Saturday, September 06, 2008

Race for the White House- 9/6/08

59 Days Until Election Day:

Another cursory look at the week in Presidential politics, one which has the Grand Old Party thinking that they just might win this thing after all!

Sunday- As Republicans including former candidates Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee converge in Missouri to rally around the new McCain-Palin ticket to great enthusiasm and the largest GOP crowds of the year, most of the focus is on the impending Hurricane Gustav, which was scheduled to make landfall on Monday morning. The storm was expected to be severe and John McCain had made the decision to cancel all but the mandatory business aspects of Monday's opening of the Republican National Convention. The expectation was that Republicans would have no choice, if the storm was bad enough, to cut back the convention even more, and at the least seriously cut back on the traditional partisan rhetoric of political conventions.

Monday- Gustav arrives to wall to wall media coverage, but thankfully was nowhere near as bad as anticipated. Republicans hold a brief daytime opening session of the convention and devote energy to raising money for hurricane relief. In the meantime, the Gulf State Governors, all of whom happen to be Republicans, win praise for their preperation and reaction to the storm.

Another storm is developing though when in the midst of Gustav mania, Governor Sarah Palin and her husband Todd release a statement confirming that their 17 year old daughter Bristol is pregnant and will be marrying some fertile dude named Levi. The attention on the hurricane was a bit of a fortunate coincidence for the release of such news, which was seen as a necessary effort to refute bizarre accusations on left-wing blogs about the maternity of Governor Palin's infant son, which would have been more appropriate for an episode of Desperate Housewives. Nonetheless, the media does give a lot of attention to the Bristol pregnancy story and try to use it to raise questions both about Palin as a mother and how thoroughly McCain (who did know about this news before selecting his runningmate) had vetted Palin.

Tuesday- While a post-hurricane lull continues to keep Republican spirits in the Twin Cities somewhat in check, the media decides to go all out on the "Who is Sarah Palin" question and attempt to use several angles, no matter how minor, to try to somehow convey that she is a weird woman with a weird family from a weird state with a weird background who is very much unqualified to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency and that John McCain was way too implusive to offer her that role, after what they claim was just a 15 minute meeting.

Palin is nowhere to be seen for the second day and Republicans, who had been geniunely enthused by her surprise selection were left wondering if she could really stand up to all this pressure and if her selection would prove to be a big mistake after all. At least a few people mentioned the specter of the 1972 dumping of Tom Eagleton from the Democrat ticket.

In the meantime, the GOP convention finally begins that evening in earnest with a reconfigured program. President Bush speaks via satelleite from the White House, outside of prime time and offers his support to the McCain candidacy, while the prime time hour saw a feisty and folksy Fred Thompson very effectively tell the story of John McCain's POW experience and also get in some pretty good jabs at Barack Obama, although rarely mentioning him by name. The evening's final speaker is Senator Joe Lieberman, the man who was once the other party's Vice Presidential nominee. Joementum does not rouse much in the way of emotion, but offered a heartfelt appeal to his fellow Independents and Democrats to "put country first" and vote for McCain.

Wednesday- With much anticipation for Sarah Palin's true national debut in the evening, Republicans were still a little bummed when a couple daily tracking polls showed that over the last couple of days, amidst the Palin selection, the beginning of the GOP convention, and McCain's magnanimous reaction to Hurricane Gustav, that Obama had seemingly gained a bit of a bounce a few days after his party's convention had wrapped up in Denver.

The GOP was likely feeling a lot better in the evening though when during the primetime hour, former candidate and NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani ran over his allotted time but used it effectively to basically tear Barack Obama apart in a way that only Rudy could perhaps do, using humor as a weapon. Earlier in the evening, the two closest Republican challengers from the primary to McCain, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney had spoken. All in all, Huckabee's speech probably came across better to the delegates and on television. Romney, who was the candidate I supported for the nomination and one who I did very much want McCain to select as his runningmate, gave a well-received speech with plenty of right-wing red meat included, but it came across as though he was trying too hard. While Romney can be a strong attacker, it is not the image that best suits his true strengths as a effective executive who has made positive changes throughout his career. It is understandable if Romney continues to have his eye on 2012 or 2016, whenever the next open Republican nomination contest will occur. I still anticipate a bright future for the former Governor of Massachusetts, and I may very well wind up supporting him again one day, but it does seem that after being passed up by McCain for a spot on the ticket, his star may now be eclipsed by Sarah Palin.

Her much anticipated speech was an absolute tour de force and exceded nearly all expectations. It earned her comparisons to Margaret Thatcher, as well as speeches given by Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, which had catapulted them overnight to political celebrity status in the past. The media and the pundits were almost unanimous in proclaiming that Palin had not only effectively shown that she is not one to be underestimated, but that she had very effectively made the case for her runningmate, John McCain, and also was pretty sharp in her attacks on Obama and Democrats. It was a speech and a debut that made Palin the star of the convention and had people already looking beyond 2008, seeing her as the future of the Republican Party and a likely President herself one day. All that remains to be seen (I admit to becoming a fast convert to the likelihood of her unlimited potential), but she definitely proved she belongs in the big leagues and not many people now expect her to be steamrolled by Joe Biden in the Vice Presidential debate. It also of course, took much of the focus out of the pregnancy story, with the family, including Levi Johnston, there to cheer her on.

Thursday- The political world and especially the Republican Party continues to buzz about the Palin speech and polling data begins to indicate the beginnings of a Republican bounce. John McCain certainly has a tough act to follow when he takes the stage in the evening. His speech is given mixed reviews by the media, both in terms of content and presentation, but he probably did what he needed to do. McCain is not going to be able to compete with Obama in terms of oratory and was not going to be able to suddenly capture the hearts of adoring delegates the way that Palin had done the night earlier, but his speech was very moving in its own way as he gave a less critical of Obama speech than some others which had been offered at the convention and instead focused on his campaign theme of "Country First" and why his maverick history and outlook make him the most effective agent of change in the race. By the end of the speech, which concluded with an emotional rhetorical flourish on behalf of McCain, the delegates were as enthusiastic as any political crowd has been this cycle, the GOP had become unified, and the fall campaign was really underway. Less than a week after the surprise announcement, the selection of Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential runningmate was starting to look like something that might turn out to be one of the shrewdest moves in American political history.

Friday- McCain and Palin hit the road to battleground states and speak in front of very large crowds. To the surprise of almost everyone, Neilsen ratings indicate that more people had watched McCain (and Palin) on television than had watched Obama and the polls show some more modest movement in McCain's direction. Obama and Biden remain out on the campaign trail and seem a little off their game. Obama himself seems to have fallen into a political trap where he feels compelled to try to counter Palin directly, instead of keeping his focus on McCain. The disappointing numbers that indicated the U.S. unemployment rate had risen means that Democrats will certainly try to keep the focus on the economy as their best hope to win.

Saturday- Gallup now shows a two point race, with Republicans expecting even more movement towards the beginning of next week. As of this day though, both parties, (for the first time) certainly have energized bases, lots of money to spend, and people on both sides anxious to make history in what may be the most fascinating election in American history.

Country First:


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