I Told You So

November 18, 2008

By Stephen Noriega

I posted the blog on September 15th, 2008. It was right after the GOP convention, when everyone loved her. I said this was the worst pick for the John McCain campaign. Now I get to say, “I told you so” with pride, annoying volume and belligerent indignation.


Photo by The National Inquirer, distributed 2008

It came to pass quickly, Senator McCain, that your only path to winning an election was doing things that may damage you further than this campaign. Governor Palin took John McCain places that he will regret. In the heat of this contest, with veneers of anger shrouding the obvious, McCain fell into the Palin trap of off-message rants and poisonous speeches designed to illicit fear and xenophobia, not optimism or hope©.

Governor Palin made it quite clear that she wished to be an active, policy-making Vice President. This is simply a continuation of a modern trend. Starting with Richard Nixon and his ambassadorial skills, the Vice President has slowly become more important. Al Gore was often criticized for taking an excessive role in helping Clinton with policy issues. Dick Cheney took the office to a whole new level, holding secret meetings, being in charge of entire policy realms and showing a true disdain for Congress and even the voters.

Did McCain really want a powerful vice president with whom he could barely get along? Sarah Palin did not answer the third grader’s question incorrectly. She meant that she wanted to have power and influence over the Senate. Perhaps Sarah Palin is not ignorant about constitutional issues, at least compared to most other people. Sarah Palin has been an executive of larger and larger offices and she saw this as a path to even more political clout. She will certainly not be another Thomas R. Marshall (considered the laziest Vice President under Woodrow Wilson). She wanted to be another Dick Cheney. Perhaps she knows painfully little about the Constitution. This is even more frightening than a politician’s ambition. With the clothing scandal, she may end up being another Spiro Agnew, constantly messing with McCain’s authority like Agnew did with Nixon until being pulled asunder by a petty transgression. (http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oew-edwards-lichtman5-2008sep05,0,5935217.story)

It is not just Palin’s eye on power that had McCain in a bad way because of her. Palin is a politician, and politicians seek power. That is what they do. But Palin couldn’t even follow the talking points of the campaign. McCain must have developed serious reservations about how she will follow policy talking points once comfortably in Washington, D.C. When the issue of Palin’s clothes emerged as a thorn in the campaign, everyone tried to stifle the nano-scandal and move on. Not Governor Palin. She continued to defend the $150,000.00+ makeover.

Even people in the McCain campaign revolted. Anonymous rats, stinging with bitterness of being in the wrong campaign, started to take shots at the candidate with the anxious ears of the press wide open.

“She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone… She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else. Also she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: divas trust only unto themselves as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom.” (CNN – 10/2008)

Palin has shown sides of this in the media view. Instead acting humble, especially after some disastrous interviews with infamous soft-ball-throwers like Katie Couric, Palin went on the offense. She spewed venom at rallies that incited the lunatic fringe of her party with never a speck of clarification or apology. When McCain saw the potential destructive nature of this, he voiced his disapproval of the personal hatred campaign, something an honorable person does. Palin apparently never got the memo.

With each bumble, misunderstanding of history, petty scandal and word of aggression, Governor Sarah Palin demonstrated how she was the worst pick the McCain campaign could have made. This is not about gender. This is not about politics or political agendas. This is about a person who did not deserve, because of a lack of competence, any consideration of such an importance office.


My Friends, My Friends, My Friends

October 8, 2008

By Alicia Long

There were high hopes for last night’s debate between Senator Obama and Senator McCain.  With Obama widening his lead in the polls (his current lead is around 4-9 points nationally), McCain really needed this debate to help him turn the trend back into his favor.

The high hopes that McCain fans had for this second debate were justified.  Late last year, McCain had all been counted out in the race for the Republican ticket.  Some blogs even had reader polls as to when McCain would drop out (The Right’s Field had the longest running poll on this topic).  But McCain fought his way back using town hall-style meetings with thousands of New Hampshire residents all across the Granite State, and ultimately winning the January primary and rocketing his way to the Republican nomination.

Town hall meetings are McCain’s favorite way of communicating with voters, and he typically does very well in this format.  Many politicos felt that since the second presidential debate was a town hall, McCain had a good opportunity to reignite his campaign.  Unfortunately, he did not succeed.

I’m not saying McCain didn’t do well.  In fact, both Obama and McCain did well in this debate.  The popular opinion amongst the talking heads was that McCain needed this debate to be a game changer –  he needed to make a strong, new attack against Obama, or Obama needed to make a big gaffe – neither of which happened.  Both candidates stuck to their tried and true tactics and nothing really happened that made the performance of either candidate stick out.

This is not good for McCain.  This debate retained the status quo for voters, so one could argue that Obama “won” the debate.  Not because he did anything special or made better points than McCain, but simply because he came out of this debate the same way he came in… ahead in the polls.

CNN analysts thoroughly picked apart the debate last night.  This group is informative because it is compromised of Democratic and Republican analysts, as well as non-partisan journalists.  Overall, they rated Obama with a “B” and McCain with a “C.”  You can read more about their individual grades and opinions HERE (you can also give your personal grades through CNN’s online poll).

Just to mix things up a bit, I created tag clouds of Obama and McCain during the debate.  These tag clouds visually represent the 40 most frequently used words, with the biggest words being used the most frequently.


Visually, Obama definitely kept to the issues that are strong for him.  Health care, energy, and change were among the topics he kept bringing up.  Amusingly, the word he used most was “going.”


One thing I am not surprised to see in McCain’s cloud is the word “friends.”  I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say “my friends” so many times in 90 minutes.  This is something he says frequently in his town halls, and last night was no different.  However this came off as less of a personable remark and just became annoying after the first half hour.

Thanks for reading my post, my friends.

Palin Is Your Worst Pick

September 15, 2008

By Stephen Noriega

I have given myself pause after the convention, after the initial excitement and after the first interview to give my humble opinion on the Sarah Palin pick for Vice President. I must admit that when I first heard of the pick, I thought to myself, “What in the heck we’re you thinking?” After long deliberation and after looking at all the possible future permutations of your campaign, Senator McCain, I have just one thing to say.

What in the heck we’re you thinking?

This piece is not a hatchet job on Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin is a politician that has risen to a high office and deserves the respect of that accomplishment. This obviously will not be a worship piece on her either. Once the ether wears off and people begin to study her, they will rally to her less. Becoming the governor of Alaska is no small task. For this, Palin should be commended. As a flash of interest and short-term strategy, Governor Palin was a brilliant pick by the Republicans. However, the time of her brilliance and her reality had better be more than fifty-some days if the Republicans don’t want to be embarrassed this November.

It is silly to attack Governor Palin for being a mother and future grandmother. I couldn’t care less about that stuff. If I ever cared about anyone’s family obligations and their ability to serve, I would advocate for candidates to only have one child (in college or older) before they could run for a higher office. That just doesn’t compute. Nancy Pelosi has five children and seven grandchildren. She does just fine. This may sound harsh but I could care less (except for historical curiosity) that she is female. We have been taught that men and women should have equal chances in all avenues of life. Thus, I have no reason to like or dislike the pick based solely on gender.

There are three reasons why Palin is a horrible choice.

First, she will only solidify part the base in the end.

I know that she has induced a spike in likely female voters. This looks promising but I believe that women voters are the most educated, issue-aware segment of the voting population. When some of her stances on choice, education and health care become evident, that spike will disappear. Palin has energized the far-right base right now. However, even fellow conservative have knocked the choice. David Frum said about Palin’s experience, “Ms. Palin’s experience in government makes Barack Obama look like George C. Marshall.” Of course, Frum’s statements, the first time Obama has been compared with the author of the Marshall Plan, could be dismissed as conservative chauvinism. Not this one. Dr. Laura Schlessinger sharply criticized the Palin pick from a conservative viewpoint of female roles and the family. I could not disagree more with her position but I think it might erode at some conservative voters when they really start thinking about Palin’s situation. McCain might think he can strip away some PUMA voters. This group is like any typical protest voting block. Andrew Dice Clay could be McCain’s pick and the PUMA’s would still vote for him because of how Obama treated Hillary. Thus, Palin does not do much to pick up votes there.

Some of Governor Palin’s conservative credentials will simply not pan out. She claims to be an enemy of earmarks, rebuking the Bridge to Nowhere and bragging about Alaskans building things for themselves. The truth, well-known now, is that Palin initially supported the Bridge to Nowhere.

News.Spreadit.org, 9/2008

The truth about earmarks and Alaska is simple. Alaska receives more earmark dollars per capita than any other state in the union. According to Mark Murray of MSNBC, Palin as Governor requested hundreds of millions in earmarks every year. Fiscal conservatives would not be happy to know this. Social conservatives may not be super happy to know that she smoked marijuana when it was legal in Alaska (Anchorage Daily News, 8/6/2006 – http://dwb.adn.com/news/politics/elections/governor06/story/8049298p-7942233c.html). Of course she said she didn’t really like it and certainly does not currently use it because it would be a bad influence on her kids. Religious conservatives might be in love with Palin now. However, when some of her church stuff gets out there, some might hesitate. Some clips from the Assemblies of God Church in Wasilla seem to imply that Alaska has a special role to play in evangelizing the world. The evangelists in Missouri that believe the rapture will begin in Jefferson City might have a real problem with that! But seriously, she might be put in a position to renounce something her church says and then the Right might start to peel away from her. Some of Palin’s political stances will totally line up with the far-right of the Republican Party. However, the Political Middle and the GDI (God Dang (another word) Independents) will not eventually be comfortable with her stances. She has an absolute stance on abortion. She believes it should not be legal in cases of incest or rape. Governor Palin also believes that intelligent design should be taught along side evolution in schools. According to On The Issues (http://www.ontheissues.org/Sarah_Palin.htm ), Governor Palin strongly favors teacher-led prayer in school. I’m sure that is under the assumption that the teacher will lead the students in a Christian prayer! The independents will become less and less likely to follow her. America is often characterized as center-right. The center will not subscribe to these beliefs in the end.

The second reason Governor Palin is a poor choice is her inexperience. I concede that experience is not the main characteristic necessary for getting elected and even being a successful president or vice president. However, sometimes inexperience has a dreadful outcome. For every John F. Kennedy there is a Jimmy Carter. As far as inexperienced Vice Presidential candidates, for every Harry S. Truman there is a James Stockdale.

Dan Quayle was questioned on his apparent inexperience even tough he had been elected twice to the U.S. House and twice to the U.S. Senate. Dan Quayle ended up serving as a perfect Vice President, at least for Saturday Night Live and the pototo(e) industry. Barack Obama is getting shelled constantly on the experience question. This is a valid argument. It is an argument of strength for McCain. However, he turns around and selects an inexperienced running mate. The campaign hid this inexperience through rehearsed speeches and catch-phrases. However, in her first, edited, fairly easy interview, Palin showed her inexperience through rote answers and she showed her ignorance by simply not knowing what the Bush Doctrine was. The legitimate press will tear at her experience like the tabloids will feast on her daughter’s pregnancy. She will either have to avoid shows like Hardball, Meet the Press and Face the Nation or hope that she is an incredibly fast study on matters she has never had to worry about.

There were other, more experienced women from whom to pick. Senators Olympia Snowe and Kay Bailey Hutchinson are respected Republicans. I know, I know, John McCain needs a non-senator. How about Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Labor? She has great experience and has helped with overtime reform. Perhaps McCain feels he needs a true executive. How about Governor Jodi Rell from Connecticut or Governor Linda Lingle from Hawaii? Lingle is a Republican Governor in an extremely Democratic state, with an approval rating of 71%! All of these women have more experience than Palin.

The third reason this is a bad choice is that Palin totally outshines McCain. One of the funnier lines on Saturday Night Live was, “The race is tightening up. McCain now finds himself only six points behind Sarah Palin.” (SNL – 9/13/2008)

Palin is on the cover of TIME, Us Magazine, People, The National Enquirer, etc. She is everywhere. Aliens, foreigners and those who spend most of their lives in caves know Palin but not McCain, the twenty-six year veteran of the Senate. Sarah Palin is a huge media phenomenon right now. Pictures of them together look Palin look even better, and McCain even older.

Newsbusters.com, 2008

However, if her star fades, McCain will have no comparable light to keep the attention on him. If Palin had accomplished something outside Alaska, her brilliance would be less vulnerable to a press that likes watching heroes fall even more than falsely giving rise to them.

Now I know that everyone is currently in love with Sarah Palin. She is looking like the smartest V.P. pick since Thomas Jefferson. I know that the polls have bumped in her and McCain’s favor. Reality and Saturday Night Live will have something to say about Palin and McCain. The reality is that home foreclosures are still destroying the housing market. The Dow Jones just sank 500 points in one day. Hurricane Ike might result in gas going up from the imagined affordable level of four dollars a gallon. Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. All three American auto makers are teetering on the verge of oblivion. Unemployment is at a five year high. Inflation is rising while relative income is shrinking. These are not Democrat talking points. These are economic facts that could become Teflon coated spears for the shiny object – Palin and her older sidekick McCain.

If reality doesn’t work, and it doesn’t always for voters, the LIBERAL MEDIA might. The LIBERAL MEDIA might start asking Governor Palin about things beyond her personal story in an attempt to discover if she is truly qualified to be president just in case a 72 year-old man doesn’t make it through a rigorous presidency. Ever see how fast presidents age? Tina Fey will do her best to satirize Governor Palin. This may seem small but I remember how Chevy Chase ‘framed’ Gerald Ford. People may not listen much to CBS and the New York Times but many do listen to SNL, Colbert and Stewart.

John McCain, you once said about Iraq that you would rather lose an election than see our country lose a war. Are you now ready to lose an election in order to win an election? We’ll see if your pick was insane genius or desperate politics soon enough.

Is Biden Good for McCain?

August 28, 2008

So now that the Democratic National Convention is in full swing, buzzing with promising speeches, celebrities and well-meaning anarchists, let’s talk about the Republican. John McCain, and the rest of us, now knows who the vice presidential candidate will be. Barack Obama announced Joe Biden as his running mate at 3:00 in the morning (Saturday) in a texting blitz to his closest trillion followers. Joe Biden is an interesting and strategic pick for Obama. Biden’s acceptance speech at the DNC was serviceable, almost paling in comparison to his touching biography and introduction by his son, Beau Biden. Joe Biden looked really happy to be the candidate for Vice President and his energy and smile looked younger than his years. For McCain, there are openings to go at Biden as a VP choice but some serious pitfalls as well.

AP Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast – 8/7/2007

Joe Biden is a seasoned senator and politician with decades of experience in Washington. This length of experience is jaded less by the fact that he really seems to be a good, Catholic family man, avoiding the personal scandals of many of his colleagues. Joe Biden is a gray haired (Hair Club for Men?) sage character with plenty of spring left in his step and lots of wind left in his lungs.

That is where McCain can get him. Joe Biden has probably said more words while in the Senate than any other politician. Ever. He is famous and infamous for his verbosity which at times has run him afoul of the press, the people and even his own party. Some patience should be required but Biden will probably say some things that get him in trouble. He will know how many houses he owns but he will also end up offending the Realtor Association and immigrant house contractors.

Gary Markstein, Copley

McCain shouldn’t think that one episode of Biden’s foot-in-mouth disease will carry him through to the election. Biden is quite capable of apologizing for remarks (something he has had to do many times) and his friendly charm gets him forgiven quickly, often within a news week (Monday at 8:00 to Friday at 3:00)

Another caution McCain should take is not to extrapolate Biden’s loose tongue and treat him like a dolt. Actually, McCain has known Biden since the beginning of the Triassic and he will not underestimate him. If his campaign does, they will pay the price. Joe Biden is an expert on international affairs. He talked about the federalism of Iraq before others and worried about Afghanistan when most eyes were still in Baghdad. His acumen and experience might make him an insider but he is a very capable compliment to Obama’s fresh look and perceived inexperience. Biden is a classic lawyer and has kept his debating knives sharp and serrated for any unprepared schmuck that might face him on television in the fall.

The McCain campaign must use four things against Biden to neutralize him as an effective vice presidential candidate.

  1. Biden’s mouth.
  2. Biden’s time in government.
  3. Biden’s plagiarism trouble in the past.
  4. Biden’s hair (for radio pundits only)

We have already discussed his mouth, so just wait and play when he oververbosifies.

Joe Biden won his first election to the Senate in 1972, making him one of the most senior members. He sits on very prestigious committees, like the Foreign Relations Committee. Sometimes this is good to demonstrate experience. This can also be held as a walking symptom of government that does not work, crushed by the weight of career politicians. At the same time, McCain must be painted as the Maverick or else the same argument can be hoisted upon him

Joe Biden “borrowed” a speech written by a British politician (Neil Kinnock) in 1987 during his first presidential campaign. That pretty much ruined his run at the white house (http://www.famousplagiarists.com/politics.htm). In his first year in the Syracuse Law School, Biden was accused of plagiarism on a paper. He was not disciplined as far as the records indicate but the suspicions can carry their own weight (http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2008/08/joe_bidens_plagiarism_problem.html).

This can be brought up again to erode at his credibility, especially if he happens to give a great speech. The attack dogs can wonder out loud, “Geez, I wonder where he got that one?”

Biden has some interesting hair. He is obviously bald when viewed from the back. However, he had a nice, gray bird’s nest in front. Who knows if those are plugs or a runaway comb-over or what. The official campaign should leave it alone but if any intelligence comes in about bit, it should be disseminated to the Limbaugh network. The comedian/pundits will tie the comb-over in with insincerity and “follicle plagiarism” if they can.

The McCain campaign should not go after him as an elitist or some rich guy with a trophy wife. Joe Biden has a very good reputation for working for the common person and less wealthy groups. He also championed the National Domestic Violence Volunteer Act in 2007 (Huffington Post, 2007), something that McCain and others voted against. Joe Biden lost his first wife and daughter in a car accident in 1972. He remarried after an appropriate time of mourning in 1977. Joe Biden goes to church, for real. His wife is attractive, but not right out of high school (Thompson) or looking like she’s worth 300 million dollars (McCain).

Dr. Jill Biden – flickr.com

So McCain can neutralize Biden but must be smart about it. Joe Biden could be a valuable asset for Barack Obama. If he can keep his feet on the floor and out of his mouth, his value rises past any strategy on McCain’s part. If he does slip, then his other faults can be exploited and the McCain campaign can drag Obama down by the tongue of his vice presidential pick. So far, in five and a half days of campaigning, he hasn’t left an opening for the McCain camp.

Stephen Noriega – The McBeat

Don’t Act Like Him, Don’t Talk Like Him

August 14, 2008

Stephen Noriega – The McBeat

I just stopped watching John McCain give a press conference on the Georgia situation. He should be able to dominate Barack Obama in this. Obama released a less than inspiring release from Hawaii about the invasion by Russian forces into Georgia. For all of you who do not understand, yes, Russia is driving tanks down Peachtree Avenue, has captured Atlanta and only John McCain cares.

But seriously, John McCain looked good. He touted his experience with Georgia, his trips to that country, and his relationship with the leadership there. He almost had this in the bag until he mispronounced the name of the president.

New School Politics 2-2008

Now, Georgian names are not easy to pronounce for us English speakers. Josef Stalin was a Georgian and his original name was Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili. The Minister of Foreign Affairs is Ekaterine Tkeshelashvili. The President is Mikheil Saakashvili (Not Sashkavili or Shashkvili). The capital city is Tbilisi. This is translated from a writing system different from the Roman alphabet or the Cyrillic system used by the Russians. Still, it has become somewhat important to know these names.

McCain has now mispronounced his Georgian friend’s name at least four times in the media.

Normally this would not be a super huge deal. As Americans, we do not expect our leaders to give much linguistic respect to other states or their leaders. However, this election is a little different. This election might actually have to do with intellect, articulation and pronunciation.

It is a political given that the far left will make fun of McCain and the far right will make fun of Barack Obama for any gaff statements. Likewise these sides will defend their candidates to the very end. The Democrats and Republicans will not see massive defections. This is just not historically supported. The two campaigns need to focus on a particular group of people that have leaned to the right but make no promises for 2008.

The group that has awarded Bush in the last two elections for his personality more than his eloquence is the GDI – The God Damn Independents. They have looked at issues like national security, taxes (valid enough) and whether they would like to have a beer / go bowling with them (not so valid). Even with the GDI having major concerns about Iraq and a runaway deficit, they chose President Bush over Kerry. Kerry just was not one of them. While they worried about small business taxes and Al Qaeda, Kerry went windsurfing.

Amerika.nl 2004

In similar times, the dreaded elite label could drag Obama down. His snubbing of certain beverages and foods on the campaign trail while drinking organic teas and Starbuck potions could cost him much. His misguided and aloof comments in San Francisco about certain people clinging to guns and religion could be a death nail in 2004. However, in 2008, it is not.

Chicago Sun Times 2008

The GDI, as well as many more in the middle of political America, are less concerned about with whom we want to have a beer, or organic tea for that matter. The people in the middle have started to feel their own embarrassment glands ache as the world laughs at our leaders. It is not becoming enough to drink a beer with the President. The President needs to get things done. John McCain can fit the bill, but he must avoid looking silly. This is a rare time for any Republican candidate, trying to honor the brand of the party while still trying not to appear too much like the outgoing, two-term president.

Huffington Post 2008

I am willing to bet that Barack Obama, on his way back from Hawaii, is practicing names like Medvedev, Saakashvili and Tbilisi. McCain better do the same unless he wants a highlight reel like the one below. Unfortunately, McCain’s reel will be shorter because he will pay better attention or because he will lose the election.

Surviving the Rock Star and Not Beating up the New Kid

July 29, 2008

Stephen Noriega – The McCain Beat

John McCain has a bit of a paradox to swim through if he wants to become president. McCain finds himself running against a historical, charismatic, symbolic candidate. This presents a multidimensional challenge in terms of McCain being able to frame himself and frame Barack Obama. McCain must avoid the pitfalls that come with campaigning against an attention machine. He must also avoid being so rough on Obama that he becomes defined as a bully. McCain needs to know that voters are willing to dislike the rock star but if we feel sorry for them, we back them up whether they deserve it or not.

First, the rock star hurdle must be cleared. The evidence is clear that Obama is a phenomenon, drawing hundreds of thousands of cheering people in Germany, waving American flags. When was the last time that happened without divisions of American soldiers marching in the streets or supporting airlifts there? The answer is never.

All of this comes through the media. The Internet obviously loves Barack Obama and prefers to make fun of McCain. More pictures can be found like the two below than the reverse.

This clip from Hardball illustrates the visual and psychologically symbolic difference between Obama and McCain.

Inspite of that, Obama only received a bounce in the polls to approximately 48% to McCain’s 40% after his Audacity of Yes We Can 08 World Tour. This number actually fell one percent according to Gallup (http://www.gallup.com/poll/109126/Gallup-Daily-Obama-48-McCain-40.aspx ). As it turns out, Americans don’t follow the European lead when it comes to presidential politics. If that were the case, Ralph Nader would not be running only because he was term limited!

McCain can take advantage of this by sticking with his agenda and framing himself as the candidate who did not need a tour of our battlefields because he had been there many times. He did not need a trip to Europe because Europe does not elect our president or help us much in the Middle East. McCain is very strong in the “town hall” environment. He is a good sparring partner. He makes gaffs and factual mistakes but they are often in smaller venues and his willingness to take unscripted questions gives him forgiveness in this area. Obama is already the better coliseum orator. No reason to fight him there. Fight him among the American people, in the veterans’ halls and the converted square dance auditoriums and even the college campuses. This is where McCain can punch and punch back. Obama, expected to be elegant and articulate all the time, can only make blunders and look less ready for the pressures of the Presidency.

Not Beating Up the New Kid

McCain and his campaign committed an error by energetically firing off juvenile criticisms of his apparent patriotism and travel itinerary. Let the public in America feel unimpressed while you focus on how the surge in Iraq has worked, how you want to ease the pain at the pump on so forth, Senator McCain. By talking about Obama not visiting wounded troops, the McCain campaign opens itself up to looking ugly and desperate. First, because the facts are wrong (Obama did visit wounded troops). Second, these tactics appear like nervous salvos thrown at an opponent, creating sympathy for Obama. Third, it’s too early! Most people are finishing off their summer vacations, and thusly worried about gas prices. More people are thinking about the 2008 Olympics and Academy Award implications for the Dark Knight right now. Any creative and successful harpooning of Obama may very well go unnoticed and wasted until at least the party conventions.


John McCain should not “approve this message”.

A very wise professor once said that one of the best ways to get elected is if the voters feel sorry for the candidate. This is true. Many felt that Bush’s election somehow became more solidified the more that Hollywood mocked him. Senator Hillary Clinton seemed to gain strength in her bid for political office after Rick Lazio stepped to her podium with a piece of paper. It was over the top and seen as bullying. Hillary won the seat after being neck and neck with Lazio up to that debate. Anyway, my money would have been on Hillary if it spiraled into fisticuffs.

-MSNBC, 2000

McCain needs to keep it in mind that Americans love the underdog more than the rock star. This is not to say that McCain can not state differences in philosophy or criticize Obama. He can and should. However, he should give little attention to his ability to draw crowds, perhaps even complimenting him for that. Then he should turn around and nail him for wanting to raise capital gains taxes, on his mistaken assumption that more U.S. troops would not work in Iraq and other weaknesses. McCain did not help himself with the statement that Barack Obama is willing to “lose a war to win a campaign”. The commercial blaming Obama for higher oil prices also worked in the opposite direction. They are too aggressive at this point and they give the rock star the underdog title as well. Obama is too vulnerable in other ways to try the straight negative approach. McCain needs to keep his charming side to the public. He needs to nurture that part of him that is humorous (no gorilla rape jokes!) and attentive to people’s concerns. This is definitely something he can do. He can attack Obama on the validity of his policy arguments. He needs to stay away from phrases like, “The audacity of hopelessness”. They might be funny. I even chuckled. Then I thought, “Does that make McCain anti-hope?” In these hard times, the Straight Talk Express needs to include some hope. If McCain’s campaign does not realize this, he will frame himself as the angry old bully and Obama as the good new kid.

Ron Davis, The Satirical Political Report, 6-20-2008

Advise to McCain

So if I were advising McCain, I would tell him to lay off the new kid. Argue with him within the environment of policy and experience. Do not become desperate because of his youthful popularity. It has not translated into a gaping poll chasm yet. McCain’s numbers continue to be extremely friendly considering the widespread anger with the Republican Party. Stay with the policy program, go to as many town halls as possible and let the rock star perform at as many stadiums as he wants. Very few rock stars have been elected to political office, and if they did win, their opponents were probably too mean to them.

McCain’s Big Choice: Veepstakes 2008!

March 25, 2008

“The Vice President really only has two duties,” Senator McCain half-joked during the 2008 Iowa caucus debates. “One is to cast a tie-breaking vote in the case of a tie vote in the Senate, and the other is to inquire daily as to the health of the president.” Following healthy laughter from the audience in the room, McCain added a more cutting observation that he did not expect to have a vice-president with the high-profile role that Dick Cheney has assumed under President Bush. “I would make very sure that the people understand that there is only one President,” McCain emphasized.

McCain’s Thoughts on the Vice-President’s Role

Though there is only one president, there is also only one vice president, and Americans know that there is a very real chance the vice-president will become the next president, either through presidential death/removal from office, or by running for the office in subsequent elections. Since 1968, there have been 7 different presidents—three were former vice-presidents (Nixon, Ford, and Bush the elder–and it was almost four, if Gore had pulled off the 2000 election). So it is not surprising that the newspapers, airwaves and blogosphere is filled with conjecture as to who McCain’s choice for vice-president will be (politico gossip certain to be repeated when Obama or Clinton seal the deal on the Democratic side). For examples of political analysis of who McCain might pick as his veep nominee and why, see any of the following: The Huffington Post, The LA Times, The National Journal, Rightwing News, or Yahoo.com.

Don’t like reading? Then here are some interesting video clips/roundtables discussing McCain’s vice-presidential nomination choice.

Pat Toomey: The Club for Growth

Fox News: Studio B

Fox News: You Decide 2008

Now onto my own analysis of McCain’s big choice—one of the very first substantive decisions he will make in his possible tenure as the new American president. To understand who McCain will choose as his nominee (I provide my predictions at the end of this entry), it is important to ponder the kinds of strategic considerations that McCain must weigh. In no particular order, some of those considerations are:

Addressing Age and Health Concerns

Although McCain downplayed the role of the vice president in this debate, he also nailed a key reason why American voters might look very carefully at McCain’s vice-presidential selection as they ponder their final vote: the president’s health. If McCain is elected president at 72 years old, he will be the oldest person to ever ascend to the presidency, and it can be expected that Americans will be very interested in who McCain has chosen to replace himself should he be unable to serve a full four or eight years. Assumedly, Americans will want the choice to be a trusted figure of national stature—someone they can easily imagine in Oval Office. “For Reagan in 1980, age was a big question, was a bigger issue than it is for McCain,” said McCain adviser Charlie Black, in remembering the important of Reagan choosing a respected vice-president, in order to address voters’ concerns. “The day Reagan picked George Bush, it went away. People looked at it and said, ‘Oh, we know this guy, we know he can handle it.”‘

Who fits the bill? General Colin Powell is a well-respected leader with decades of national experience. Though he too is of the older generation, he is considered of presidential timber by many Americans and may help Americans feel secure in the case he has to take on presidential duties. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has long been discussed as a presidential candidate, and his run for the presidency in 2008 may help him make the short list of those Americans are ready to see as their next president. Romney has even campaigned a bit for the spot in television appearances, making it clear that he would be “honored to be asked to serve as the vice presidential nominee.”

Solidify the Base: Woo the Social Conservatives

There are other factors in play that might also make McCain’s vice-presidential pick particularly important to his chances of winning the presidency. McCain is running as a maverick outside of the mainstream of his own party—so there are many who argue that McCain’s veep choice must be solid social conservative. McCain’s strength has never come from the deep South, from the pro-life movement, or from evangelical Christians—all vital constituencies in today’s Republican party. If McCain wants to avoid these groups sitting on their hands come November 2008, or going so far as a protest vote for the Democratic nominee (as some conservative commentators have suggested they do), he may want to woo them with a vice-presidential nominee of impeccable credentials among social conservatives.

Who fits the bill? South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, or even former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee all are strong Southern leaders who are well-respected in the GOP’s social conservative community.

Addressing Issue # 1: The Economy

McCain has admitted that his expertise is not on economic issues. As the economy continues to stall, and as voters claim that solutions to America’s economic ills are their number one issue this election, McCain may want to select a vice-president with strong credentials as a leader in dealing with economic challenges.

Who Fits the Bill? Again, Governor Mitt Romney from Massachusetts staked his case for the Presidency on his experience as a business leader and his efficient leadership of Massachusetts through an era of economic growth. It wasn’t enough to earn the presidential nod from his party—but it might be enough for vice-president. Dark Horse candidates in this category include Steve Forbes (business executive, proponent of the flat tax, and past candidate for the Republican presidential nomination), former Ohio Representative and current Bush head of the Budget Office, Rob Portman, and former Ohio Congressman and current Fox News Television host, John Kasich.

Making History

No matter what happens in the Democratic party from here on out, McCain will be facing a historic opponent—either a woman or a black man, who both bring with them a surging sense of hope and possibility as Democratic voters are sensing a historic moment of change come November 2008. How can McCain match this historic surge and avoid being seen as the tired, old white man representing outdated politics? One strategy is to nominate a historic vice-president; someone able to match Democratic excitement with exciting precedent-setting candidates on the GOP side.

Who Fits the Bill? All across the TV news shows and constantly fueling talk radio is the chatter that McCain’s best choice for Veep would be Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Rice would be a dramatic and historic choice (the nation’s first black woman on a major ticket for the President). She is a well-respected leader who carries a sense of “gravitas” needed in Presidential candidates. Excitement over this precedent-setting choice might help blunt the Democrats’ claim that their party is the only one representing important change and new faces in politics. To view some interesting news clips about the possibility of a Rice vice-presidency, see:

Election Geography

Bottom line, for McCain to win, he has to win enough states in the Electoral College to win 270 electoral votes. Most states are predicted to line up safely within the Democratic or Republican columns (e.g., New York and California for the Dems, Texas and most of the South for the GOP), so the real task for McCain is to pick a candidate who will help him to win key states that could go either way—Democrat or Republican. Some of those key states include Ohio, Florida and Missouri (large and important swing states that have been close in recent elections), Colorado and New Mexico (Western states that have often voted Republican but that are trending Democrat) and Pennsylvania and Minnesota (traditional Democratic states, that Republicans believe might be trending to their party). Choosing a popular candidate from one of these states might insure that the state lines up in McCain’s column.

Who Fits the Bill? Popular Governor Charlie Crist, From Florida, might insure this key state votes for McCain. Former Ohio Members of Congress Rob Portman or John Kasich might swing this state into the GOP column. Governor Pawlenty from Minnesota is another short-lister, who would help the GOP build on the Minnesota momentum they may build after holding their party convention in that state.

Double-Down”: Playing to McCain’s Strengths

McCain has at least three important traits that he will sell as “strengths” to the voters this election year: 1) he is a moderate, able to work with both parties and rise beyond the ideological partisanship of core conservatives; 2) he is a national security and foreign policy expert, able to be trusted in this time of war; 3) he is a ground-breaking maverick, not beholden to any established party and willing to speak his mind freely without insider political calculation. One strategy for choosing a vice president is to choose someone who matches one or more of these strengths—so as to even more strongly present these strengths to the voters. Bill Clinton (from Arkansas) did something like this in 1992, when he choose another southerner (Al Gore, from Tennessee) as his running mate. Clinton gave up geographic diversity on his ticket, but he calculated that a Democratic ticket made up of two southerners might be able to win a few southern states from the Republicans and put them on the defensive.

Who fits the Bill?

To build on McCain’s strengths as moderate, he might consider leaders like General Colin Powell or Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. These choices might not make social conservatives in the GOP happy, but it might help McCain to aggressively compete for “middle-of-the-road” swing voters, denying them to the Democrats.

To build on his national security expertise, McCain might want to consider Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice—which would certainly tie him irrevocably to defending how the Iraq War has been waged—even from the very start, but would also give him an unbeatable ticket in terms of foreign policy and national security expertise. Another good choice would be General David Petraeus, a well-respected military leader credited with recent successes in Iraq and with credible distance from Bush’s early strategic failures in Iraq—since he wasn’t in command back then.

To build on his reputation as a maverick, and to really shake the party establishments up, McCain might even consider the “maverick” choice of Independent Senator (and former Democrat) Joe Lieberman as his running mate. Such a choice would be shocking (Lieberman was Gore’s running –mate in 2000, against Bush), but Lieberman is a moderate in the McCain mold and is good friends with McCain. Lieberman also might help McCain win a state or two in the Northeast (Lieberman is from Connecticut). If nothing else, such a choice would receive tremendous press attention and would cement McCain’s reputation as a mold-shattering maverick. It would be a risky move. Voters may or may not like it; Republican party true-believers would likely be appalled.

Veepstakes 2008: And the Winner Is?

The list of possible picks goes on and on from here, McCain has certainly considered dozens and dozens of candidates by now. We know the kinds of considerations McCain must think of when coming to his decision—but predicting his final choice from among the dozens of good candidates is highly unlikely. But still….political veepstakes are fun, and I will now finally tell you who it is that McCain will pick for his running mate—or at least narrow it down to one of four.

McCain’s top priority has to be winning the election. Period. To do that, especially since he is running against a strong Democratic wind and widespread predictions of Republican disaster in 2008, McCain has to above all else focus on the Electoral College math. He needs a path to eking out a narrow victory in the Electoral College, because there will be no national landslide or widespread mandate for the GOP this year. To achieve his narrow victory, based on winning just enough states to get by, McCain MUST hold on to the key states of Florida and Ohio. Both were narrowly won by Bush in his narrow election victories of 2000 and 2004, and if either had went Democrat, Bush would have lost in either year.

Understanding the importance of holding on to these states, McCain will choose Florida Governor Charlie Christ


Florida Governor Charlie Crist (photo: wptv.com)

A second good geography choice would be charismatic Fox News Personality and former Ohio Representative John Kasich. One of these two men is likely to land on the ticket. (Rob Portman of Bush’s Budget Office is also from Ohio—but he doesn’t have the charisma, cache, or name-recognition of Kasich.)

John Kasich

Former OH Representative, John Kasich (photo: johnkasich.com)

If McCain doesn’t go for the electoral geography strategy for winning the Presidency, he would be well advised to “double-down” on his foreign policy/national security strengths and strive to make this election all about foreign policy and Iraq. It is hard to see the Republican candidate ever being able to win if the election is about domestic issues and faltering economy—so McCain has to do all he can to shift voters’ attention to Obama’s woeful lack of foreign policy experience (assuming Obama will receive the Democratic nod, which I do) and to make foreign affairs the dominant campaign theme. One way to do this is to chose a dramatic vice presidential nominee who would help dominate the news coverage and force attention away from domestic affairs and onto international matters.

The two best choices for the “Double-Down strategy”: Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice

condi rice

Sec of State Condoleeza Rice (photo http://www.global.net)

or General David Petraeus,perhaps the most respected military leader in Iraq affairs and the one who voters most credit with strategic success do to the “surge” in troops.


Gov. David Petraeus

Should McCain Go All-In?

On second thought, forget “Double-Down”: Rice or Petraeus is a McCain “All-In” on the issue of national security an foreign policy. All eyes would then turn to the American voters—unwilling to trust the newcomer Obama with all their chips, would they take a deep breath and then push all-in with McCain and his military sidekick?