The NY Times Takes McCain to Task for Palin

Sunday's NY Times:

As we watched Sarah Palin on TV the last couple of days, we kept wondering what on earth John McCain was thinking.

If he seriously thought this first-term governor - with less than two years in office - was qualified to be president, if necessary, at such a dangerous time, it raises profound questions about his judgment. If the choice was, as we suspect, a tactical move, then it was shockingly irresponsible.

Latinos and the Emerging Electoral College Map

Tomorrow we will be releasing a new set of polls which take an indepth look at the public's views of the immgration debate in four key battleground states - CO, FL, NM and NV. In preparing for their release, one thing became clear to us at NDN - that of the final 10 or so states where the election will be fought, four states with 46 Electoral College votes have significant Hispanic populations.  

Using the latest Real Clear Politics map as our guide, there are now 10 toss up states - CO, FL, IN, MI, NM, NV, OH, PA and VA. Gone are some of the Obama hopefuls - AK, GA, MO, MT, NC - which seem to be drifting back into the GOP camp. Of the remaining 10, they fall into three categories - the Industrial North (IN, MI, OH, PA), the heavily Hispanic (CO, FL, NM, NV) and the rest (NH, VA). 

More than a third of the Electoral College votes still up for grabs run through heavily Hispanic territory.  With this, one would expect a great deal more attention, more spending, more candidate time - and all the rest - on Hispanic voters and in these states this fall. 

Check back around noon tomorrow for our report, and for more background on the growing power of the Hispanic vote in America.  And if you are in town tomorrow, drop by our Poll Briefing at 10 a.m. at the NDN offices.


Rasmussen's Daily Track Sees a Very Close Race

Data is beginning to come in from this interesting week.  Here is Rasmussen's summary of their daily track, and it is worth reading in its entirety: 

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows Barack Obama attracting 46% of the vote while McCain earns 45%. When "leaners" are included, it's Obama 49%, McCain 46% (see recent daily results). Tracking Poll results are released at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time each day and a FREE daily e-mail update is available.

Each Saturday morning, Rasmussen Reports reviews the key polls of the past week to learn What They Told Us.

Tracking Poll results are based upon nightly telephone interviews and reported on a three-day rolling average basis. As a result, roughly two-thirds of the interviews were completed before McCain's speech on Wednesday night. One third were completed before Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's speech on Wednesday. Tomorrow (Sunday) will be the first update based entirely upon interviews conducted after Palin's speech and Monday will be the first based entirely upon interviews conducted after McCain's speech. By Tuesday or Wednesday, the overall impact of both political conventions should be fairly clear.

As McCain has begun to chip away as Obama's convention bounce, most of his gains have come among women voters. Obama still leads 51% to 44% among women, but that seven-point edge is just half the fourteen point lead he enjoyed last Tuesday. McCain leads by three among men, little changed in recent days.

Seventy-seven percent (77%) of Obama voters now say they are voting with enthusiasm for their candidate while 17% are primarily voting against the other candidate. For McCain, those numbers are 65% and 28% respectively. Before the Republican convention, just 54% of McCain voters were voting enthusiastically for him rather than simply voting against Obama.

McCain is now viewed favorably by 58% of the nation's voters while Obama earns positive reviews from 57% (see trends). McCain earns favorable reviews from 91% of Republicans while Obama is viewed favorably by 87% of Democrats. Among unaffiliated voters, McCain's favorable ratings are at 64%, Obama's at 54%. Premium Members can review demographic crosstabs and all the data we collect--not just the portion we make public. Premium Members can also get an advance look at tracking poll results via the Daily Snapshot each morning.

Palin is viewed favorably by 58% of voters including 40% with a Very Favorable opinion of her.

The Rasmussen Reports Balance of Power Calculator currently shows Obama leading in states with 193 Electoral College votes while McCain leads in states with 183 votes . When leaners are included, it's Obama 264, McCain 247.

This is a description of a very close race.

Update 130pm - Gallup now has the race 47-45 Obama, similar to what Rasmussen has found.  A very close race now indeed. 

Palin means the focus will stay on McCain

Over the next few days while we learn more about Sarah Palin one thing is clear - the lack of seriousness of Palin's record means that the ideological focus will remain on McCain and his record: and that it reinforces the argument Democrats have been making that the Republicans have simply not been serious about governing these last few years. 

Making the Struggle of Every Day People the Central Focus of the National Debate

In today's New York Times Week in Review, Bill Keller has a thoughtful look at recent events in China and Russia, and what might be called the end of the end of history. I thought Fareed Zakaria captured this sentiment best in his recent book when he described this new era of geopolitics with a simple powerful phrase - Americans are witnessing what he calls "the rise of the rest."

Perhaps after eight years of talk of Basra, Kabul and tax cuts, we will look back at this month as the month that Rip Van Winkle-like Americans woke from their conservative-induced slumber and began to see the 21st century as it is, not as portrayed by the Rovian/Chenesian fantasy of the last eight years.

Perhaps in no area is this new pragmatism more important than on what it means for our people here at home. The next President faces one domestic challenge more important than all the others - how to get wages and incomes rising again.

For most of the Bush era, the American economy performed well by traditional metrics. GDP, productivity, corporate profits and the stock market were strong. But despite this period of growth and strong productivity gains, the typical American family saw its annual income drop by about a $1,000 a year and the rate at which new jobs were created has been slower than any other recovery since the Depression. According to the laws of economics, it was not supposed to be possible to see robust growth in GDP and productivity and see incomes drop. In fact. it has never happened before in the modern economic history of the United States.

Every day Americans figured all this out long before coastal elites did. Our 2007 analysis of public opinion and the 2006 exit polls shows that it was the economy that drove the GOP from office much more than the war. As has been reported in many places, the American people are more unhappy with the state of the nation than anytime since the 1930s. The American people have understood for years that the people running their government has not turned their attention to the most important challenge they face in their own lives - making ends meet in a much more competitive globalized world. And small-bore solutions to this enormous challenge - off shore drilling, children's health insurance, raising the minimum wage, middle class tax cuts - will be treated as they have been treated by the American people these last few years - "that's nice, but where is the long-term, sustained, comprehensive plan big enough to actually improve our lives and the lives of our families?"

Led by Dr. Rob Shapiro, figuring all this out has been the primary focus of NDN's Globalization Initiative these last four years. I won't repeat the major recommendations from our project now, but offer three general observations:

1) It is critical that our political leaders explain to the American people that if we want to maintain our place in the world, and our standard of living, that we will have to "try harder." The rest of the world is rising, catching up, learning our game - as was the goal of foreign policy these last 60 years - and no longer can be seen as characters from an Indiana Jones movie. To compete in this world, this emerging world of the 21st century, we will have do more; invest more; modernize our infrastructure; lessen our dependence on expensive and dirty energy sources; make pensions and health care more portable and accessible; do more to equip our workers and kids with the modern skills they need to compete; accelerate innovation and the formation of "new businesses;" make our global economic liberalization strategies smarter and more modern...this new era must be seen as one of "investment" in a better future, and calls for an anachronistic politics of austerity must be rejected....

2) This economic and public opinion dynamic developed before the recent slowdown, credit crunch, housing crisis and energy/commodity price surge, and thus will not be solved by focusing on these recent developments in the economy. Because incomes went down during a period of sustained growth, the solutions offered by our leaders in the next few years must recognize that the traditional way we help Americans get ahead - by creating macroeconomic growth - is no longer guarenteed to improve the lives of every day people BECAUSE IT DID NOT WORK SO FAR IN THIS DECADE.

3) Given the enormity of this challenge, we here at NDN hope that helping Americans get ahead in this much more competitive world becomes the central focus of the elections this year. In several recent interviews, Senator Obama has said that his three priorities are Iraq, health care and climate change. Not so sure this is the best answer. He needs to be able say that he wants to be judged on whether he can raise Americans' standard of living, and then make doing so the central organizing principle of his campaign and Administration. I think a better response would be "I want to improve the lives of every day Americans who have worked so hard and gotten so little these last few years, and bring the troops home from Iraq." Or something like that.

A risky strategy some might say. For what happens if incomes don't rise? I think we already know the answer to that, as the GOP has shown us in recent years. If the standard of living of Americans don't improve in the next few years, the Democrats should expect to suffer the same fate as the GOP in this decade, and find themselves out of power. Unlike China and Russia, we still are a democracy, and as such, must make the fate of the people of the United States the central focus of our politics...


The new McCain ad.

Josh Marshall has a smart look at some of the themes behind the ad, and how it evokes the now infamous Call Me ad from 2006.

To me, the ad also is full of bitter emotions. Spite. Jealousy. Anger. Emotions people often associate with losing ventures, ones frustrated with their inability to keep up with their competition. No matter what else, this new McCain ad is - given that it replaced an ad that the campaign has now admitted was untrue - this new McCain ad is not a good sign of the mental state of the McCain campaign itself. They know they are being beat by a better candidate and are angry about it. 

The Media Begins to Confront the Awfulness of the McCain Campaign

Today's New York Times has a remarkable editorial that dives deeply into a theme we've been exploring here at NDN for the last few months - the overwhelming sense of weakness, desperation and just plain awfulness of the McCain campaign and its candidate.

It begins:

Well, that certainly didn’t take long. On July 3, news reports said Senator John McCain, worried that he might lose the election before it truly started, opened his doors to disciples of Karl Rove from the 2004 campaign and the Bush White House. Less than a month later, the results are on full display. The candidate who started out talking about high-minded, civil debate has wholeheartedly adopted Mr. Rove’s low-minded and uncivil playbook.

In recent weeks, Mr. McCain has been waving the flag of fear (Senator Barack Obama wants to “lose” in Iraq), and issuing attacks that are sophomoric (suggesting that Mr. Obama is a socialist) and false (the presumptive Democratic nominee turned his back on wounded soldiers)

The rest of the editorial is very much worth reading here. In today's paper, the Times also has a related article in its news section, and the Washington Post offers up a story, McCain Charge Against Obama Lacks Evidence, which explores the integrity of McCain's effort. As readers of this blog know, I have been arguing for months that McCain and his performance are a legitimate and important issue in the campaign. His ads have been full of outright lies. His public comments have been full of false statements about facts, history, his opponent and even his own voting record. There is a lack of seriousness about some of the major issues facing the country. He has knowingly violated campaign finance laws he helped create. He has said he would clear his campaign of lobbyists and has now reversed that decision. He is on his third campaign manager. Several senior campaign advisors have had to resign. He hid two surgeries he had this year, during the campaign, from the public. The list goes on and on...

Yesterday, I looked at the lies behind his last three TV ads. Previously, I wrote about how the media was beginning to make McCain and his campaign an issue; about the importance of his putting a Bush/Rove operative in charge of his campaign; and that the big story of the race so far was his terrible performance as a candidate. In one of these posts, I concluded:

it all adds up to a man simply not up to the job of running for -- or actually being -- President of the United States. In a recent appearance, I even surmised that the GOP would become so concerned with his performance that there would start to be a quiet movement to replace him at the Convention with another candidate. This moment may be upon us as the media, and the public now has no choice but to confront that there is a man running for President who seems so out of touch with basic facts, reality, his own voting record that one might even conjecture that it would be a grave risk for the United States to put him in charge of the country.

After a Republican era during which governing always played 2nd fiddle to politics and power - resulting in one of the worst governments in our history - we all hoped McCain would represent a break from the truly disapointing politics of the Bush era. But his performance these last few months shows that his lack of seriousness and knowledge about policy - even running an ad saying that his energy and drilling proposals would immediately address high gas prices when everyone knows this to be, let us say, not true - shows that the McCain candidacy has itself become an extension of this awful Republican era that did so much to harm the national interests of the United States, leaving us less prosperous, less powerful in the world and certainly less free here at home.

In putting Steve Schmidt, a Bush/Rove protege, in charge of his campaign, McCain has told us all exactly what kind of man he has become, and what kind of Presidency we can expect.

In trying to make the campaign about Senator Obama, the McCain campaign has made the national story about themselves, their own integrity and their own performance, and it has become a disapointing and awful spectacle to watch.

Update 344pm: Markos reports on how the McCain campaign has now admitted that the premise behind their "troops" ad was, let us say, just not true.

Update 555pm: And this stumbling campaign today reaches oh so high with their new ad, featuring Paris and Britney. It replaces the ad McCain now acknowledges as untrue and problematic. My my what would Joe Lieberman say about this new one....

Update 945pm: Obama responds

Frank Rich on the Galloping Retreat of the Right

I love Frank Rich, but don't often link or quote him, as I assume most everyone I know is as anxious to read him on Sunday mornings as I am. But today he has a truly compelling essay, one that dives beneath the polls and the day to day media silliness, and looks at how profoundly the right and Bush era policies are in retreat today. I offered some similar thoughts in a post I wrote last week, Is Cheney Tied Up Somewhere?

From Rich:

....This election remains about the present and the future, where Iraq's $10 billion a month drain on American pocketbooks and military readiness is just one moving part in a matrix of national crises stretching from the gas pump to Pakistan. That's the high-rolling political casino where Mr. Obama amassed the chips he cashed in last week. The "change" that he can at times wield like a glib marketing gimmick is increasingly becoming a substantive reality - sometimes through Mr. Obama's instigation, sometimes by luck. Obama-branded change is snowballing, whether it's change you happen to believe in or not.

Looking back now, we can see that the fortnight preceding the candidate's flight to Kuwait was like a sequence in an old movie where wind blows away calendar pages to announce an epochal plot turn. First, on July 7, the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, dissed Bush dogma by raising the prospect of a withdrawal timetable for our troops. Then, on July 15, Mr. McCain suddenly noticed that more Americans are dying in Afghanistan than Iraq and called for more American forces to be sent there. It was a long-overdue recognition of the obvious that he could no longer avoid: both Robert Gates, the defense secretary, and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had already called for more American troops to battle the resurgent Taliban, echoing the policy proposed by Mr. Obama a year ago.

On July 17 we learned that President Bush, who had labeled direct talks with Iran "appeasement," would send the No. 3 official in the State Department to multilateral nuclear talks with Iran. Lest anyone doubt that the White House had moved away from the rigid stand endorsed by Mr. McCain and toward Mr. Obama's, a former Rumsfeld apparatchik weighed in on The Wall Street Journal's op-ed page: "Now Bush Is Appeasing Iran."

Within 24 hours, the White House did another U-turn, endorsing an Iraq withdrawal timetable as long as it was labeled a "general time horizon." In a flash, as Mr. Obama touched down in Kuwait, Mr. Maliki approvingly cited the Democratic candidate by name while laying out a troop-withdrawal calendar of his own that, like Mr. Obama's, would wind down in 2010. On Tuesday, the British prime minister, Gordon Brown, announced a major drawdown of his nation's troops by early 2009.

But it's not merely the foreign policy consensus that is shifting Obama-ward. The Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens has now joined another high-profile McCain supporter, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in knocking the McCain nostrum that America can drill its way out of its energy crisis. Mr. Pickens, who financed the Swift-boat campaign smearing John Kerry in 2004, was thought to be a sugar daddy for similar assaults against the Democrats this year. Instead, he is underwriting nonpartisan ads promoting wind power and speaks of how he would welcome Al Gore as energy czar if there's an Obama administration.

The Obama stampede is forcing Mr. McCain to surrender on other domestic fronts. After the Democrat ran ads in 14 states berating chief executives who are "making more in 10 minutes" than many workers do in a year, a newly populist Mr. McCain began railing against "corporate greed" - much as he also followed Mr. Obama's example and belatedly endorsed a homeowners' bailout he had at first opposed. Given that Mr. McCain has already used a refitted, hand-me-down Obama campaign slogan ("A Leader You Can Believe In"), it can't be long before he takes up fist bumps. They've become the rage among young (nonterrorist) American businessmen, according to USA Today.

"We have one president at a time," Mr. Obama is careful to say. True, but the sitting president, a lame duck despised by voters and shunned by his own party's candidates, now has all the gravitas of Mr. Cellophane in "Chicago." The opening for a successor arrived prematurely, and the vacuum had been waiting to be filled. What was most striking about the Obama speech in Berlin was not anything he said so much as the alternative reality it fostered: many American children have never before seen huge crowds turn out abroad to wave American flags instead of burn them.

Mr. McCain could also have stepped into the leadership gap left by Mr. Bush's de facto abdication. His inability to even make a stab at doing so is troubling. While drama-queen commentators on television last week were busy building up false suspense about the Obama trip - will he make a world-class gaffe? will he have too large an audience in Germany? - few focused on the alarms that Mr. McCain's behavior at home raise about his fitness to be president.

Once again the candidate was making factual errors about the only subject he cares about, imagining an Iraq-Pakistan border and garbling the chronology of the Anbar Awakening. Once again he displayed a tantrum-prone temperament ill-suited to a high-pressure 21st-century presidency. His grim-faced crusade to brand his opponent as a traitor who wants to "lose a war" isn't even a competent impersonation of Joe McCarthy. Mr. McCain comes off instead like the ineffectual Mr. Wilson, the retired neighbor perpetually busting a gasket at the antics of pesky little Dennis the Menace.

The week's most revealing incident occurred on Wednesday when the new, supposedly improved McCain campaign management finalized its grand plan to counter Mr. Obama's Berlin speech with a "Mission Accomplished"-like helicopter landing on an oil rig off Louisiana's coast. The announcement was posted on politico.com even as any American with a television could see that Hurricane Dolly was imminent. Needless to say, this bit of theater was almost immediately "postponed" but not before raising the question of whether a McCain administration would be just as hapless in anticipating the next Katrina as the Bush-Brownie storm watch.

When not plotting such stunts, the McCain campaign whines about its lack of press attention like a lover jilted for a younger guy. The McCain camp should be careful what it wishes for. As its relentless goading of Mr. Obama to visit Iraq only ratcheted up anticipation for the Democrat's triumphant trip, so its insistent demand for joint town-hall meetings with Mr. Obama and for more televised chronicling of Mr. McCain's wanderings could be self-inflicted disasters in the making.

Read the whole piece here.

Daily Tracks Show an Obama Bounce

Both Rasmussen and Gallup are picking up real movement towards Senator Obama. In the Gallup track Obama has picked widened his lead from 3 to 7 points in the last few days, and is now at 48%-41%. In the Rasmussen track it is has widened by 6 points, moving to 49%-43%.

Given the contrast between the two campaigns this week this movement isn't suprising. But now we have evidence that Obama's remarkable trip abroad this week - and McCain's awful stumbling week - has impacted the race. This is a lot of movement in a short time, and what is suprising is that this movement started showing up even before the trip has concluded. My guess would have been that if Obama did a get bounce from this week it would have shown up a few days after he returned. The McCain camp has to be very worried this weekend.....

I offered more extended observations on this seminal week in the campaign in this post Thursday, The Presidential Race Feels Like it is Shifting, in this video blog Tuesday, and was quoted in an interesting Reuters piece on Obama's trip abroad that ran internationally on Friday.

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