Saturday, July 26, 2008

Race for the White House- 7/26/08

This blog venture will turn 2 years old this week and the election is 101 days away. Can you feel the excitement?

The biggest events of this week surrounded Barack Obama's much anticipated trip, highlighted by visits to Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, France, and Great Britain. All in all, the trip was probably a mixed bag for Obama politically. He certain did not produce any huge gaffes that caused a storm back home but for most of the week, there was no apparent bounce at all in national tracking polls for the presumptive Democrat nominee. However, in the last couple of days, a small bounce does seem to have occurred and Obama appears to be about 6-8 points ahead of Republican John McCain nationally. Some polls throughout this week have also showed some interesting and pretty surprising state polls in which McCain has seriously closed the gap with Obama or even overtaken him in some key states. With Obama having a bit of a surge nationally though, the state polls will probably be a lagging indicator and should be expected to swing back a little for Obama, at least for the time being.

As for the trip itself, the Obama campaign and Democrats should probably be pleased. He was cheered by an adoring thong in Berlin in a speech that people seemed to like, but might also come across as perhaps being presumptious or arrogant by those who are not already on board with Obama. The most successful leg of the trip for Obama was probably his trip to Paris, in which he was basically treated as if he were already a visiting head of state and even got a bit of a thumbs up from President Nicholas Sarkozy, a pretty popular figure (for the French at least) in America. Obama looked as if he fit the Presidential mold in France, and also benefitted from the sense (whether accurate or not) that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki expressed support for Obama's position in regards to U.S. troops in that country. However, he also made some statements and gave some interviews in which he was not exactly coherent on his views towards the Iraq situation. When pressed for an answer on the rare occasion that the American press was not fawning over him, Obama conceded that the surge has helped improve the situation in Iraq, but if given the choice to vote again on authorizing it, he would still vote against it. That position could potentially be a troubling one for Obama in the U.S. Statements such as that had John McCain very aggressively attacking Obama this week, saying, to the surprise of many, that Obama would rather lose the war in order to win the election.

Another brouhaha that has been much discussed the past couple of days is that Obama nixed a visit to wounded U.S. troops in Germany because Pentagon rules precluded the press from joining him or the presence of multiple staffers with him. Those were the same sort of rules that the Pentagon used in recently denying Cindy McCain such an appearance, and the Pentagon even stretched the rules a bit to allow his campaign plane to land an airbase and offered to provide its own photographers, but the fact that Obama chose to work out as his hotel instead of visiting the troops in a private meeting as a Senator instead of a public event as a Presidential candidate could leave a bad taste in many people's mouths.

Obama's week that just passed may very well be one of the keys to this election. The bump he got could potentially be one that makes it more difficult for McCain to catch up, or it could be that there will eventually be a backlash against some of the things Obama said and the positions he took, and the fact that he is so popular in Europe, (where he was treated and sometimes even perhaps acted as if he already were President) and the fact that the trip received such massive media attention.

In the face of all of this, it is hard to see what much McCain could have done this week to break through the noise. He received some notice for being very aggressive against Obama and while his opponent was speaking to a public rally of 200,000 people in Berlin, McCain visited with a small crowd at a German restaurant in Ohio.

Much of the buzz surrounding McCain this week involved a leak to the columnist Bob Novak (who had his own eventful week) that the Republican was planning to name his VP pick during the week while Obama was overseas. That did not happen and it is now said that such an announcement is not imminent, but it did ratchet up the running-mate speculation for McCain, with Mitt Romney, Rob Portman, and Tim Pawlenty receiving the most mention. Someone in the McCain campaign probably floated this fake rumor just to get in the headlines, but in hindsight, it is probably a good thing they did not rush ahead with a hasty announcement in what might have been seen as a futile attempt to react to overseas Obamamania.


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