Al Gore endorsed Barack Obama yesterday. Does anyone except (maybe) Tipper Gore care? Probably not.
Three months ago it might have mattered. Not now.
The Democrats are going to try to paint John McCain as a smarter and older version of George Bush.
Is this true? On some issues yes, on some issues no, and of course McCain's personality is completely
different. McCain doesn't have Bush's arrogance and "the-king-can-do-no-wrong" attitude. The NY Times
today on the similarities and differences between the two on hot-button policy issues. Here is a brief summary.
McCain vs. Bush
McCain agrees with Bush
Iraq, Iran, health care, gay marriage, abortion
McCain used to disagree, now agrees
tax cuts, torture
McCain used to agree now disagrees
McCain always disagreed
climate change, limiting nuclear weapons
On most of the big-ticket items, McCain and Bush are on the same wavelength, but there are exceptions,
notably on the environment. But it is hard to see McCain basing his campaign on his being an environmentalist.
On other issues, McCain has changed positions. He used to be against torture and ridiculed the Bush tax cuts
(and voted against them in the Senate) but now supports both. The Democrats will surely attack him
on these points for flip-flopping and pandering
to the Base. On immigration, McCain was the coauthor of the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill that would have
created a path to citizenship for the 12 million illegals in the U.S., an idea strongly supported by Bush
(and the business community). He has pulled back from that position and now wants to build a big fence along
the Mexican border. All in all, none of these issues look like winners for him so he is likely to focus on
national security and terrorism, claiming that Spring Chicken Obama doesn't know beans about them.
We are going to hear a lot of dog-whistle politics this year, with people saying one thing but meaning
something else. Karl Rove perfected the idea in 2004 when he had Bush repeatedly refer to the Dred Scott case
(where the Supreme Court held that slaves were property). This was a signal that he understood that the court
sometimes gets it wrong and later reverses course, something opponents of Roe vs. Wade like hearing. This year we
are not going to hear many Democrats come out and say point blank: "McCain is too old to be President."
However, we are already starting to get remarks like "he is losing his bearings," and he is "confused."
A recent poll
in which people were asked to name one word to describe McCain came up with "old" as the winner, not "maverick" any more.
The Republicans will scream "ageism" but these off-hand remarks remind the voters of McCain's age.
Surprisingly, emphasizing McCain's age has a bigger effect with older voters than middle-aged ones since the former
see all too clearly their own physical limitations and those of their friends.
Obama will give his acceptance
speech on Aug. 28, the day before McCain's 72nd birthday. Clever speech writers may try to craft a
reference to it in the speech, such as "And I would like to congratulate Sen. McCain on his birthday
tomorrow. He has served America well for over half a century and I wish him many more years serving our country
in the United States Senate."
Speaking of dog-whistle politics, Obama's announcement yesterday that he had hired
Patti Solis Doyle is a clear example of same.
Hillary Clinton belatedly fired her former friend for poor campaign and financial management. Now Obama
hires her--as chief of staff to the Vice Presidential candidate. Can you imagine Clinton being saddled up with
a chief of staff she thinks is incompetent and whom she at least partially blames for losing the nomination?
The message seems clear: Clinton is not going to be the Veep candidate. So why would Obama hire Solis Doyle
other than her value as a signal to Clinton? She is a Latina; her parents were Mexican immigrants. Her real job
will no doubt be outreach to the Latino community, a group that Obama has a good chance of winning if he tries
hard. Step 1 is hiring a high-profile Latina who used to be very close to the Clintons--Solis Doyle!
Having gone through all the senators and the female Democratic governors,
now let's look at the male governors as potential Veeps. Since Obama
is a senator, a governor would add executive experience to the ticket.
John Baldacci (D-ME)
is from a safely blue state and Baldacci did not get elected by large margins, so he is pretty unlikely.
Mike Beebe (D-AR)
is a first term governor of the second most likely southern state Obama can win (after Virginia).
He won by 14% in 2006, so he might be able to bring in the state. Still, he is an unlikely pick.
Phil Bredesen (D-TN)
is another southern governor, like Beebe, but it is unlikely he could win Tennessee for the Democrats.
Gore didn't win Tennessee and he represented it in the Senate.
Jon Corzine (D-NJ)
had a serious traffic accident in April 2007. It is not known if he is up to the rigors of a national
campaign. He was divorced in 2005 after 33 years of marriage to his high school sweetheart.
All in all, he's not the right guy
Chet Culver (D-IA)
is a young guy (42) from a swing state but he doesn't have a lot of experience. If Obama wants a young
guy from the Midwest, Sen. Evan Bayh is probably a better bet since he has racked up landslide after
landslide in a (red) Midwestern state.
Jim Doyle (D-WI)
is a Catholic from a swing state, Wisconsin, which Obama really needs to win. He won his first election
as governor with only 45% of the vote, but he did better the second time.
Mike Easley (D-NC)
is a Catholic and was a Clinton supporter. He is 58 and probably interested in the job.
With Easley on the ticket, North Carolina might be in play and he would help in nearby Virginia as well.
Dave Freudenthal (D-WY)
is a Democrat is a very Republican state, Wyoming, but he has done pretty well. Still, there is no way
Obama can win Wyoming and probably not the adjacent states except Colorado.
Brad Henry (D-OK)
is yet another Democratic governor of a deep red state but there is no way he could deliver the state
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
is from a state, Virginia, that Obama will no doubt go after very hard. It is difficult to say whether
Kaine or Sen. Jim Webb would be the better running mate. Kaine is younger (50) than Webb (62) and a lot less
abrasive, but if Obama wants to stay above the fray and let the Veep be the attack dog, Webb might be
better. Kaine also lacks Webb's military experience. His main advantage over Webb is his youth,
which reinforces Obama's message of "change."
Ted Kulongoski (D-OR)
is 67, which puts him in McCain's age bracket. Besides, Oregon is a blue state anyway. He is Catholic,
but an unlikely pick.
John Lynch (D-NH)
was relected governor in 2006 by the largest margin in the history of New Hampshire. His current
approval rating is 73% and he is Catholic. Still, with an MBA from the Harvard Business School and
a law degree from Georgetown, he is not the right person to woo the blue collar workers of Appalachia
although his presence on the ticket would end any dreams McCain has of winning New Hampshire.
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
is governor of a state at the heart of Appalachia, an area Obama has had trouble in.
He is also a Catholic who opposes abortion, which would help with some voters although many party
loyalists want a pro-choice candidate. Bill Clinton won West Virgina twice as did George Bush.
If Obama wants to make a big effort to win Appalachia, a moderate like Manchin might do the job.
But Appalachia is probably not his highest priority.
Martin O'Malley (D-MD)
is from a state Democrats always win by large margins (Maryland) so he doesn't bring in much.
David Paterson (D-NY)
is one of the nation's two black governors. Maybe some day we will see an all-black ticket, but not in 2008.
Furthermore, Paterson is blind and has never even won statewide election, having inherited his current
position when Eliot Spitzer resigned.
Deval Patrick (D-MA)
is the other black governor. Even with excellent vision, he is not going to be on the ticket.
Rod Blagojevich (D-IL)
is from the same state as Obama, something the 12th amendment frowns on. Besides, he has been involved
in too many controversies.
Ed Rendell (D-PA)
was a Hillary Clinton supporter who would help in several states. He would cement Pennsylvania for the
Democrats and also help in nearby Ohio, which has similar demographics. He has definite appeal to
blue collar workers. He is Jewish, which might help among the little old ladies of Broward County, Florida,
many of whom were strong supporters of Clinton and not entirely sold on Obama yet.
Bill Richardson (D-NM)
is an old government hand, having served in Congress, the cabinet, the U.N. and now as governor.
Although he was born in the U.S. he grew up in Mexico and would definitely bring in the Latino vote
big time. Whether Obama would want to risk a ticket with a black candidate and a Latino candidate
is questionable though. Still, Richardson is clearly one of the most experienced guys available.
Bill Ritter (D-CO)
could be the August surprise (his first name is "August"). He won the governor's job by 15% in 2006
and would surely bring in this crucial swing state and perhaps New Mexico and Nevada as well.
He is Catholic and worked for the Church in Africa as a missionary and aid worker. At 51 he would bring
youth and a key state to the ticket, as well as experience living in a foreign country.
Brian Schweitzer (D-MT)
has the same problem as Dave Freudenthal: he couldn't even win is own state of Montana, but he is 52, Catholic,
and very popular in the West. He also lived abroad for a number of years working as an irrigation engineer,
including a stint in Saudi Arabia, where he learned Arabic. His years abroad (as an adult) probably
give him a better view of foreign affairs than most politicians.
He is against gun control, but you don't
run for governor of Montana by saying you want to take away everyone's gun. He's a long shot, but if
Obama thinks he has to win the West, Schweitzer is a possibility.
Ted Strickland (D-OH)
would be a great choice as governor of Ohio but he has announced that he is quite happy in Ohio and
would not accept the nomination as Veep.
We have several new polls today. The most interesting one is Virginia, which is a statistical tie.
This state has not voted Democratic since Lyndon Johnson's landslide over Barry Goldwater in 1964, but
the demographics of the state have changed wildly since then. Northern Virginia isn't the South any more.
It is a slightly warmer version of Maryland. And it has grown in population so much that it counterbalances
the southern part of the state, which is still truly the South. Virginia is going to be a real battleground
state, especially if Kaine, Webb, or Easley is the Democratic Veep candidate.
We also have Senate polls, but they are less surprising. Former Virginia governor Mark Warner (D) is
so far ahead of former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore (R) that is is essentially all over but the shoutin'
as shown by the polling graph.
It is even possible that Warner has coattails that could help Obama in the state. If Obama can win the
states Kerry won plus Virginia, he will have 265 electoral votes. All he would need then is one more
state, probably from the list of New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, and Iowa. Thus the loss of Virginia
would mean that McCain has to win all the new swing states unless he can pick off a Kerry state.
Thus winning Virginia would mean Obama could probably be elected President while losing Florida and Ohio.
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