John McCain

Clues About Sen. McCain's Position On Issues of Importance to Hispanics

In a piece in the Washington Post today, Marcela Sanchez discusses U.S. Senator Barack Obama's "Clues for Wooing the Latino Vote." Ms. Sanchez discusses the point made in NDN's report on Hispanics Rising that the harsh tone of the immigration debate on the part of Republicans has been perceived by many Hispanics as anti-Hispanic as opposed to anti-undocumented, and has thus cost Republican candidates votes - and elections - since 2006. However, Ms. Sanchez makes a distinction between the perception of John McCain and that of the Republican Party among Latinos; based on Sen. McCain's current stance on a number of issues, I do not see such a distinction.

As Marcela Sanchez cites herself, the polls show Sen. Obama ahead of Sen. John McCain by at least 62-29 percent. She argues that many of those Latino Obama supporters might be in States that are traditionally Democratic, however, the polls are taken at the national level. While it is true that Hispanics are definitely not monolithic, the fact is that most Hispanics are concentrated in the Southern and Western swing states, and Florida:

Ms. Sanchez posits that it is in these states, New Mexico, Florida, Nevada and Colorado,"where McCain could connect with enough Latinos to make a difference." I disagree for one main reason - Sen. McCain could not even win Latinos in his own home state, where about 30% of the population is Hispanic. In the 2008 primary elections in Arizona, the exit poll data showed 68% of all Hispanics who voted cast their vote for a Democrat, and only 32%voted for a Republican. John McCain's share of that 32% was 21.76% of the entire electorate. This is particularly dramatic because when he ran for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2004, Sen. McCain was able to secure 72% of the Hispanic vote - that is a fifty percent drop in votes from the Hispanic community of his home state in just four years. Which begs the question - who is really in the tougher spot with Latinos? The candidate who won his Senate election with 82% of the Hispanic vote in his own state and currently has a lead of over 30% among Hispanics nationally? Or the candidate who has lost fifty percent of the Hispanic voters in his own State who supported him in 2004? Mind you, this is not to say that it will not be a challenge for both candidates to secure the Hispanic vote, nor is it a matter of favoring one candidate over another, it is a matter of wanting to encourage the media and readers to provide a more detailed analysis and not buy into sound bytes.

The piece also describes Sen. McCain as a, "a key sponsor of legislation creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants," with, "a good track record with Latino concerns." I beg to differ - the story that is clear as day, but for some reason seriously underreported, is that John McCain was once a leader on the issue of immigration reform, but when the going got tough last year - once he decided to become a Presidential candidate - that took importance over his duties as Senator and he stopped attending the high-level meetings and brainstorming sessions that were necessary in order to get this difficult legislation passed. There is agreement among many in the offices of key legislators and advocacy groups that were there on the ground during the immigration debate: when the going got tough on immigration and other issues important to Latinos, John McCain was no longer in sight.

Some individuals mentioned in the article differentiate between Sen. McCain, the candidate, and his political party; they attribute his declining popularity to the negativity associated with Republicans, but believe Sen. McCain can remain above that sentiment as he, "will remain sufficiently moderate on immigration,despite some politically expedient tips of the hat to certain segments of the conservative base." I would say his actions have been much more than "a tip of the hat"- there is no difference at this time between John McCain and his political party. He is the Republican Party and he has shown this by certainly not being "moderate" on the issue of immigration. He has actively spoken in public rejecting and denouncing the trailblazing immigration legislation of which he was once a sponsor. Maybe because it is a sad story to tell, but I find that this story is not told.

Our report agrees with the conclusion in this piece that immigration is an issue that mobilizes Hispanic voters; however, I would not say that Hispanics are not supporting John McCain as part of a "protest vote" against his party; while that might be the case in part, it is a protest vote against the way John McCain's position has, in no uncertain terms, flipped on the issue of immigration. As much as his campaign or the media may try to deny it, there is no denying the facts, as reflected in an excerpt of our Hispanics Rising presentation:





You'll note that one of these slides cites to Meet the Press; at the time this blog was being drafted to post, a man that I look to as an example of the type of professional and person I can only hope to be, Tim Russert, passed away. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.


Menendez: On Immigration, McCain "Walked Away."

From a piece by Sam Stein on the Huffington Post:

One of Congress' most influential Hispanic members says that John McCain "walked away" from the Latino community and is not a "person of principle" on immigration reform -- a perception that could haunt the Arizona Republican in the general election.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Sen. Robert Menendez offered a scathing rebuke of McCain, painting him as a candidate who sold his political soul to secure his party's presidential nomination.

"In my mind, he has dramatically shifted. He has really taken a Republican tact," said the New Jersey Democrat. "It seems to me, and it is out there in the community, that he walked away at a critical time. And when you take that view, which shows that he is not the person of principle that he would like to show himself being, and you wear the Republican mantle that is so negative and anti-immigrant... I think it is very hard for John McCain to make hay with Latinos at the end of the day." 

More evidence of an Obama bounce, other thoughts on the fall election

As Andres reports below, MSNBC and the Wall Street Journal have released a new poll showing it 47-41 Obama-McCain, very similar numbers to previous polls over the the last two weeks. Some thoughts on where the race seems to be now:

There should no longer be any doubts about Obama's general election appeal, or his ability to put together a winning coalition - four major polls now show the same thing - an African American with a funny name is clearly defeating a celebrated and universally known American war hero, who in this race is more incumbent than challenger. While we have a long way to go, consider this passage from the new MSNBC analysis, which shows Obama winning among Hispanics, women, white women, Catholics, independents and blue-collar workers:

In the head-to-head matchup, Obama leads McCain among African Americans (83-7 percent), Hispanics (62-28), women (52-33), Catholics (47-40), independents (41-36) and even blue-collar workers (47-42). Obama is also ahead among those who said they voted for Clinton in the Democratic primaries (61-19).

Yet among white men — who made up 36 percent of the electorate in the 2004 presidential election — Obama trails McCain by 20 points, 55-35 percent. “That is the reason why this election is close,” Hart notes.

In addition, McCain leads Obama among white suburban women (44-38), group which makes up about 10 percent of all voters that Hart calls “absolutely critical” for both candidates in the fall.

However, Obama has a seven-point advantage (46-39) among all white women. How important is that lead? Newhouse explains that Republican candidates always expect to win white men by a substantial margin, but it is white women that usually decide the race. “If a Republican wins among white women, we usually win that election,” he says, noting that George W. Bush carried that group in 2000 and 2004.


Among Hispanics McCain is showing surprising weakness Obama surprising strength - As we've written before, McCain is now 15 points net below Bush's 2004 numbers with Hispanics. This shift with this community, voting at much higher numbers than 2004, could end up swinging four states Bush won to the Democrats - CO, FL, NM, NV - and perhaps making AZ and TX competitive.

McCain is not ahead in a single state Democrats won in 2004 - New polling out this week shows Obama now leading McCain in MI and WI, two states he had previously been ahead in. One of the arguments the McCain camp has been making is that he has the ability to play on Democratic turf. NDN has long believed this argument to be more spin than reality, as the it is hard to believe that in this year of a very damanged GOP brand with a weak, wobbly candidate at its top that McCain could break the lock of the 19 states equaling 248 electoral votes Democrats have won in each of the last four elections. With the only two (MI, WI) of these 19 states McCain had been leading in moving to Obama, the race is now moving to nine states Bush won in 2000 or 2004 - CO, FL, IA, MO, NC, NH, NM, NV, VA and perhaps other states like AZ, MT and TX (see these electoral college maps NDN has produced to help visualize all this).

I am not in any way suggesting that states like MI and WI won't be contested by McCain, but the notion that there is a clear opening for him in these 19 states with 248 electoral college votes is more spin than reality. Look for the candidate time and TV ads to begin moving to these other states, which are the true 2008 battlegrounds now. For more on the emergence of a new post-Southern Strategy electoral strategy for the Democrats see our recent magazine article, a 50-Year Strategy.

We are seeing a very new electorate emerge in 2008 - Every poll has to make assumptions about the composition of the electorate to produce its results. Given the huge increase in turnout this year of African-Americans, Hispanics, Millennials and women, and an enormous shift in party ID towards the Dems, this electorate will look very different from any electorate any pollster has ever seen before. This electorate will not only be much more non-white than any electorate we've ever seen, it will be much less white and male than any electorate we've ever seen, and have fewer Republicans than we've seen since at least 1982, perhaps even 1966 (see this essay for more on the growing power of minorities in American politics).

It will also be important to not overstate the role of independents in the race. In the hyper-partisan era of Rove and Bush the number of unaffiliated voters has dropped, with independents only making up 26 percent of the electorate in the last two elections, significantly down from the general rule of thumb of one-third D/R/I. Bush has created more partisans, and from 2004 to 2006, more votes shifted in the two parties than it did among independents, as partisans now outnumber independents by 3:1. Democrats owed their victory in 2006 more to what happened with the two party's partisans than what happened with independents.

Thus, one of the key numbers to watch this year is how well each candidate is doing with their own partisans. If Democrats continue to outnumber Republicans in the electorate by 10-15 points as they do now, it will be just as important for Obama to keep 92-95 percent share of Democrats as it is for him to win independents. And the same is true for McCain. If his weakness with the GOP base causes his share with his own partisans to drop below 90 percent, he will have a very, very hard time winning this election. See this post for more on the declining clout of independents.

Remember that Kerry won both independents and moderates in 2004 and still lost. Bush did much better with his partisans than Kerry did with his. For both Obama and McCain, their partisans will outnumber independents in their own coaliton by at least 3 to 1, and thus at least as much attention needs to be paid to these voters as the media's holy grail of the independents. Thus, in this election I think you will be seeing much more attention being paid to each party's base - for different reasons - than in past elections. Given the intensity and much more highly networked Democratic base, this is a big, big problem for McCain.

One question pollsters should start asking this cycle should involve the likelihood to take an action on behalf of a candidate. My guess is that Obama supporters are twice as likely to do something for their man than McCain supporters, which in this networked age when a supporter can do so much more than ever before, could become a huge differentiator in the fall election.

Overall, in our much more partisan and networked age, when the barrier to enter into politics has been so lowered, the partisans in both camps have become much more important than they were in late 20th century politics. There are more of them then before, and with all the new tools, there is much more they can do to help their candidate - money, advocacy to their social networks and neighborhoods, voting.

Thursday Update - Gallup has a look at all this today. While the number of independents in their analysis is the traditional one-third, they look at what the Party ID shift means for the fall. In their current polling Obama is only getting 78 percent of Democrats. Kerry got 89 percent. If nothing else changes in the election if Obama simply matches Kerry's number with Democrats - as one would expect he would - he will win with 51-52 percent of the vote.

Thurs 415pm Update - Josh Marshall posts a new WI poll showing double digit leads for Obama in a head to head with McCain and and the Dems in Party ID. Further evidence that the McCain "playing on Democratic turf" argument isn't holding up very well.

Thurs 6pm Update - Chris Cillizza has own take on the Party ID shift and the collapse of the GOP brand.

Fri am Update - This am EJ Dionne examines the Party ID gap and the new emerging dynamic in this year's election.


Americans feel the burn of high energy prices

High energy prices are proving a threat to the American way of life as they become an increasingly large share of how Americans spend their incomes. In today’s New York Times, Clifford Krauss writes about the impact of gas prices on rural communities:

Gasoline prices reached a national average of $4 a gallon for the first time over the weekend, adding more strain to motorists across the country.

But the pain is not being felt uniformly. Across broad swaths of the South, Southwest and the upper Great Plains, the combination of low incomes, high gas prices and heavy dependence on pickup trucks and vans is putting an even tighter squeeze on family budgets.

Here in the Mississippi Delta, some farm workers are borrowing money from their bosses so they can fill their tanks and get to work. Some are switching jobs for shorter commutes.

People are giving up meat so they can buy fuel. Gasoline theft is rising. And drivers are running out of gas more often, leaving their cars by the side of the road until they can scrape together gas money.

The disparity between rural America and the rest of the country is a matter of simple home economics. Nationwide, Americans are now spending about 4 percent of their take-home income on gasoline. By contrast, in some counties in the Mississippi Delta, that figure has surpassed 13 percent.

Additionally, a new poll from CNN found that:

As more Americans become resigned to the possibility of paying $5 for a gallon for gas, they are driving less and seriously considering chucking their gas guzzlers, according to a poll released Monday.

These rising costs, along with rising healthcare costs and dropping wages, have the potential to widen gaps in the American economy and radically impact the way Americans live their lives. Reducing gas prices in the short terms is difficult, if not impossible, and there are far more bad ideas about how to do this than there are good ones. John McCain has come back to one of his worst, the gas tax holiday, which is impressive for its overt pandering and lack of foundation in economics. Americans need a sound energy policy and are currently feeling the burn from lacking a forward thinking one for the last eight years.


Challenging the Bush legacy in the Middle East

Obama's speech to AIPAC today is truly a critical moment in his campaign for many reasons. As I am traveling today, I don't have time to do more than repost an essay I wrote on returning from an extended trip to Israel in January, during which, among other things, I did spend time with AIPAC leaders:

As some may recall, I just returned from a 10-day foreign trip, including 6 days in Israel. There I spoke at a major policy conference and met with Israeli journalists, policy makers, elected officials, entrepreneurs and other civic leaders. All in all it was a remarkable trip.

I offered up some initial thoughts soon after arriving in Jerusalem. Since I returned I've been thinking a lot about the trip, and have watched as the people of Gaza spilled into Egypt and the Winograd Commission issued its report. I've come away from the trip with a profound sense that the Bush era has made the Middle East more radical, less stable, more anti-American and anti-Israeli. The policies of the Bush Administration have left our ally, Israel, in a much weaker position than they found it.

4 key points:

The Iraq War is directly responsible for the rise of Iran as a regional power. The Iraq War removed Iran's greatest regional rival, placed an Iranian-influenced Shiite-led government in the heart of the region and paved the way for Iran's current regional ascension, which includes much more robust support for Hezbollah and Hamas. The chaos which has ensued in Iraq will also no doubt create an entire new generation of trained radicals who will be haunting the region for years to come. And the failure of our policy in Iraq has made it much more difficult to rally domestic and world opinion against the prospect of a nuclear Iran, a development hat simply must be seen as one of the greatest security threats in the world today and one that is an existential threat to Israel.

As readers of this blog know, I have been obsessed for years about what Bush and company believed would happen in the region if America put in charge of Iraq Shia political parties whose leaders left the country during their war with Iran, and lived and sided with Iran in its war against Saddam. Did we not understand the history of the regional Sunni-Shiite struggle? How could democracy flourish there, particularly without any real plan for investing in and nurturing Iraqi civil society? How could the first Shiite-led Arab government in the Middle East become anything but a threat to the region's Sunni populations, Sunni governments and an ally of Iran?

After the initial success of the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2002, George Bush had many choices on how to proceed to bring about a more peaceful and prosperous world, and further riding the world of security threats. At a strategic and operational level, it is now clear, for the interests of both Israel and the United States, that the decision to invade Iraq, the lack of a serious plan to bring about post-invasion regional security, the lack of a serious plan for investment in Iraqi civil society, has been a disaster and left the region much more unstable and dangerous than before.

The epic failure of Bush's democratization agenda as a regional strategy. Prior to going to Israel, I had believed that the President's "democratization" agenda was just a rhetorical facade for Western audiences to put a more pleasant face on his more imperial designs. But in Israel I learned that Bush and his foreign policy team actually believed in this agenda, and worked to carry it out in the region. They met with Arab heads of state, and told them that is was a new day and that they needed to open up their closed societies. They promoted elections in Iraq, which of course elected Shiite parties close to Iran and anathema to the region's Sunnis. And most consequentially, over the objection of the Israeli government, the Bush Administration allowed the participation of the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah in elections in the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon without insisting that they give up their arms, recognize Israel's right to exist or renounce the killing of innocent civilians. Both Hamas and Hezbollah did well in their elections, and have now gained a degree of local, regional and international legitimacy - and political power - long denied them. The immediate impact was to plunge Lebanon into further political chaos, split the government of the PA into two and strengthen Iran's regional influence.

Again, what were they thinking?

As in Iraq, the Bush Administration seemed to believe that democracy itself had magical powers, that it was the act of electing a democratic leader which would bring about peaceful societies. But this idea is an extraordinary misreading of history. Hitler gained power through democratic elections. Chavez and Putin today, two of the world's most powerful autocrats, were elected. Fidel Castro is elected every few years in Cuba, getting, remarkably, all the votes cast. Elections themselves have never been sufficient to create open societies. The American formula, used so effectively to help bring modern and open societies to ever more of the world, was always more complex. It required free markets, personal liberty, the rule of law and yes democratic representation. Applying tried and true formula to the Middle East would have required Hamas and Hezbollah to renounce terror, recognize Israel, and demilitarize as a condition for participation in their elections. There can be no rule of law, no personal freedom if one of the major political parties in a nation keeps a private and well-funded private militia.

Bush's democratization agenda has become a joke in the Middle East. Israelis I spoke to saw it as a wildly naïve, dangerous concept and policy. This simplistic view of what builds complex, functioning, civil societies undermined both realistic planning for the peace in Iraq and the Arab-Israeli peace process. For it is harder to see today how meaningful peace can be brought to Israel and Palestine with he fanatics of the Hamas having control in Gaza and a newfound global legitimacy. Sunni Arabs have not exactly been inspired by the aftermath of our democratizing efforts in Iraq, which among other things strengthened the regional hand of Iran and the Shiites.

And, of course, once Hamas and Hezbollah had strong electoral showings, as many had predicted, the Bush Administration announced they would not work with these newly elected groups, further making the Bush call for democratization a hallow and cyniical one.

So also damaged in the Bush era is the whole idea of free and open societies themselves, as his loony vision of "democratization" has been instrumental in bringing further chaos and instability to an already troubled region. It will be vital that the next President, of whichever Party, restores the tried and true - and hard - vision of what it takes to build pluralistic, democratic and free nations.

The failure to lead the world in lessening its dependence on oil. There can be no doubt that the world's dependence on oil is itself becoming a grave security threat. We know the global environmental challenge a carbon-based economy offers. But we also have to come to terms with oil how many of the oil producing nations themselves - Venezuela, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia - are becoming the main funders and purveyors of regional and global instability. And perversely, as the price of oil rises with the perception of global instability, these nations now have a national interest in maintaining or increasing the instability which fuels their economies and is the source of their regional and global power.

Hamas and Hezbollah are funded with Iranian oil money. Al Qaeda's start up capital came from a wealthy Saudi family, made rich by their relationship with the Saudi Royal family. Oil money funds the Madrassas which are radicalizing young Muslims around the world. Oil money is keeping dictators in power, preventing the modernization of many nations.

It is simply impossible to be for Israel and for a peaceful Middle East without also being for an enormous global effort to wean the world its debilitating addiction to oil. The Bush Administration's lack of leadership on climate change has in of itself strengthened the hand of the world's emerging petro-dictators, and lengthened their time of influence and power.

Bush's actions and rhetoric have made tens of millions of Europeans and Arabs much more anti-US and anti-Israeli. For many, the collective impact of the Axis of Evil war on terror language towards Muslims, the botched Iraq War, the lack of a commitment to lasting Arab-Israeli peace, the closeness of Bush and the Israeli government, and the sheer unpopularity of Bush himself has weakened the Israeli cause across the world, including in the United States. The Israelis are now seen not just aligned with the United States but one of the world's most unpopular and belligerent leaders. The UN may have once equated Zionism with racism, but now the world is essentially equating Zionism with Bushism, something that may be much more damaging for Israel than the infamous UN Resolution.

In my several days in Britain I was able to learn first hand how anti-Israeli many British elites have become. It was something I didn't expect, as it was a Brit almost a century ago who cleared the way for the early Israeli state, and Israel is the only nation in the entire Middle Eastern region which looks anything like a Western pluralistic democracy.

To sum up my trip to Israel left me excited about what a wonderful nation Israel has become, and worried about the worsening political situation around it. I have no doubt from my trip that the people of Israel are ready to accept a free and open Palestinian state, one that accepts Israel's right to exist, and one that does not launch attacks from across what we all hope will be a peaceful border. But years of historic and extraordinary failures of the Bush Administration have made the realization of a peaceful Middle East and a two state solution much more difficult, leading me to conclude that this American Administration has weakened our ally Israel and done damage to the hope of peace in the Middle East.

McCain's speech tonight

Enjoy the contrast.  From TPMTV:


McCain to Skip Climate Vote

In the Washington Post, Julia Eilperin today covered John McCain's announcement that he will miss next week's key vote on Lieberman-Warner climate change legislation. This is the same John McCain who has been giving speeches and running ads for the last month about climate change and has been attempting to draw distinctions between himself and President Bush on this issue (since he is out of other issues - from immigration to Iraq).

From "The Trail," check out John McCain's reasons for missing the next week's vote:

In a press conference late Wednesday afternoon, McCain said he did not support the bill sponsored by two of his closest allies, Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.) because it doesn't offer enough aid to the nuclear industry, and he would not come to the floor to vote on it.

"I have not been there for a number of votes. The same thing happened in the campaign of 2000," he said. "The people of Arizona understand I'm running for president."

Some problems with his reasons for opposing and failing to vote on the bill:

  1. The nuclear industry has received and continues to receive some of the most generous subsidies in the history of energy subsidies. Aside from that fact, additional legislation, similar in form to the energy bill passed last year, is a more than capable venue for further subsidizing nuclear energy. The point of this bill is to put a price on carbon emissions, which, by making fossil fuels relatively more expensive, would help nuclear. This objection to the legislation is manufactured and asinine.
  2. Lieberman and Warner are two of McCain's biggest supporters. Lieberman goes on the road with McCain quite a bit. Do they disagree on this vastly important issue that McCain has chosen to make a centerpiece of his campaign?
  3. McCain claims that the "people of Arizona understand" he is running for President. John McCain is running for President of the United States. His actions in the United States Senate, just over seven months before he would be President, should represent the best interests of every state, not just the 6 million people of Arizona. This attitude is un-Presidential, to say the least.

Time and time again, the wheels have fallen of the Straight Talk Express. This time, it is on the last issue McCain had to distinguish himself from an incredibly unpopular President. By failing to vote for this legislation, McCain should no longer have the latitude to claim confronting climate change as central piece of his platform, and the media's "maverick" tag for the Republican nominee should probably be put to rest.

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