John McCain

Expect McCain to Gain Ground These Final Weeks

As we head into the home stretch, it is going to be important for those analyzing the election not to confuse McCain gaining a few points with him once again having the opportunity to win the election.  

The national polling average this morning is 50 Obama, 43 McCain. Where will the movement be in these final three weeks?  If the election ends up 4-6 points for Obama, this means we end up 52-48, 53-47, or something like that. My sense now is that McCain is likely to gain 4-5 points in this these final few weeks and return to a respectable level for a credible GOP candidate. Part of what may drive this movement in the next few weeks is McCain bouncing back up from his current below-the-floor position. I mean 43 percent for a major GOP candidate in a two-way race? No way we are going to end up there.

McCain's gains these coming weeks will be because he had been so dramatically underperforming since his successful convention. His erratic performance in the debates, his very public confusion during that first week of the financial crisis, the cratering of Sarah Palin, have all combined to leave him several points below where he should be at this point. In these next few weeks he will in all likelihood regain ground he should have been occupying all along but lost due to his disappointing campaign. So in many ways, McCain's likely uptick is more a sign of his current weakness than any newfound strength.

Getting back up to 46, 47, 48 is not the same as winning. My guess is there will be a lot of confusion about this in the chattering classes in the next few weeks. 

Looking at the Kos am roundup, what we are seeing is a slight uptick in the McCain number with no decline in the Obama number. The real trend line to watch now is Obama's -- if he holds at 49,50,51 -- he will win. If he starts dropping below that, we may have a race on our hands.  

I've always believed the main issue in the general election was whether Obama could give enough people enough comfort about him and his views to take the ground the American people were ready to give him. The debates, his strong performance during the financial crisis, a series of direct -to-camera ads have done a lot to give people more comfort about this new kid with a funny name whom we all have just gotten to know. My sense now is that the Obama campaign's positive TV tracks must stay relentlessly direct-to-camera, and they would be wise to replicate in some form the three direct-to-camera ads about our economic future and the struggle of everyday people run during the financial crisis (similar to the great two-minute close he made in Iowa) as the main way they close in the home stretch.

I have also always believed that Obama's final 2-3 points would come late, at the very end, as they often do for a challenger against a better known candidate. Which means we could see some kind of a McCain surge now with Obama closing it out in the final week or so -- if he performs well. 

Or not....

It is hard to believe we are at the end of this historic campaign. But we are, and like all campaigns, the final 18 days is at least one political lifetime left to go. 

A Question for Senator McCain

There is one question I would have liked to see asked at last night’s debate. “Senator McCain, would you agree to sit down without preconditions and meet with…the Dramatic Chipmunk?”

I imagine the epic encounter would look something like this:


Hispanics Hand it to Obama

Obama's most important lead after last night's debate may have come among Hispanic voters, who favored him by a 50-36 percent margin according to the national Politico/InsiderAdvantage survey of undecided debate-watchers. The candidates were evenly matched among white voters, with McCain holding a 49-46 percent advantage - equal to the three point margin of error. African Americans picked Obama as the winner by 88-10 percent. You can trace Hispanics' support of the presidential candidates through Gallup's weekly poll - the poll shows Obama with a consistent comfortable margin of at least 20-25 points ahead of McCain. The latest Gallup poll shows Obama ahead by a 60-31 percent advantage.

Candidates Woo Largest Spanish-speaking Audience in the Country, Part II

More on John McCain's interview with Univision anchor, Jorge Ramos. Univision has the largest Spanish-language audience in the U.S.

ON LATIN AMERICA- When asked about the prospect of Russia providing Venezuela with training and nuclear arms, and whether he would rule out U.S. military intervention in Venezuela, Sen. McCain responded that he definitely would (keep in mind all those Florida voters who are originally from Venezuela or still have family and ties to the country). Sen. McCain stated his priorities regarding Latin America as: 1) U.S. independence from Venezuelan oil, as there is evidence that Venezuela is helping aid the FARC in Colombia, and 2) passage of a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia.

Last weekend, Barack Obama and Joe Biden appeared with Jorge Ramos on Al Punto. By contrast, when asked about Latin America, Sen. Obama appeared to understand that the United States' relationship with the region has so much more at stake than merely trade agreements and foreign aid, "Trade agreements cannot serve as a substitute to sensible policy...It's not about just sending money [to the region] and forgetting about it...If this hollow policy continues, our children will be in danger...we should be in contact at this critical time." Sen. Biden noted, "..this Administration has no policy towards Russia, or towards Latin America for that matter."

ON OTHER ISSUES - On immigration, Barack Obama said during his interview with Ramos that in order to truly secure the border, we also need to go after unscrupulous employers and to provide legalization to all the undocumented in order to bring them out of the shadows. On the election:

JR: Will Hispanics decide this election? What do you think of Latino voters?
BO: "...The states with the largest Hispanic populations will certainly have a decisive role during this election....Hispanics could be the largest group of voters in New Mexico....I do think Hispanics are going to turn out and vote because they will decide whether they want to continue 8 years of failed policies or I have no doubt that this election will turn out record numbers of Latinos and voters in general."
JR: So will Hispanics decide this election?
JB: In some states, like Florida, my state for example, small state of Delaware, has among the largest rates of growth of states on the east coast, the population has increased 25% over the last 17 years, and a full quarter of that growth is comprised of Hispanics in my state.

Jorge Ramos also posed a few tough questions to Sen. McCain:

JR: Governor Palin, she said Sen. Obama worked from an ex-terrorist's living room. But she works for the campaign right? So I take it she had your approval to say those things, are you suggesting that [Sen. Obama] tolerates terrorism?
JM: No. We just believe the American people should know more about this relationship.

**Sarah Palin was scheduled to appear with John McCain, but she reportedly had a scheduling conflict. Sen. McCain did say that she will be on Al Punto soon.

The Final Debate

Not going to liveblog tonight.  Just offer some occassional thoughts.  

917pm - McCain seems a little on edge tonight, a little angry and wild.  Remember he started this whole thing by saying how angry, angry people (he) are (is).  

920pm - McCain just said he would balance the budget in 4 years.  4 years!  Good for you Old Man McCain!

935pm - I am truly hating John McCain tonight.  He has been truly nasty.  His back-against-the-wall ferocity seems forced, and he has all too often crossed over into anger and nastiness.

Over these last few weeks, through these debates and the financial crisis, the American people learned much more about both Senators.  In Obama they saw what the liked.  McCain not so much.  In Obama they have seen a future President.  In McCain they have seen - and are seeing tonight - an aging and confused Senator all too comfortable defending a tired, discredited conservative argument.    

These last few weeks have been so important for Senator Obama.  His greatest challenge in the race was to help the American people learn more about him.  He is new on the scene, still not well known to many.  He has an unusual name and is bi-racial.  Taken together the American people while they have liked him needed to know more, to get more comfortable with him. The financial crisis, these debates and a strong set of excellent direct-to-camera Obama campaign ads gave Senator Obama has given people much more information about him, to let them get to know him better.  And they have responded well to him these last few weeks. 

While McCain was more combative and aggressive tonight I don't think he was any better and more effective than previous debates.  I don't think McCain fundamentally altered the dynamic of the race.  My guess is that Obama wins the instapolls by 10-15 points.

11pm - CBS has it 53-22 Obama.  CNN 58-31.   CNN's poll has McCain's unfavorable rising tonight.  Brutal.   

Ad Wars: En Español

Over the last few weeks, we have been commenting on how both Presidential candidates are battling it out to win over Hispanic voters by spending record sums on Spanish language advertising on issues of importance to this demographic, such as immigration, health care, and taxes.  The Washington Times has picked up on the brutal ad war and wrote about it in this piece by Stephen Dinan.

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Although he may have received a score of 0 on the League of Conservation Voters' environmental scorecard, at least US Sen. John McCain is very big on recycling. Last night's Daily Show takes a look at McCain's "new" stump speech, and finds some striking similarities with the old speech:

A new ad from the DNC hits similar themes to link McCain to President Bush:

Are We Headed Towards A Realigning Election?

The possibility grows each day.  Tomorrow's CBS/Times poll will fuel a new round of speculation that we are witnessing the birth of a new political era, a once in a generation political realignment.  

The Times poll has it - incredibly - 53-39 Obama.  14 points.  In mid October.  5 points is a landslide in a Presidential race. New state polls show similar trends.  

There has not been a Democrat ahead at this late stage of the election by this type of margin since at least 1964.  And only 7 times in the last 50 elections have Democrats won 53 percent of more of the national vote (they received 53 percent last year).  

Of course it could get much closer in the coming weeks but the trend is moving away from McCain now, not towards him.  

Will McCain be able to perform tomorrow night given what he knows?  Will we see a patriot or a partisan?  Reaching across the aisle to get things done or William Ayers?  

I know, I know.  It will be about those earmarks.  After all we've allocated to all those earmarks just one sixth of what President Bush has given to AIG in the last month alone.  

Wed am Update - DemFromCT has more.

Candidates Woo Largest Spanish-speaking Audience in the Country, Part I

Yesterday, U.S. Sen. John McCain appeared on the Sunday political show Al Punto, hosted by Jorge Ramos on the Spanish-language network, Univision. Mr. Ramos noticed the absence of any discussion on Latin America and on tough issues, such as immigration, during the debates and asked Sen. McCain about his positions.

ON IMMIGRATION - Sen. McCain avoided responding to the tough questions asked by Mr. Ramos, but when he did not, he gave this Spanish-speaking/Hispanic audience very different answers from what he tells crowds of English-speaking conservatives.

Below is an outline of Jorge Ramos's questions on immigration, Sen. McCain's answers during this interview, and prior statements.

JR: Do you agree with the immigration raids that are separating thousands of Hispanic families?
JM: "We must have enforcement....on two occasions I stood before the Senate, knowing that my Party was against me, that the members of my party were against me, and spoke for comprehensive immigration reform." "I am committed to comprehensive reform, but we have to have enforcement, too". McCain called for "humane" and "compassionate" enforcement, and a temporary worker program as well.

The truth is that ever since the McCain-Kennedy bill in 2006, Sen. McCain has never again fought his party on this issue, as he claims. McCain has been constant in his lack of support for immigration reform.

When not speaking to Hispanics: McCain on immigration at CPAC - advocating for enforcement-only; "Secure our borders first...and only after we've achieve widespread consensus that our borders are secure would we address other aspects of the problem..."

John McCain would not sign his own legislation, if it came up now:

JR: If you were president, would you suspend the immigration raids until immigration reform passed?
JM: Well, if we know that some of those immigrants come and commit crimes...
JR: But they are not - they're Hispanic families and people who are not criminals or terrorists...
JM: ....First, my priority would be comprehensive reform, where we left off...then we'll solve this, I can't say we should stop arresting those who come in illegally but we can treat them with compassion.

Why McCain wants to appear on Spanish-language television, attempting to seem for immigration reform:

JR: In key battleground states, like New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, Hispanics aren't supporting you - why not?
JM: We're having good results and we're improving. Obama hasn't travelled to a single Latin American country. I come from a border state, I know [Hispanics]. I got 70% of the Hispanic vote in my last reelection bid....I'm very confident.

Yes, but only 21% of Hispanics voted for McCain in the AZ Presidential primary (AZ has a closed primary). McCain recognizes:

JM: The debate on immigration hurt me and I fought against my party, I fought the members of my party because I think we have to have comprehensive immigration reform. And as a President I'll achieve it, it will be one of my top priorities as president.

The truth: Sen. McCain did not fight his party at all on immigration - that's why his popularity has fallen so dramatically among Hispanics. How can Sen. McCain allege that reform would be his priority as President if he didn't even get his party to include reform in the Republican platform? Instead, the Republican platform is one that has anti-immigrant zealot, Tom Tancredo, saying he's "very pleased" with it, and that he got "basically all that" he wanted. The Republican platform on immigration does not allow for reform, its aim is "to deport criminal aliens without delay", and says: "we oppose amnesty...rejection of enmasse legalization is especially appropriate...".


Monday Morning from the Campaign Trail: Economic Plan vs. a New Speech

This morning, the state of the campaign further clarified. U.S. Sen. Barack Obama is set to unveil an economic recovery plan targeting the middle class and, US Sen. John McCain's campaign, which had been discussing unveiling a new economic plan - as many Republicans wanted him to do - will instead press reset on their rhetoric.

Obama's press release on today's policy address:

Today in Toledo, OH, Senator Obama will deliver a major policy address to lay out his economic rescue plan for the middle class. Our economy is facing its greatest uncertainty in over 70 years, we have lost 760,000 jobs this year and the unemployment rate is expected to reach 8 percent. Families, who saw their incomes decline by $2,000 in the economic "expansion" from 2000 to 2007 now risk seeing deeper income losses. Retirement savings accounts have lost $2 trillion. Millions of homeowners who played by the rules have seen their housing values plummet and are having a hard time making their mortgage payments. And credit markets are nearly frozen, preventing businesses large and small from accessing the credit they need to meet payroll and create jobs.

An excerpt, courtesy of, from McCain's new speech:

"Let me give you the state of the race today. We have 22 days to go. We’re six points down. The national media has written us off. Senator Obama is measuring the drapes, and planning with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to raise taxes, increase spending, take away your right to vote by secret ballot in labor elections, and concede defeat in Iraq. But they forgot to let you decide. My friends, we’ve got them just where we want them.

"What America needs in this hour is a fighter; someone who puts all his cards on the table and trusts the judgment of the American people. I come from a long line of McCains who believed that to love America is to fight for her. I have fought for you most of my life. There are other ways to love this country, but I’ve never been the kind to do it from the sidelines." 

The directions these two campaigns are taking today couldn't be more different, with McCain's new speech calling Obama presumptuous, but shying away from policy prescriptions. Obama today, on the other hand, looks to be getting specific on the economy. Republican politicos have been looking for a retool from the McCain camp that better dealt with the economy. Time will tell if they like what they see.

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