obama campaign considers unimportant. The indignant, sputtering media think that they can undo that appeal with careful fact-checking of Palin's record. Good luck — if someone doesn't wake up soon, it looks like you'll have the chance to fact-check Palin for the next four years.
We told you Joe Biden was going to say something inappropriate and crazy sooner or later, and he has proven us correct, spectacularly, very quickly. In his Democratic Convention address tonight, Biden almost referred to John McCain as "George W. Bush." before catching himself halfway. Not that the two men aren't politically similar, but there's not much point in taking potshots at the one who isn't running for anything. But here's what we didn't anticipate: Biden has put his foot into his mouth so many times that he's gotten really fast at recovery. In this case, Biden only needed a split second to apologize for his "Freudian slip," which is sufficiently clever that the gaffe almost looks pre-arranged. Now he gets the press frenzy that comes with a screwup plus the message control that comes with a carefully scripted statement! Crazy like a fox, this one. Also, clean. Click the icon for the video, which includes bonus footage of Barack Obama very nearly uttering the rock-star words, "HELLO DENVER!!"
So, sigh, it's New York Times official. In his increasingly promising race to become America's Next Top Presidential Also-Ran, Illinois senator Barack Obama has chosen foreign policy-hungry Delaware senator Joe Biden as his running mate. We entertained this idea and called it a bad one earlier this week, and I know close to nothing about politics compared to Pareene so I'll just leave this as news without comment. Other than to say that this is a bad, borderline esoteric choice that ought to leave Obama's less wonky supporters shrugging their shoulders and muttering something about Rielle Hunter and the frustrating and limited foresight of sex-afearin' American politics.