Thursday, November 13, 2008

Election wrapup

This is from one of the Newsweek articles in the Nov. 10 issue about the presidential campaigns:

Obama was up against McCain's strength and experience in the national-security realm, but he was also confronting a deeper stereotype, a curse that had kept the Democrats out of the White House for 20 of the last 28 years. Ever since the days of Jimmy Carter, a majority of Americans had consistently told pollsters that they trusted the Republicans more on the issue of security—not just abroad, but at home. To use ancient and more or less discredited (but still potent) clich├ęs, the Democrats were the Mommy party, comforting the needy and weak, while the Republicans were the Daddy party, keeping the family safe from threats. In the debates, it was critical that Obama come across as looking like Dad. His hope was that McCain would appear to be the crotchety uncle who lived up in the attic.

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This is an interesting dynamic that never occurred to me before. In a way, it explains why Americans are comfortable with the Democratic Party running Congress while the GOP gets to run the country from the White House. (Until January, anyway.) Sen. Obama’s election represents a real change from the past several decades. Each of the last two times Democrats were elected—1976 and 1992—we had just finished wars. In 1976, when The Worthless One Jimmy Carter beat President Ford, the Vietnam War had just ended. In 1992, when Bill Clinton beat President George H.W. Bush, the Cold War had effectively just ended. If we had suffered terrorist attacks at home in the months leading up to the election, I can’t imagine we would have trusted Obama to lead us for the next four years. Whatever the reason for the absence of terrorist attacks, Obama benefitted and McCain suffered as a result. The issue became a low priority in voters’ minds.

More interesting insights from Newsweek’s behind-the-scenes special report on the presidential campaigns:
Senior Democratic operatives often tried to give the Obama campaign unsolicited advice and wanted the operation to be run similar to previous campaigns. Obama remembered this was the same party that lost seven of the previous ten presidential elections. So he didn’t take such advice very seriously.
The Obama iPhone application prioritized the phone’s contact list so contacts in battleground states rose to the top.
The GOP-mocked Obama acceptance speech stage at Invesco Field in Denver was actually toned down from the original plan. That was toned down? Phew!
Bill Clinton often joined his friend, supermarket billionaire playboy Ron Burkle, on Burkle’s private jet. Suspicious of his extracurricular activity, Hillary’s senior campaign aides called the jet “Air F--- One.” Ouch.
After the Florida hurricane (Ike?), the Obama website linked to the Red Cross website. The Obama campaign tried to warn the Red Cross about the coming wave of contributions. The Red Cross wasn’t worried, figuring if it could handle Sept. 11, this was not a big deal. The Red Cross website crashed in 15 minutes.
One of the seven articles focused on McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin, which was similar to the New Yorker article on the same subject. It’s too bad he didn’t pick Sen. Joe Lieberman, but I don’t think it would have made a difference. As for Palin’s clothing spree, which Palin denied in a Chicago Tribune interview late last month and one of the Newsweek writers confirmed, to me it shows poor judgment on the governor’s part. Three suits for you and one for Todd, plus a hair stylist. Is that so hard?
I salute McCain for running a respectful campaign and not using attack strategies his more successful Republican predecessors, the Bushes, certainly would have employed. He ruled out going after Michelle Obama; the Republicans started their Hillary attack mode at the 1992 Republican National Convention. He refused to make Obama’s race an issue; rumors swirling in South Carolina about Bridget, McCain’s adopted Bangladeshi daughter, ended his campaign in 2000. I was also surprised at his considerable relief that Obama didn’t pick Hillary. McCain thought that Hillary was a much more formidable opponent than Biden.
I understand McCain’s thinly-disguised disdain for Obama, whom he sees as a neophyte up-and-comer who hasn’t yet paid his dues. And I feel sorry for McCain. I really do. His big chance was 2000, but the Republican Establishment and the GOP money machine were strongly behind Gov. George W. Bush. McCain was 64 and had a great opportunity to win the GOP nomination and very likely beat Vice President Gore in November. (I probably would not have voted for McCain.) After the South Carolina debacle, he probably felt like he’d brought a knife to a gunfight. The Bush campaign, or someone close to it, went after McCain’s daughter, who was then about nine years old. Can you imagine McCain going after the Bush twins, who were then 18? Of course not. Cindy McCain still believes that was all Karl Rove’s fault and will not speak to him. (Rove denies it.)
I doubt very many people actively dislike McCain in the same way they might dislike or detest the current president or vice president. He is a man of honor who has served his country well. He may not be such a nice guy—I’ve surely been accused of same—but I do think he is a good person whose intentions are sound. It’s a shame the timing for the top job just didn’t work out.

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