Saturday, August 02, 2008

Race for the White House- 8/2/08

Under a hundred days to go now, and the Presidential campaign really seemed to ramp up this week, now that both candidates are campaigning again on U.S. soil.

There was much speculation about potential running-mates and rumored imminent announcements, with many signs having had pointed this week for the Democrats to Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, which seemed to be a curious choice to many. Kaine has been sort of breaking protocol by speaking out in a public way about being considered and seeming just giddy about the whole thing. That could turn out to be a mistake. There is also speculation that it all may be a ruse and Kaine is now out of contention while someone like Indiana Senator Evan Bayh or others could be the ones to watch. One thing remains very clear though, Hillary Clinton, the runner up to Barack Obama appears to not be given any consideration as a possibility at this point.

For Republicans, there continues to be specualtion whether John McCain will announce soon (which would likely mean before the Olympics kick off this weekend) or if he can or should wait until after Obama makes his pick. Mitt Romney still receives a lot of speculation, but most of the indications this week seemed to center on Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.

Last week at this time, polls showed that while Obama's overseas trip had produced a spike of a few points, it had started to subside by the weekend. Everyone was keeping their eyes on polls this week and in both the Gallup and Rasmussen daily tracking numbers, McCain continued to gain ground and now in fact, appears to be in an absolute tie nationally with Obama, despite enormous discrepencies in campaign money spent and media attention. Some state polls in key states also show some movement in McCain's direction. All of this indicates that Obama's much heralded trip has to now be considered somewhat of a net negative as far as his campaign is concerned. He clearly should have been able to build up a lead and sustain it based on the images and the coverage, while now in fact, he is either no better off than he was before he went or maybe even a little worse.

The other developments all involved the two men and their campaigns going after each other in an extremely strong matter. To whomever had said a year ago or since that a McCain vs. Obama race could be one of the most "civil" in history should think again. This could be one of the nastiest.

Much of the attention involved some almost guerrilla-like tactics of the McCain campaign which has drawn the scorn of Democrats and the mainstream media but has many conservatives who may have perhaps been lukewarm about the presumptive Republican nominee to this point, cheering him for one of the first times. The McCain campaign has run ads criticizing Obama's celebrity over substance perception and comparing it to figures such as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, as well as an ad poking fun at Obama's image to some as a "messianic figure." Obama's own words were used against him in that ad and both ads featured images and sounds from Obama's campaign appearance in Berlin, Germany. The Obama campaign, other Democrats, and many in the media have denounced these ads as being desperate, beneath the dignity of John McCain, immature, cynical, etc. etc. They were not ads that were meant to be run in heavy rotation, but just the fact that the media has talked about them so much has more than accomplished the goal of free media attention, and based on the poll numbers this week, they may have worked. If they were as misguided politically as the Obama campaign has publicly claimed, one would think they would not be complaining so much about them. Already in fact, many liberals are concerned that Obama is not fighting back hard enough and has allowed McCain to put him so much on the defensive.

There was also a rap song put out by Obama supporter Ludacris, whom the candidate has touted as a friend before, which contained lyrics attacking McCain and Hillary Clinton, among others. The Obama campaign was quick to denounce the song and Democrats may want to lock Ludacris in a room for the next few months, as such a song, which among other things mentions that Obama will "paint the White House black" may find its way into independent television expenditures.

Obama may have made a very serious gaffe this week when on several occasions, while campaigning in Missouri, he claimed that Republicans, including McCain, were campaigning against Obama by trying to scare people about his "funny name" and the fact that he does not "look like the other Presidents on the dollar bill or the five dollar bill." The McCain campaign responded forcefully saying that Obama had "played the race card and dealt it from the bottom of the deck." This seemed to throw Obama staffers off guard a bit, as they claimed that the candidate was not speaking on race. (Just what the heck was he referring to then by the not looking like other Presidents bit?) By this weekend, Obama has not publicly stated that he does not believe that McCain has used race in the campaign but he still had several other complaints about his opponent.

The McCain campaign likely feels that they got the best out of this exchange and will be content to let the issue drop for the time being, but the whole concept of "Obama or his supporters playing the race card" may be one that we have not heard the last of in this campaign.

In many ways, I think this could be one of the weeks where after the election is over, people may look back on and see as somewhat of a turning point. Personally, I think that McCain, for all his faults and disadvantages as a candidate, has shown that he is playing the game to win, even if many of his long-time media buddies hate him now.

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