John McCain

Quick '08 Update: No Moles Allowed

- Disclaimer: There isn't a direct mention of John McCain's now extinct mole in this post. However, the implications surrounding it, which Chris Cillizza covers, are.

- Office productivity might rise due to Facebook nixing scrabulous.

- The GOP has launched BarackBook, a mock Facebook site for U.S. Sen. Barack Obama. The site's version of news feed highlights some of Obama's more controversial connections, who are all given opposition profiles.

- Jake Tapper highlights a change in U.S. Sen. John McCain's philosohpy on taxes. Whereas McCain has previously ruled out any consideration of a tax increase, he recently stated he wouldn't take payroll taxes off the negotiating table.

- We need some VP speculation. VA Gov. Tim Kaine is in DC, as is Obama. Coincidence? Also, the WSJ's Washington Wire notes that the health plan championed by former MA Gov. Mitt Romney is similar to the one being proposed by Barack Obama. But if that's the case, then according to the WSJ editorial section Obama and Mitt's plans are flawed. Bottom line: picking Mitt might complicate things.

- The Page's Mark Halperin notes Barack Obama's busy, high-profile schedule today. The Pakistani Prime Minister, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and the House Democratic Caucus will all sit down with the Senator today.

- In his New York Times column, Bob Herbert gives Barack Obama praise, but wonders if he can close the deal with a solid economic narrative.

- AdAge's Bonnie Fuller discusses Team Obama's Tabloid Strategy.

- The Huffington Post's Sam Stein explains how the Obama campaign is handling John McCain's age as an issue. Clue: he took a few hints from Bill Clinton. Simon's got a great quote in the piece, so check it out!

- Speaking of taking cues, according to the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray:

Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee are expected to unveil a $20 million investment in Hispanic voter mobilization Tuesday that targets most major battleground states.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean said the sum is unprecedented for a presidential campaign and represents a show of Democratic confidence that Latino voters could prove pivotal in states including New Mexico and Michigan.



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 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.


The Presidential Race Feels Like It Is Shifting

In a video blog Tuesday, I talked about my sense of where things stood this week - Obama's masterful foreign trip, his consistent 4-8 lead in the national polls and strong showing in the Electoral College and McCain's growing desperation as his bumbling campaign senses this thing slipping away from them (is it really possible that on the day McCain wanted to visit an offshore rig, weather blocked him, and a polluting spill took place?)

As we all await Senator Obama's speech in Berlin today, my sense is that these emerging impressions of Obama's strength and McCain's weakness may be hardening into conventional wisdom with the media and those following the race closely (we predicted this a few weeks ago, and wrote about it again here). David Broder speaks to this sentiment in his column today. It will be interesting to see if this week, which has done so much to highlight the very stark contrast between these two campaigns, shows up in the polls over the next 10 days or so. So far, there is not a lot of evidence that it has. But time will tell.

Whatever happens with the polls in the short term, this race has achieved a stable dynamic. The Obama campaign is winning, performing well, taking big swings. The McCain camp is stumbling, not really ready for primetime, and is losing the race. I didn't think this dynamic would change all that much until we hit the two Conventions, but perhaps this week will give Obama a few points. Given all this, the central question of this race now is can McCain somehow change the dynamic of the race? I am very doubtful. His campaign is not very good. He is a weak and bumbling candidate, not capable through his public appearances of turning it around. The issue environment is unfavorable to him, with foreign policy quickly becoming less and less an area of opportunity for him. The central argument of his new TV campaign - that he has a plan to lower gas prices and Obama is to blame for high energy prices - is simply untrue, and not really sustainable over time. It is no longer clear to me whether McCain really has the capacity to alter this emerging dynamic in the campaign on his own.

While there is a long way to go in this race, this week is beginning to feel like a seminal one in the campaign, one in which a new and powerful dynamic kicked in, one, that if it holds, will have Obama winning in the fall, and the Democrats having more power in Washington than they've had in 40 years.

Update: Related to this emerging question of whether McCain and his team are really ready for primetime, see this new piece by Fred Kaplan in Slate.

Quick '08 Update: Richard Simmons, the Dalai Lama, and "Obamacans"

- Richard Simmons for Congress.

- According to AdAge, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's campaign dropped $5 million to be among the sponsors of NBC's Olympics coverage. His spots will run on both network and cable TV.

- Obama is in Berlin where he is set to deliver his much-anticipated speech at 1 p.m. EST (If you needed more proof, Gallup has more polling showing just how much Europeans prefer Obama to McCain). Jake Tapper has a great post on Obama's speech. Meanwhile, McCain is in Ohio at a Livestrong Summit with Lance Armstrong. Tomorrow he's off to meet the Dalai Lama in Colorado.

- U.S. Sen. John McCain's VP update: Gov. Bobby Jindal said he will not be McCain's VP yesterday and Chris Cillizza points out that the Michigan Democratic Party is going after Mitt Romney in a new web ad.

- The Obama campaign is ramping up its interaction with the Hill. Yesterday, campaign manager David Plouffe met with House Democrats to discuss strategy, and The Hill points out that the campaign is coordinating a publicity blitz with "Obamacans" (those who have been aligned with the Republican Party but back Obama).

- The Hill also reports that donors who backed Sen. Joe Lieberman in 2006 don't seem to be giving their financial support to McCain. In fact, it cites financial records which show that "only two of John McCain's post-primary contributions [over $200] have come from Sen. Joe Lieberman supporters".

- Jonathan Martin has a must-read piece in The Politico about how the GOP is losing the new-media war.

- Want a ticket to come see Barack Obama's acceptance speech in Denver? Chuck Plunkett says Steve Hildebrand, Obama's deputy campaign manager, wants you to leave as an informed Obama volunteer.

- Robert Reich compares the economic philosophies of both candidates in a clear, understandable way on his blog.

- John McCain has a new web ad out in South Florida that places Barack Obama next to Fidel Castro with "Fidel Castro thinks he is the most advanced candidate" on it. Check out the Huffington Post for an image. This is interesting, as our own Will Wallace rightly points out, because Obama's Spanish-language radio ad that is running in FL highlights issues like education, job growth, etc., which are what's really relevant. Learn more in NDN's 2006 Cuba poll.

- In the Turkish daily, Today's Zaman, Jeffrey Sachs reflects on the G8 Summit meeting in Japan and asks where all the global leaders are.

- President Bush will address the RNC Convention, but who knows where he'll fit in the line up.

- And finally, check out the Secret Pants video below where the interviewer asks participants whether phrases were said by Batman or President Bush. Thanks for the head's up, Nate! I'm not sure how I feel about the likeness in some of these, but it's amusing nonetheless:

Simon on Obama's Trip, McCain's Lie

In the video below, NDN President Simon Rosenberg offers his thoughts on U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's trip overseas, what the polls show, and U.S. Sen. John McCain's recent ad that blames Obama for high gas prices. It's about 4 minutes long, so check it out.

As he says, we're going to be doing more of these so let us know what you think. And if you have any questions you'd like him to answer in the next video, feel free to leave it in the comments below. Don't know how? Use our help section!

For more of Simon's analysis, check out two of his recent posts: Is Cheney Tied Up Somewhere? and The Story of the Race So Far - the Surprising Weakness of John McCain.

Update: In the video, Simon talks about Obama leading in Nevada and New Hampshire, but he meant to say Iowa, not Ohio.

McCain Blames Obama for High Gas Prices

A new ad out today from the McCain campaign seeks to blame Barack Obama for rising gas prices. Take a look at "Pump," and the interesting imagery:

The overall narrative that the McCain camp is trying to pin on Obama through the first half of this ad and its dark imagery is evident: a figure we don’t know much about who is a pop sensation built only on false hopes and making our lives worse. The image of Obama floating in front of spinning gas prices while crowds chant his name is especially pointed.

The ad continues to be over the top by being almost entirely intellectually dishonest. Note the wording of the blame that McCain puts on Obama: "Some in Washington are still saying no to drilling in America." The ad uses the word "still" because McCain changed his view on drilling about a month ago, and, even if he had his policy, gas prices would not be any lower.

McCain also tries to have it both ways, as his campaign generally tries to point out Obama’s inexperience, but then goes back and holds Obama responsible for three decades of American energy policy, while giving himself a free pass. In fact, courtesy of Politico's Ben Smith, a recent quote from a McCain speech, that works more as a self-indictment than anything else:

"Let me give you a little bit of straight talk on energy. Our dangerous dependence on foreign oil has been thirty years in the making, and was caused by the failure of politicians in Washington to think long term about the future of the country."

McCain looked to be gaining momentum on energy security and offshore drilling, at least as being able to point to a specific plan on energy prices (even an ineffective one). This ad has a desperate feel, and is so easily debunked and ironic, that it seems like McCain has decided to just run against Hope.

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