November 07, 2008
Missing from your analysis in this week's column is the phenomenon that is Barack Obama. The economy was key on Tuesday as it was in 1932. Yet, no less a figure than FDR was still necessary to seize the day. Barack Obama's unique distinctions of being our first African-American candidate and his inspirational rhetoric were intangibles made manifest in votes cast and electoral votes won. A question to ponder while waiting for the 2010 calendars (mid-term elections): Does Barack Obama have any coat-tails? I may have been asleep, but I can't readily recall his orienting most of his speeches to candidates running for office in the states in which he was then campaigning. Barack's charisma soon enters an elected office subject to dealing with the Congress and other down-to-earth duties, many of them routine. What will be the half-life of charisma when removed from cheering audiences in jam-packed arenas and structured TV debates?
Nov. 24 Addendum:
President-elect Obama may have a chance to test his coat-tails if he accepts an invitation to campaign for progressive Democrat Jim Martin in his effort to defeat incumbent Republican conservative Saxby Chambliss in the December 2 Georgia US Senate run-off election. Neither candidate got the required 50% of the vote in the November 4 general election (Chambliss - 49.8%, Martin - 46.8%) with the 3.4% vote of Libertarian Allen Buckley perhaps decisive as Buckley's not in the run-off. McCain beat Obama, 52-47%. If Democrat Al Franken prevails against Republican Norm Coleman in the Minnesota re-count, a Martin victory would give Democrats a filibuster-proof majority of 60 senators. Martin's scheduled campaigners include Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Chambliss' scheduled campaigners include John McCain, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani. Martin's 18 years of service in the Georgia state legislature (1983-2001) earned him good reviews from environmental, conservation and education groups. News reports and his web-site have him as socially progressive and fiscally moderate. Martin has Obama campaign staff and union members campaigning for him. Chambliss is pro-life, pro-NRA and has representatives from those organizations campaigning for him. Chambliss, seeking his first re-election, conducted a fierce and negative campaign in defeating Democratic incumbent Max Cleland in 2002. An ad depicted Cleland with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Max Cleland is a Vietnam War hero who's a triple amputee. And you thought Boston politics was rough?
November 05, 2008
In an age when the word "historic" is vastly overused, this truly deserves the label. Regular readers of this column and blog probably know how we read the election. All through the Democratic contest -- except for a few months when Obama stumbled -- we rated him as the candidate to beat -- far stronger than the pundits (and Hillary) realized. In the general election, we anticipated a close race -- and thought that McCain might even have a slight edge against a candidate so new. But the financial meltdown not only wiped out trillions of dollars, it wiped out McCain's candidacy too.
By the way, the polls largely got it right.
November 05, 2008
Congrats aren't only in line for Obama and his team. Adam Reilly and David Bernstein deserve kudos for their superb coverage of the campaign. And David, of course, called it for Obama all along.
November 04, 2008
Right now, there appear to be only a handful of states where the outcome is still in doubt -- Indiana, NC, Fla., Va.,Missouri, and a handful of small western states. Even if they all go to McCain, however, he can't get to 270. Obama will win -- with anything from about 320-390 electoral votes. Not a landslide, but a very decisive victory, nevertheless.
November 04, 2008
The headline pretty much says it all.
November 04, 2008
McCain has now narrowed Obama's lead to three points in both Florida and NC with less than half the vote counted in each state. He still leads more substantially than predicted in Virginia and narrrowly in Indiana. Should he sweep all these states -- and go on to win Missouri and Ohio -- the race is going to be much closer in the electoral college than it looked even an hour ago.
Even if McCain wins all these states, however, he still needs to pick a state or two like Colorado to win.
November 04, 2008
With Obama winning Pennsylvania, McCain must now win NC, Va., Ind., Ohio, and Florida to even have a chance to win. Right now, he trails in both Florida and NC, with less than half the vote counted in each state.
November 04, 2008
John McCain continues to show strength in Virginia and he retains a narrow lead in Indiana. But remember, he virtually has to sweep every toss-up state to get to 270 -- unless he unexpectedly wins something like Pennsylvania or Minnesota. For the next half hour or so, keep an eye on Florida where Obama leads in very early returns -- as long as Obama retains his lead there, he's just about home free.
November 04, 2008
It's 7 pm and only two states are beginning to report. But even with these, we can already see that it may be a big night for Obama. With 10% of the vote in, Kentucky -- one of the strongest GOP states in the country -- is barely going for McCain. And Obama is dead even with McCain in Indiana -- a state where Republicans usually run very well. It's very early but these are both good signs for Barack.
For now, we'll update every hour and then do it more frequently as more returns start coming in.
November 04, 2008
Check out his predicted map here.
November 04, 2008
Here are two good guides on how to watch tonight's returns from two veterans -- Tom Edsall at the Huffington Post and Michael Barone, co-author of the Almanac of American Politics.
We'll be blogging it regularly too. But to save yourself some time, here's what to look for early on:
EARLY CLOSERS -- 6PM -- KENTUCKY AND INDIANA: Obama is surprisingly close in Indiana. If it's too close too call, it's a good sign for him. If he wins it, it's over. If he loses, no matter.
NEXT CLOSERS -- 7PM -- VIRGINIA, NEW HAMPSHIRE AND GEORGIA, AMONG OTHERS: If Georgia is too close to call, it's another good sign for Obama. But Virginia and New Hampshire are the key. If Virginia is called for Obama, it's just about over. If it's called for McCain, he's doing unexpectedly well -- though a victory is not assured. If it's too close to call, McCain is in better shape than anticipated and it could be a longer night than many Obama partisans had hoped.
We'll be on it throughout the night.
November 03, 2008
With his lead holding at five or six in the tracking polls, Barack Obama in our view now has a 90% chance of winning the election. Of course, if you're a pessimist, that 10% chance for McCain . . . .
November 02, 2008
All the polls are now coming into virtual agreement with Barack Obama holding about a 5-7 point lead. Should he lose now-- for whatever reason -- we're looking, perhaps, at the biggest surprise in the history of presidential politics -- on a par with Dewey-Truman in 1948.
November 01, 2008
With Barack Obama continuing to hold about a five-point lead in most
public opinion polls, the only road to victory for John McCain is that
all the undecideds break his way. That's the argument Dick Morris is
making, for example. He says that Obama is virtually assumed to be the
victor now -- and has thus been "incumbentized" -- which means there
could well be a shift against him in the final hours.
For that to
happen, our view is that there will have to be a substantial "Bradley"
effect -- where large numbers of white voters have been afraid to tell
pollsters that they won't vote for Obama -- out of fear of being
We've obviously never had a black candidate
before so we don't know how this will all play out. But McCain
essentially now needs to draw to an inside straight to win.
November 01, 2008
America went to bed after watching Barack Obama accept his nomination. Instead of waking up to headlines heralding his nomination forty-five years after Dr. King's 'dream' speech, we saw breaking alerts that Alaska's Sarah Palin was Senator McCain's running mate. America asked Who? In time, the answers would encompass everything from hockey to cocky.
Of greater importance and, interest is another question: Why? Conservative pundit Peggy Noonan was caught arguing that McCain's campaign went for political bullshit about narratives. Moderates, particularly blue-state moderates see her as a reversion to the 2004 playbook and, her presence may play into that strategy, but, she's also more than that and, reductionists run the risk of underestimating her.
I have done the political analysis in this piece even though it is an exercise in some speculation, as the candid campaign staff interviews have not yet happened. This article is written from a social conservative's perspective. In order to perceive Palin's power, one needs to understand the party's past and its pressures.
For all of the psychoanalysis of the relationship between the two Bushes, little has been said about the parallel motivations between and behind George H.W. Bush’s selection of Dan Quayle and, John McCain’s vice, Sarah Palin.
TIME magazine proposed two reasons behind the Palin pick: McCain hoped that Palin, as a movement conservative, would energize or at least neutralize the G.O.P.'s right wing, which had always viewed McCain with suspicion. "A lot of the high-echelon members of this campaign are considered to be in the moderate camp," says Republican national chairman Clayton Yeutter, "so Vice President Palin serves the President as a very effective liaison to the more conservative segment of the party."
The most important consideration was McCain's peculiar need to demonstrate independence in his first "presidential" decision. Resentful of news stories that depicted him as George W. Bush's lapdog and a tool of savvy campaign "handlers," McCain decided that he would choose his running mate in secret and that his pick would be dramatic and unexpected.
This account dovetails with what most observers would agree to be true. The problem is that I changed the names in this piece originally penned in May 1991 (see TIME, Why Not the Best? 5/20/1991)
The Quayle and Palin nominations raise a continuing, confusing conservative quandary: What should be the role of social conservatives in the Republican Party?
Warner Huston of the right-leaning Human Events offers a good example of social conservatives sensing shunning: "The Brookses and Wills of this country are quite happy to have the votes of Sarah Palin's America, as long as they shut up about policy and don't have the gall to offer themselves up as possible future leaders. The Parkers and Frums of the conservative side would rather the Sarah Palins of the party continue to know their place and silently nod their heads as their acknowledged betters do the heavy lifting of "real" leading".
They feel that the GOP reliably asks them for votes which they deliver and, then in the clutch of governing, the party forgets about them.
They point to the Souter nomination, Senator Specter's 2004 comments about judicial appointments and, John Dilulio's experience heading the faith-based imitative which led him to critique "What you've got is everything, and I mean everything, being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis. [He said] that the religious right and libertarians trust Mr. Rove to keep Bush 43 from behaving like Bush 41 and, moving too far to the center or, inching at all center-left". Dilulio later recanted his quote, but, it articulates this notion of the political team co-opting the social conservatives and their policy agenda.
Liberals might point to John Ashcroft as Attorney General or, the John Roberts nomination as contrary evidence. To moderates and liberals, the party has been too accepting of social conservatives. They, in turn, consider such cases as exceptions to the broader rule.
The frustrations social conservatives have with George W. Bush served to raise an already high-bar for Senator McCain. Even if Bush couldn't always deliver for them, he was seen as one of their own. In 1988, he served as liaison to social conservatives and, he was truly one of them. As a man who gave up drinking and, who said Christ was his favorite political philosopher because he 'changed my heart'.
In 2004, just 30% of conservatives believed that churches and other houses of worship should stay out of politics. Now, 50% of conservatives express this view. Pew's August poll, argued, "in short, the change of mind about the role of religious institutions in politics is most apparent among people who are most concerned about the very issues that churches and other houses of worship have focused on". In this context of disengaging social conservatives, Sarah Palin's selection makes a lot of sense as the logical extension of their support for George W. Bush.
Since the 2004 election's finding that moral values were the top issue, nearly every politician has found their religion on religiosity. This Pew poll shows a backlash against such blatant pandering and, suggests why Palin is such a base success. She has become a potent embodiment of Republican identity politics.
In short, there are the talkers like McCain, better are the true believers like George W. Bush and, then there are true taskmasters like Palin who serves as identity-politic symbols. It is the difference between McCain's parsed words on choice and, the deed of Palin's Minneapolis Trig embrace.
Why Palin Has Faced More Scrutiny than George W. Bush
Democrats look to educational background as a certification of gravitas and leadership potential. Walter Mondale in 1984 was the last Democratic nominee who hadn't attended Harvard or Yale.
By contrast, Republicans place their faith in those who serve in large, complex organizations. George W. Bush was ideal in this respect because he received an elite education and, he had significant private sector experience. Does anybody else remember the breathless accounts of the first MBA president ascending to power? Palin has the misfortune of being judged through the looking-glass of the Bush tenure. Needless to say, she won't be getting the doubt benefit here.
Republicans prefer those candidates with executive experience in hierarchical organizations with clearly defined roles such as the armed services (every president from 1952's Eisenhower until 1992's George Bush had served) or, the private sector. In their eyes, Palin is more qualified than Barack Obama and, Sarah Palin's two years in the constitutionally strong Alaska governorship are probably equal to the four or five years George W. Bush had in the Lone-Star state. But, that argument amounts to a tacky Texas-two-step for eager Republican consultants. Who wants to argue that Palin is as qualified as Bush was in 2000?
For too long, our plastic, consultant culture crafted the manufactured candidate. Sara Palin embraces her flaws as part of who she is, and, she makes no excuses for the dysfunction of her family. A dysfunction, which many know first-hand and, will only address in hushed tones once their polite company, has left.
Social conservatives see Sarah Palin and her daughter who chose to get married after being pregnant as a courageous act amidst a passive marriage culture. They serve as concrete examples of brokenness counterbalanced by compassion. Somewhere, the media and the left missed the compassion angle behind these tough, personal choices because they were not the convenient choices.
To these social conservatives, commitment to a hard path is courageous but, also, a matter of course, not one of choice.
The press would never have gone for Sarah Palin. She is the perfect opposite of the ironic detachment which marked and endeared the 2000 McCain campaign to the press.
Before one thinks that she is only popular with the base consider that CBS found on October 3rd that one of Palin's strengths has been her ability to connect with voters. Before the debate, 58 percent of uncommitted voters felt she shares their values; that rose to 73 percent after the debate. While 98 percent of voters considered Biden knowledgeable about important issues, the audience left the evening believing that she had survived a debate which she was expected to lose in terrific fashion.
What if Sarah Palin had made the cause of special education her signature priority? What if she had decided not to be an attack dog but, an altruistic activist? She could have singularly raised her profile on special-needs education and, in so-doing have co-opted the top issue in the 2000 campaign: education. At the same time, she could have helped McCain re-claim change mantel. Perhaps, that is what led McCain to pick her. Had Steve Schmidt not been a Karl Rove protégé, an expert in energizing the base, her political stock might better resemble Bank of America than Bear Stearns.
Even still, with some re-tooling and, re-fashioning, she may be the only one rising out of Phoenix's Ashes. Jim Nuzzo, a White House aide to the first President Bush told The Sunday Telegraph: "There's going to be a bloodbath. A lot of people are going to be excommunicated. David Brooks and David Frum and Peggy Noonan are dead people in the Republican Party. The litmus test will be: where did you stand on Palin?"
Politico's Ben Smith recently noted that Ms. Magazine editor, and Clinton aide, Elaine Lafferty, revealed that she's working for Palin citing her 'confidence' as 'a woman who knows exactly who she is'.
Before liberals get too comfortable in their contempt, they should remember that a woman who knows what she is stands more threatening than one who knows what she is about and, that harsher press and ratings occasioned another woman's first and, unsuccessful campaign to change Washington: Hillary Clinton.