Saturday, June 14, 2008

Race for the White House- 6/14/08

To most political junkies and those interested in the campaign of 2008, the events of the past week seem a little different and perhaps even less important after the shocking and sad news yesterday regarding the untimely death of NBC's Tim Russert. Perhaps, the most preminent political pundit and journalist of this generation, Russert had much respect for his knowledge and enthusiasm for what he did from people on both sides of the political spectrum. He was considered a tough interviewer, but also fair. One can also not help but appreciate the passion he seemingly had for the political process and the game of his politics. The campaign will go on of course, but his loss will be felt throughout it.

There were of course other topics related to the campaign this week and I do not really want to dwell on them for too long a time. The polls show that Barack Obama did receive an expected bounce in the wake of clinching the Democrat nomination, but with the Gallup tracking poll showing that bounce now nearly evaporating, one has to wonder if he truly got as big of a boost as he should have. This week, both candidates continued to snipe at each other and attempt to score political points. Both also had their share of gaffes or missteps.

For John McCain, the gaffe may have come during a Today Show interview when he was asked about U.S. troop levels in Iraq and when they may be able to return home in greater numbers. He answered the question in a way that said reducing casualties is what really matters as opposed to the concept of an American presence itself, but Democrats were quick to pounce on the fact that he used the phrase "that's not important" in regards to troop withdrawals. When the entire soundbite is played in context, what McCain means is clear, but in politics, an opponent will often try to take advantage of someone saying something in an inartful way and this was an example.

Obama suffered some bad press this week regarding Jim Johnson, the head of his three person Vice Presidential search "vetting" commmitee. News came out that Johnson had received some special treatment regarding his mortgage from a company that Obama had previously blasted on the campaign trail for that sort of activity. After first saying that he stood by Johnson and that there was no need to "vet the vetters", Johnson either quickly resigned by his own volition or was cut loose. While Obama supporters will claim it was a politically necessary cutting of the ties, it is another example of political pressure forcing Obama to act, after initially digging in and refusing. McCain did not push extremely hard on the issue, but it was some bad press for Obama nonetheless. In the next couple of weeks, it will be interesing to see if another person on Obama's VP search commitee, Eric Holder, is forced out, in relation to the somewhat zealous role he undertook in the final days of the Clinton Administration Justice Department, in regard to pardons.

Otherwise, the candidates talked more about the economy, energy prices, and the Supreme Court decision regarding Guantanamo Bay detainees. To the surprise of some conservatives and liberals alike, McCain came out forcefully against the 5-4 court decision that granted foreign terrorist suspects unprecedented rights. This clearly puts McCain and Obama on the opposite sides of the issue, and in line with most in their respective parties. This may shape up to be a pretty major issue in the campaign, as will gas prices and energy production. Polling seems to show that a lot of Americans who previously have been opposed to domestic drilling in offshore or wilderness areas in the United States perhaps being more receptive towards such things as a perceived crisis regarding gas prices continues. While Obama joins most liberals in being opposed to more domestic exploration, there is some reason to believe that McCain may be inching more towards the direction of other conservatives in wanting to increase domestic energy supplies. As of now though, he still opposes drilling in Alaska's ANWR area. Many Republicans are hoping that he flip flops on that issue though and believe that doing so, and making the difference between the two candidates on energy production a major issue, could help him win the election.

The two candidates could talk about this face to face if they were able to reach an agreement on McCain's proposal from last week in regards to 10 town hall forums. According to the McCain campaign, the Obama folks have only been willing to agree to one town hall meeting, on July 4, when seemingly many Americans would not be focused on politics. The McCain people believe that Obama is ducking these forums and would only want one to occur when as few people as possible would watch it. Yesterday, Nancy Reagan and the daughters of Lyndon Johnson invited the two candidates to take part in two town hall forums to occur at the libraries named after Presidents Reagan and Johnson. McCain readily accepted but there has been no word yet from the Obama campaign. Expect McCain and Republicans to attempt to keep Obama and Democrats on the defensive about town hall forums in which the candidates would have to answer questions from voters without the aid of teleprompters or prepared remarks.


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