Saturday, July 05, 2008

Race for the White House- 7/5/08

It is Independence Day weekend and most Americans have not been too tuned into the Presidential campaign this week with all the festivities, and I really do not feel like writing anything, but I will force myself to do so, and it will probably be brief.

Since Barack Obama wrapped up the Democrat nomination several weeks ago, most polls have showed a fairly close race in both the popular vote and in enough swing states to indicate that the Electoral College (and thus the actual election) should be close. Nonetheless, a lot of Republicans are continuing to express frustration with the pace of the John McCain campaign, with the belief that they are missing out on chances to exploit their opponent's weaknesses. Perhaps, some GOP activists may feel better with the announcement this past week that Steve Schmidt will be taking over the day to day operations of the McCain campaign, and may do a better job in providing structure and organization. For their part, the McCain campaign is calling the move a routine one and not sort of any general shake-up indicative of frustration.

A lot of Obama supporters are also a bit concerned that while most polls show their man ahead, he is not leading by as large of a margin as what should be expected, considering the hefty money advantage, enthusiasm gap among party activists, and the generally bad numbers for the Republican Party. Along those lines, it was perhaps a frustrating week for a lot of Obama supporters, considering that the intended theme of "Patriotism Week", was stepped on in a big way by retired General Wesley Clark who on a Sunday morning talk show made comments about John McCain's Vietnam War record that the Obama campaign has since called "inartful", but has been called much worse by Republicans. While Obama quickly made comments that seemed to repudiate Clark, the ex-General has largely refused to back away from the statements he made about how McCain being a fighter pilot who was shot down and then served as a POW does not qualify him to be President. The McCain campaign has not been shy about complaining about this slight and have mentioned that several other high profile Obama supporters have recently made similar comments. They believe this is all a little too coincidental and may be some part of a campaign to try to hurt McCain at his strong point; a previously thought of unassialiable record of patriotism and heroism.

Regardless of the intent, the whole Clark brouhaha is not what Obama needed. If the Democrat candidate would have really been more forceful in speaking out against what Clark and some others have said, it might have been a politically advantageous (even if highly choreographed) "Sister Souljah moment", but instead Clark's comments put them in a bad position. If the former General had any hope of becoming Obama's runningmate this summer, it is fairly safe to say that is now gone.

Otherwise, Obama, upon clinching the nomination, continues to lurch more and more to the center in several regards, and that has some of his liberal base, at the least perplexed. Savvy political watchers know that party nominees have to find a way to appeal to a larger electorate, but liberals felt that Obama was somehow "different" and would be unwilling to compromise principles. There are several examples in the last few weeks of how Obama is trying to move to the center, but right before the holiday this week, he got into a serious muddle in regards to his long stated plan to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months. He made statements this week saying that he might have to "refine" that policy, after visiting Iraq this summer and meeting with the commanders. That created a bit of a mini-firestorm, and later the very same day, the candidate himself tried to back away from the position and state that he still intended to "end" the Iraq War.

Nonetheless, it should probably not surprise anyone if Obama continues to subtly attempt to put as little distance as possible between him and McCain on the issue of Iraq, preferring instead to focus on domestic issues. If that happens, the anti-war left, which helped Obama win the nomination, might find themselves wondering if they have been stabbed in the back.


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