News from the Votemaster
The NY Times has a story on the front page today about John McCain's involvement with a 40-year-old blonde lobbyist, Vicki Iseman. The Washington Post also has the story. The story raises multiple issues, starting with the question of whether there is a romantic relationship between the two of them, something they deny. However, Iseman has appeared at fundraisers with McCain and traveled with him on a corporate jet belonging to one of her clients. No doubt this story is going to bring up McCain's first marriage to Carol Shepp. That marriage ended in divorce after McCain returned from Vietnam. During his absence serving his country, his wife had been in a serious automobile accident and when he was reunited with her, she was shorter and heavier than when he left and he began having affairs. After the divorce McCain was quoted as saying "My marriage's collapse was attributable to my own selfishness and immaturity more than it was to Vietnam." After his divorce, McCain married his current wife, beer heiress Cindy Hensley.
The second problem for McCain, whose whole campaign is based on his image of rectitude, is his having a close bond with a lobbyist, even if they are just friends. His staff has long seen the problem and tried to shoo her away. Any kind of relationship with a lobbyist (let alone an attractive female one 30 years his junior) is going to dredge up the Keating Five story again. Just type "Keating Five" to Google and you will get over 100,000 hits, such as the Wikipedia article on it. In a nutshell, a crooked banker named Charles Keating looted his bank and duped 20,000 elderly people out of their life savings. When the government got on his case, he donated over $1 million to several politicians, including $112,000 to McCain, in hopes of getting some help. McCain made at least nine trips on Keating's corporate jet although he later paid $13,433 for the free travel. McCain's wife also invested in one of Keating's other business ventures. Keating's plan didn't work entirely and Keating spent over 4 years in prison. This incident ended the careers of three of the other senators involved but McCain and Sen. John Glenn survived with only a rebuke from the Senate ethics committee. Senators taking large campaign contributions in return for a couple of phone calls to government officials on behalf of a contributor is nothing new, but when a senator is a presidential candidate whose strongest point is his moral character, it is going to raise some questions.
The Times is not hostile to McCain generally. In fact, it endorsed him in the Republican primary in New York on Feb. 5. Nevertheless, McCain is going to fight back on this for all he is worth. Even if it is only partly true, it could hurt McCain's image as a straight shooter.
When a reporter recently asked Mike Huckabee why he was still in the race when the delegate numbers so so much against him, he replied that he didn't major in math, he majored in miracles. No doubt he will spend much of today thanking Jesus for his help. If any part of the McCain-Iseman story is true, it is going to put the Republicans in a horrible situation: a nominee whose great strength is his moral character being involved in ethical issues (again). Still, he has the delegates, so it seems unlikely he can be denied the nomination.
As an aside, this is the kind of problem the Democratic PLEOs were designed to deal with. By making 20% of the delegates party insiders, the Democrats felt that if the voters did something foolish, like nominate a candidate with serious problems of one kind or another, they could step in and try to shoot down the candidate. The Republicans, however, have more faith in the voters and have only a small number of unpledged delegates.
The mud is already flying on both sides of the aisle. A reader reported that a smear campaign is already underway in parts of the South saying the Barack Obama is a Moslem (which he is not) and part of a secret plan by Islamic extremists to take over the United States. Voters with lower levels of education and knowledge do not instantly react by saying "Hmm, I smell Lee Atwater here." (Atwater was Karl Rove's friend and mentor, from whom he learned many of his campaign techniques.)
There are no new polls today.
Here are the delegate totals from various news sources. They differ because in most caucus states, no delegates to the national conventions have been chosen yet, just delegates to the district, county, or state convention. Also, some sources try to count the PLEOs (Party Leaders and Elected Officials) and unpledged delegates, who also get to vote at the convention. When different reporters call a PLEO and hear "Well, I like Hillary, but Barack has his charms too" they may score it differently.
Needed to win: Democrats 2025, Republicans 1191.
Here is another source for delegate totals.
-- The Votemaster