Thursday, October 02, 2008

Is It Over?

Today, reports surfaced that the McCain campaign has pulled out of Michigan, canceling all media buys and stopping sending out mailers, while moving most staff to WI, OH, FL, and other more hospitable states. Considering that MI was a close state in ’04 and that Obama had shown some weakness there because he hadn’t campaigned during the primary, this is a very bad sign, to put it mildly. Based on current polling data (and there’s a ton of it) McCain is in extremely bad position, somewhere in the Dole zone.
What has caused this dramatic shift? First, the economic problems have put the focus on the area where McCain is weakest. Second, Sarah Palin is beginning to scare people. Third, McCain’s campaign suspension stunt looked foolish and desperate. And fourth, and maybe biggest, the debate went really badly for him.
Now the punditocracy felt it was at worst a tie, but on an issue by issue breakdown, they seemed to think McCain did better. The MSNBC nitwits, led by nitwit-in-chief Chris Matthews, felt that Obama had spent too much time agreeing with McCain, while McCain, smartly, never agreed with Obama, even when he had the same position. Matthews, with that senescent point of reference he specializes in, pointed out that Richard Nixon did that in his debate with JFK and that didn’t work for him. Now no one remembers that except Chris, and that wasn’t the key to that debate anyway. The key to that debate was Nixon sweating and seeming uncomfortable, while JFK looked cool and calm. Those who listened on the radio – yes, people did that then – thought Nixon won. So too in this debate – it wasn’t about individual answers, it was about what the demeanor and attitude of the candidates was. Remember, both candidates will almost certainly reinforce support within their own party. The key audience is the independent voters and the moderate edges of their own parties. I like to call them the “Kumbaya Voters” – they believe everything could be solved if the politicians were less partisan and just got along.
Every time McCain smirked during an Obama answer, his disrespect offended the Kumbaya voters. Every time he said “you don’t understand” to a man who clearly did, he lost votes. And every time Obama agreed with something McCain said, before modifying it slightly, Obama was the living embodiment of the bipartisan candidate they wanted. That McCain refused to ever look at Obama (which Matthews and company seemed to endorse) was also an insult which these voters noticed. Every poll following the debate showed that independents thought Obama won and his positives have increased while McCain's negatives have increased since then. While Obama looked calm, cool, and Presidential throughout, McCain came off as hostile and condescending, and frankly, more than a little crotchety – never a good thing for an old man.
Tonight is the VP debate, eagerly awaited by all fans of politics, as well as all fans of comedy. The punditocracy will emphasize the expectations being low for Palin. Frankly, they’re too low. At this point, after her pathetic performance with Katie Couric, any mistake, fumbling, or general show of ignorance, will merely confirm the expectations. She has to be nearly perfect tonight. If I was coaching Biden, I would have shown him the Obama-McCain debate, pointing out every McCain smirk and saying “don’t do that – or even smile, when she’s speaking”. And never say “you don’t know” or “you don’t understand” – be respectful and let her hang herself. All comments about the other side should be a reference to the McCain-Palin ticket, the stupider the comment by Barbie, the more it should be tied to McCain and Palin. The debate is not about Biden, just don’t make anyone notice you instead of her.
So is this race over? There’s a month to go and that’s a lifetime in politics. At this point though, it will require something huge to change the momentum – something McCain can’t do himself, since he’s already tried so many things. Settle in and enjoy the ride.

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home