Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mississippi U.S. Senate Race- B

Race of the Day

Mississippi U.S. Senate- B

August 30, 2008
66 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2004 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Leans Republican

This is a Senate race that did not need to be. In 2006, longtime Republican fixture in Washington, and former Majority Leader, Trent Lott was overwhelmingly reelected to another six year term but less than two years into it, decided to resign, in order to become a big bucks lobbyist. Governor Haley Barbour chose Republican Congressman Roger Wicker to fill the Senate seat, and in the wake of that, Wicker's formerly safe House seat was lost in a special election to the Democrats, but I will not get into that, as I already talked much about this on this blog right after it happened.

So, Wicker is now an incumbent Senator, without having ever run statewide, and is now a candidate in this special Senate election to fill the final four years of Lott's term and is facing a competitive race against a former Governor, Democrat Ronnie Musgrove, who has had the initial advantage in name recognition from his one term in the state's top job, until being unseated by Barbour in 2003.

Why Mississippi has tended to heavily favor the GOP in Senate races in recent decades, Democrats believe they had the chance for an upset here. At least one poll this spring had Musgrove, perhaps due to being more widely known throughout the entire state, holding a modest lead. Since that time though, Wicker has worked to increase his profile in the state as its' new Senator and more recent polls now have him holding about a five or six point lead.

This race will not be the cakewalk that Republicans have typically had for the Senate in Missisippi since the 1990s and will definitely be a whole lot tigther than the Senate seat the Republican Thad Cochran is defending in the state this year, but the GOP nature of the Magnolia State on the federal level, the basic strength of Wicker as a candidate, and the fact that his Democrat opponent is a very credible one, but perhaps not the strongest the Democrats could have fielded, means that Wicker has the advantage of extending the time on his political promotion.

One interesting side note is that the two candidates here happen to physically resemble each other as much as any two political opponents I can ever think of running against each other.

Wicker campaign link:

2008 U.S. Senate races predicted: 7 D, 11 R
Predicted Senate balance of power thus far: 46 D, 37 R

Race for the White House- 8/30/08

66 Days Until Election Day

What a week in politics!

There is so much to say, but I do not have much time, so I am going to type very fast, and there will probably be a ton of mistakes, so whatever. Now, for a brief look at this week's Democrat National Convention, John McCain's shockingly bold selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate (hats off to Ted who has commented on this blog a few times advocating this, and like an idiot I have been laughing at him and others for thinking this would even remotely be a possibility in 2008), and a look ahead to what will hopefully be next week's Republican National Convention.

The Democrat convention in Denver ocurred and after some first night angst by liberals about muddled messages (and even some tracking polls showing the party losing a few points in the wake of the Biden announcement and the start of the convention), the rest of it appeared to be quite well and Democrats have gotten an expected bounce of a few points. However, many now believe that the McCain announcement, which totally took the Democrats off the headlines on Friday, might have blunted that bounce, and in a shocker, a snap Zogby poll tonight, suddenly shows McCain/Palin leading Obama/Biden by two points.

Night 1- stirring tribute to the ailing Senator Ted Kennedy (although the video seemed to show him having a lot to do with water) and a very successful speech by Michelle Obama, who played up her softer and domestic sides instead of appearing as an angry liberal activist or the highly successful career woman she is. But that was probably very good politics. At the end, Barack came on the screen to salute her and the cute kids, but he said he was in St. Louis, when he was really in Kansas City.

Night 2- Mark Warner of Virginia gave one dud of a keynote address, outside of prime time, because he was not negative enough. People remember Obama and Zell Miller in 2004. Nobody will remember a word of what Mark Warner said, even though he is likely to get elected to the Senate this year. Primetime belonged to Hillary Clinton, who certainly became one of the stars of the convention. Her speech was enormously well-received, although she was restrained at times in her specific praise of Obama. But she did what she needed to do to appear to unify the party, whatever her true feelings may currently be.

Night 3- Hillary made the motion to nominate Obama by acclimation and at last, the party appeared unified. Later, Bill Clinton gave what was probably the best overall speech of the convention and appeared unrestrained in his support for Obama, even though many of the things he said contradicted what he had said about Obama during the primary campaign. Later, Joe Biden formally accepted the VP nomination with a decent, but ultimately not very memorable speech. When he was done, Barack came on the stage and tried to steal some of Biden's spotlight.

Night 4- massive crowd gathered at Invesco Field for a night of music and Messiah worship as the Democrat nominee accepted that honor, historically becoming the first African-American to lead a major party ticket, in front of a set, designed by someone has designed them for celebrity Britney Spears, perhaps the "Barackapolis." Conservatives laughed at the audacity of Obama speaking in front of what looked like a Greek temple, and some Democrats fretted that this was a bad idea conceived before the Berlin event which backfired. But on television, the whole scene looked pretty damn impressive. Obama gave a good speech. No big surprise there. The guy knows how to talk off a teleprompter. Delegates and liberals were estatic. MSNBC was orgasmic. Obama was unabashedly liberal though in the speech and also was very keen on attacking John McCain and President Bush. It may be that some will have seen the man who has come across to others in the past as "lofty" and "above partisaniship" came across in a different style, perhaps as too strident and too angry. But it certainly was the kind of stagecraft and speech which should bring about a bounce. After it was over, music played that was stolen from the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign.

All throughout Thursday, the political world was also abuzz with speculation as to whether or not John McCain's Vice Presidential selection would leak during the speech and if it would come across as a cheap tactic if it did. Ultimately, McCain decided to let Obama have his night and even ran a classy ad congratulating him on his historic accomplishment.

As it was, the McCain campaign made the right decision to wait until Friday, as a shocker of a selection, and the fact that it had been kept a secret, completely took the political world by storm and made Obama's big speech sort of a thing of the past by the next day.

I do not know how else to describe my thoughts on the Palin selection other than to try to paraphrase what I was thinking on Friday morning and what I am thinking now:

Yesterday morning:

"Palin? What? No way. You have got to be kidding. Bad idea! I mean, I love her and all. She is sooo hot and has a tremendous future ahead of her. But in 2008? That is so risky. McCain does not need a game changer. The game has been moving in his direction for weeks now. The Obama bounce will go away soon enough. He needs someone safer. Yes, Romney is my first choice of course, but he has too many houses, so I have sort of seen the writing on the wall for that for a couple weeks now. Pawlenty would have been satisfactory. Safe choice there. But Palin? The media is going to savage us on this. There is going to be an immediate backlash. Please, if not Romney or Pawlenty, please tell me that Portman can get to Dayton without a plane. Ridge? Maybe it will be Ridge. That would be better. The abortion thing would bother me a bit and bother a lot of other people a ton, but they would all get over it. We have to win this election, not throw it away on a riverboat gamble. How many pro-Hillary PUMAS will this really appeal to? Yes, it's bold McCain. You've got cajones for sure. Oh, I know the Evangelicals will love it, and that's good, we need them, but I still don't know. My head is spinning. I will not be able to eat today. How can this be happening? Yes, I know that ultimately, VP picks are not that important as to who actually wins, but this hurts us in going after Obama's inexperience. Palin? I think the world of her, but putting her on the ticket is crazy!"


You know, this is so crazy it just might work!

Let me admit, this still has me nervous. There are so many variables at play here, but her debut yesterday in Ohio was damn impressive. Just about everyone I have spoken with who is not a political animal like myself thinks it is an intriguing and good idea. Early polling data on her and the selection is good, and that surprises me a great deal. I am glad. I think I just am a very risk-adverse person in so many ways that I do not react well to things that come out of left-field. This is still such a huge gamble, but it got Obama's speech out of the spotlight, makes McCain suddenly look a lot more like a Maverick Agent of Change (and Palin certainly fits that bill to), and has energized grassroots Republicans like I never imagined anything John McCain could ever do to get such a result.

If Mitt Romney would have been chosen, I would have been thrilled. Maybe felt a sense of vindication. Whomever McCain selected would had had my full support, but I have to say this historic nomination of the first woman ever on the GOP ticket actually has me inspired. I listened to the rally announcement on the radio and watched an internet feed of it. The sound and video did not synch up, but as I saw Sarah and her family walk out on stage, I was moved. It suddenly felt less like just another campaign and more like a cause. I do not think anybody else McCain picked could have made Republicans feel like that. The Palin family, and all they represent, as just regular, genuine, Americans, who live interesting lives and who perservere in spite of what challenges are put in their way. That is something to really appreciate. Go Sarah! Go Todd! Go all the Palin kids with weird names! Those of us from outside the Beltway might just look at them and appreciate something very sincere and something very un-Washington real about them. I don't know if that makes any sense but I think Americans might just take to Sarah Palin, supposed inexperience and all, despite the fact that of the four people on the national tickets, she is the only one to have ever really run anything. She's also hot. Certainly hotter than Cheney or Biden. That's got to count for something.

The experience issue is not a minor one. She is almost certain to make some gaffes on the trail or not always know every detail of federal policy. But if the Obama campaign tries to make this a big deal, they may have walked into a trap. She does have experience leading a state, a city, running a business, and actually accomplishing things, beyond just getting elected and making speeches. Like John McCain, Sarah Palin has not been afraid to shake things up and take on the special interests, including those in her own party. Can anyone say that about Obama? About Joe Biden? So let's maybe have a debate about what she has actually accomplished and compare that to Barack Obama. And while we are at it, let's be doubly sure to look at the McCain vs. Obama experience differences, especially since one of them is actually going to be the next President. What I thought was a dumb move to neuter a very effective political argument may be a very cunning trap for the Democrats.

John McCain/Steve Schmidt or whomever was responsible for this may either have committed a tremendous blunder or may be political geniuses. I really hope it is the latter.

Monday is Labor Day, traditionally the unofficial start of the fall campaign, but this cycle, it also happens to be the day the GOP Convention is scheduled to get underway in St. Paul, Minnesota. As a political junkie for the past 20 years, I love watching conventions on television, and I really want to enjoy watching the Republicans make their case and party it up next week, especially after having endured watching the Democrats do the same last week.

But nature may intervene, with Hurricane Gustav poised to wreak havoc on the Gulf Coast. Some sickingly pathetic Democrats have even been caught on video laughing at the prospects of major natural disaster hitting New Orleans as proof that "G-d is on side", but every American should pray for the safety of everyone in that region. As disappointing as it might be, if this storm is really bad, the Republican convention is likely to either be postponed or significantly scaled back. The images of wealthy, white Republicans having a big party while people in the Gulf are suffering would be one the media would never let go of. It certainly would not help the McCain campaign to not get their convention and their message on tv to the extent the Democrats did, but that might be the reality we are faced with.

On the plus side, Louisiana actually has a competent Governor now, unlike what they had three years ago during Katrina, and the federal government has likely learned its lesson as well since the days of that debacle. President Bush will probably not attend the Republican convention in person in order to deal with the hurricane. As an unapologetic and very proud fan of Dubya, I would regret not seeing him address the delegates as President one more time, but he has to put his responsibilities as President first of course, and in fact, it would probably be better for the McCain campaign if he did stay away on Monday night.

By next week, we are likely to see images of Obamas and Bidens and McCains and Palins all pitching, helping out with sandbags and whatnot, and that is good, but both sides will try to convey that they are prepared to deal with natural disasters and will want that to work to their political benefit. Obama may even try to hold out his arms and stop the hurricane itself.

Maverick/Barracuda '08!