THE GROFF/ELLISON POLITICAL REPORT

RE-BLOG: Darren Hutchinson on “Race and Presidential Politics” …

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on October 31, 2008

American University Law Professor Darren Hutchinson offers a critical take on the role race plays in the current election and before then.  Basic point here is that as much as some of us are trying to sugarcoat it because of the paradigm shift occuring, race will still play a role.  Also noticed is an underlying tone in Hutchinson’s piece reflecting the mental conditioning taking place: there are many who, while hopeful, are preparing themselves for an Obama loss due to the volatility of the racial landscape.  However, we could also say (based on Hutchinson’s reference to his previous analysis) that the racial analysis is so heavy with cynicism that there are those who are still abundantly pessimistic about the chances of a “Black” president:

Race and Presidential Politics: Pre- and Post-Obama

Last year, after Joe Biden opined that Barack Obama was the “first” black presidential candidate who was articulate, smart and telegenic, I concluded that Obama would likely lose the election. My conclusion did not rest on some knee-jerk belief that “Americans are too racist to vote for a black man.” Instead, the historical performance of blacks in statewide election contests did not bode well for his candidacy. Biden’s statement simply provided gloss to my argument. My prediction triggered very passionate responses from my Democratic colleagues who accused me of lacking “hope.” But my opinion rested on a fairly rational reading of U.S. electoral politics.

Despite the media’s fascination with Obama’s lead in most nationwide polls, presidential elections ultimately turn on the results of state-to-state contests. And historically, very few blacks have won statewide elections. For example, only two blacks, Deval Patrick and Douglas Wilder, have won gubernatorial elections. In 1990, Wilder became the first elected black governor when he won the Virginia gubernatorial contest by only .5% of the vote. Two years ago, Patrick won in blue-state Massachusetts — a year when Democrats regained control of both the Senate and the House. P.B.S. Pinchback and Douglas Patterson served as lieutenant governors, before replacing incumbents. Pinchback served as governor during Reconstruction, and Patterson became governor of New York this year.

Results of U.S. Senate elections also demonstrate the thin record of blacks winning statewide elections. Although five blacks have served in the Senate, only three earned their seats through statewide elections. In 1966, Ed Brooke won the U.S. Senate contest in Massachusetts, making him the first black person elected to the Senate. Carol Mosely Braun of Illinois won the senate election in 1992, making her the first and only black woman to serve in the Senate. Barack Obama won the Illinois race in 2006 during the Democratic midterm elections sweep. Two other blacks, Hiram Revels and Blanche Bruce, served as senators during Reconstruction. Both, however, were chosen by the Republican-dominated Mississippi legislature for that role.

With respect to presidential elections, Jesse Jackson was the most famous and successful black candidate prior to Obama. Jackson ran in 1984 and 1988. Jackson finished second behind nominee Michael Dukakis in 1988, and he won 11 primaries along the way. Shirley Chisolm and Carol Mosley Braun also launched unsuccessful campaigns in 1972 and 2004, respectively.

Against this historical backdrop, Obama’s candidacy emerged. Although the country has certainly made progress in terms of race relations, race continues to influence voter attitudes. Despite the poor historical record of blacks in statewide election politics, when the Democratic primaries first began, many Obama supporters rejected as utterly cynical the assertion that race would hinder his electability. Ironically, many of those same individuals have invoked racism to rebut critiques of Obama by Hillary Clinton and John McCain and have offered racism (rather than class, gender or other factors) as the only reason why he lost several election contests to Clinton.

Recently, some commentators have argued that only racism could cause Obama to lose the election, but this argument overlooks the fact that since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Democrats have only elected one president (Clinton) to two terms. Also, since 1964, Democrats have only won three presidential elections. Clinton won two of these, and Carter, who received a mere 50.1% of the popular vote, won the other, running against Gerald Ford who received harsh criticism for pardoning Richard Nixon. The Democrats simply have not had much success in presidential candidates since 1964. So race might explain why some people, but not all, would decline to vote for Obama.

The intense scrutiny of race and politics during the year’s election cycle leaves the impression that race has never mattered in presidential politics until this year or that it only impacts candidates who are not white. But to assume that race has not impacted presidential elections until 2008 would grossly distort the history of U.S. politics. Race has substantially affected prior elections and has, naturally, impacted white candidates. Distinguishing racism against a particular candidate from the issue of race relations helps illuminate this point.

Race, Reconstruction and Presidential Elections
During Reconstruction, the presence of federal troops in southern states allowed blacks to exercise their political rights. At the time, virtually all black votes went to Republican candidates, and blacks who won elections were all members of the Republican Party. The Democratic Party, by contrast, had a monopoly on the white southern vote.

As the southern states were “redeemed” and re-admitted to the Union, Democrats slowly regained more and more power in southern governments. In 1876, the presidential election between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel J. Tilden was closely divided. Tilden won the popular vote by a 51-48 margin, but the electoral college was in dispute due to a controversy over how to allocate votes from Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. The elections in those states involved a large degree of violence against black voters and whites who supported Republicans. Previously, President Grant had responded to election-day violence by dispatching federal troops to polling places, but that year, his advisers convinced him to refrain from doing so, believing that this would harm the electoral performance of Republican candidates. Just a few years after the Civil War, the public had grown intolerant of federal efforts to quell southern racial violence. The “Compromise of 1877” gave the election to Hayes, on the promise that he, as president, would remove troops from the South. Although Hayes eventually won the election, race contributed to his popular vote loss, but his concession on race and Reconstruction ultimately gave him the victory. When Hayes assumed office, he withdrew the remaining troops from the South. After the demise of Reconstruction, blacks would not vote in significant numbers in the South until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1968.

The New Deal Coalition and Race
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s political dominance from 1933-1945 relied on a coalition of southern white Democrats, blacks and other people of color, liberals, urbanites, labor, and religious minorities. The “New Deal Coalition” secured victory for the Democrats in seven of nine presidential elections from 1932 to 1964. Roosevelt gained support of nearly 80% of blacks, who abandoned the Republican party due to Roosevelt’s liberal economic policies, which drew mass appeal following Republican Herbert Hoover’s presidency and the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s scattered embrace of civil rights would keep blacks within the Democratic Party — and blacks’ growing political leverage helped to secure those sporadic gains.

The only blip in Democratic success during this area came when Dwight D. Eisenhower won the presidential elections in 1952 and 1956. Smartly, Eisenhower maintained the New Deal policies and supported civil rights, including the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, which a majority of the public also favored. The opinion, however, sparked massive southern resistance. In 1957, Eisenhower dispatched federal troops to enforce desegregation of Little Rock High School — amidst international coverage of racial violence and harassment of black students. Eisenhower received far more black support than any of Roosevelt’s Republican challengers, but he never received a majority of black votes.
Race, the Great Society, and Southern Political Realignment
After a century of Democratic dominance in the South, a dramatic realignment took place after 1964. When Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he accurately predicted that the Democrats would lose the South for a generation. Johnson probably did more in terms of promoting and endorsing civil rights than any other president in U.S. history — although Kennedy tends to receive more praise and attention from liberal elites. Johnson’s efforts shattered the New Deal coalition and ushered in decades of Republican dominance in presidential politics.
In 1964, Johnson signed comprehensive civil rights legislation, which was already proposed while Kennedy was alive. But Johnson lobbied for and implemented far more civil rights and antipoverty measures than Kennedy ever proposed or endorsed. Many leftists demonize Johnson due to the Vietnam War, but in terms of advancing the status of blacks, he did much more than Kennedy — or any other presidents since Lincoln and Grant.
Johnson’s “Great Society” programs expanded the government’s role beyond the New Deal. The legislation included the Voting Rights Act, which enfranchised blacks in the South. Johnson’s administration also spent large amounts of money on education, which was a priority in his legislative agenda. His administration created federal student loans and work study programs; it also founded the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Johnson launched a War on Poverty, which expanded the New Deal initiatives in addition to taking on new projects, such as adding Medicare to the Social Security Act, creating Head Start, and forming the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (now Health and Human Services). Johnson also nominated Thurgood Marshall, a prominent civil rights lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, to the Supreme Court. Marshall, a definite liberal, became the first black Supreme Court Justice.

Johnson’s programs solidified black support for the Democrats, but they also caused “white flight” from the party. Beginning in 1968, a white backlash from the Great Society programs caused a southern political realignment, which has cost the Democrats a string of presidential elections. The Deep South effectively turned red.

Although nonracial factors explain some of the shift in southern political alliances, race issues do so as well. Southern whites vehemently opposed civil rights legislation, integration, affirmative action, and other race-related policies that the Democrats promoted. Consequently, since 1964, no Democratic presidential candidate has won a majority of white voters nationwide. Jimmy Carter is the only Democratic Party candidate who has won a majority of all voters in a presidential election since 1964, but he won by a mere 50.1% of the vote. The Republican Party has received a majority of white voters in all elections since 1964, due largely to white southerners abandoning the Democrats. Only Clinton and Carter — two white southern governors — have won southern states since 1964. Gore did not even win his native state of Tennessee.
Race in a Post-Obama World
If Obama wins in November, this would mark a reversal of fortune for the Democrats, but it remains unclear whether his victory would usher in a new “liberal” trend in U.S. politics or whether it would only represent a momentary change. Although Obama’s charisma, intellect, and excellent communications skills have helped him tremendously, the poor performance and disfavor of President Bush, the terrible state of the economy, the ineffective campaign of John McCain, public distrust of Sarah Palin, and a very Obama-friendly media have all combined to make victory a strong possibility for the Democrats. Obama’s policy proposals do not rank as more liberal than Gore’s or Kerry’s. Thus, Obama’s success does not seem to result from a fundamental shift in the nation’s overall political ideology (for a more pointed discussion of this issue, see this link).
Furthermore, Obama still trails McCain in most southern states, which remain red by and large (even if closer than in previous elections). Also, the bulk of Obama’s white support comes from women — who traditionally vote for Democrats. And while the Democrats have registered many new voters and have beaten the Republicans significantly in this regard, a coherent political ideology does not unite those voters. They certainly want “change,” which specifically, seems to mean ending the war and not having “a Clinton,” “a Bush,” “a Republican” or “a white guy” in office. Beyond that, it is unclear what will unite them. Unless this group develops into a reliable and cohesive liberal block, Obama and Democrats after him would face the same electoral landscape that has constrained the party since 1964. Indisputably, an Obama victory would mark an historic moment in U.S. racial history. But as liberals contemplate and celebrate that moment, they should not forget that race has a very long history in U.S. politics. Because Obama’s success has not altered the country’s fundamental political ideology, race will remain an important factor in national politics in the foreseeable future.

MI: Detroit Mayor Defiant … for what?

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on October 29, 2008

We can’t get too judgmental about now former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick as he bursts into political flames, but this photo says it all. Defiant to the very end, Kilpatrick gives his courtroom Al Capone-like pose.  Reports Bill McGraw in the Detroit Free Press:

Kilpatrick spent three hours in court frowning, shaking his head, smirking, laughing, goofing around and teasing Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and her assistants.

If you didn’t know that this was Kilpatrick’s deadly serious sentencing hearing — a time when most savvy criminal defendants act as humbly as possible — you might have thought Detroit’s disgraced former chief executive was attending a political rally or charity roast.

And, even as Kilpatrick carried on, Wayne County Judge David Groner slammed him for the arrogant way he had behaved Sept. 4, after he had agreed to plead guilty in a case that disrupted civic life for months and cost the city millions of dollars.

“This court questions your sincerity,” Groner said.

Jail might change that.

Bottom line is that we should have been suspicious all along of an elected official that touted himself as “the hip hop mayor” given the fact that Detroit is one of the economic armpits of the nation.  Detroit’s unemployment rate nears 10% while its chief executive co-opted urban culture in an attempt to play high-roller rather than, simply, be a Mayor.  Nothing at all against hip-hop – in fact, we were a bit skeptical and offended back then when he was using it for political purpose.  It’s just that cities like Detroit needed effective management rather than shenanigans.  However, in all fairness, he had begun ushering in some downtown revitalization.  Problem is he couldn’t keep his vices under control.

Many of us – thinking his political hip hop concert was cute and personified the best and brightest of Black male empowerment – created the caricature in the photo above.

A Backlash on 11/4

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on October 24, 2008

Good news is that we’re finding quite a significant surge in early voting.  Generally speaking: Americans appear to be, for a change, actually exercising their most basic constitutional right.  It was looking kind of bad – as far as global image – with us “spreading democracy,” yet less than half of us voting in our own elections.  Didn’t make a lot of sense.  This cycle, we find the enthusiasm a bit infectious.  Regardless of party affiliation, heavy participation on any level is a good thing. 

The early voting thing is all the rage.  Everybody is doing it.  It’s reached that point where Nov. 4th is merely a deadline.  And, folks who otherwise would have found mad reason to stay home or go straight to work now have no excuse. 

And, according to Associated Press, Black turnout in early voting is huge:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Blacks are already surging to the polls in parts of the South, according to initial figures from states that encourage early voting – a striking though still preliminary sign of how strongly they will turn out nationwide for Barack Obama in his campaign to become the first African-American president.

There have been predictions all year of a record black turnout for Obama. The first actual figures suggest that wasn’t just talk.  

This is found on Jonathan Martin’s Politico blog following GOP developments, prefaced by him writing: “This last fact is striking.”  What’s also striking is that Martin finds a moment to point out Black turnout – more than likely for Obama – on a blog dedicated to GOP political news.  Which leads us to an important question:

Could reports of huge Black turnout during early voting (especially in southern states) cause a backlash on Nov. 4th?  Meaning: could such reports actually fire up the GOP base, and possibly lure Independents and Reagan Democrat White voters who may be offended by this surging brick wall of Black support for Barack Obama? Particularly since their are many out there who (wrongly) assume that the majority of African Americans are simply voting for Obama because he looks like them … forgetting that it took a long minute before the majority of Black voters shifted support (en masse) from Hillary Clinton to Obama during the long Democratic primary.

It’s not a farfetched question.  But, as with the recently questionable AP poll showing a dead heat between Obama/McCain, we are going to find numerous attempts by certain media outlets to subtly influence popular vote counts and electoral college results.

Not Feeling the “Bradley Effect” …

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on October 22, 2008

As November 4th nears, the racial tone of the race gets hotter, the decibels flow higher.  Some of it is media sensationalism, much of it the sensitivity of the citizenry.  Hence, since the larger electorate isn’t as politically savvy as it should be and since campaigns are less about issues and more about horse race, the creation of the “buzzword” and “sound bite.”   This  burns us to no end, but it’s the reality of American politics.

There are many folks out there who are loosely throwing buzz words into the public sphere and daily conversation just because it sounds good or “intelligent” to do that.  Some folks like the drama, or feed into it.  But, it’s not all that deep sometimes.  We here, on the daily, a lot of Black peeps who keep worrying over the “Bradley Effect” – much of that drawn from the DNA of our cultural cynicism after 400 years in this joint.  There are many who would like to believe (or are simply engineering an explanation or rationalization if Obama loses on Nov. 4th) that there are a bunch of White voters out there who are plotting to do an electoral okie doke – trip up pollsters, get us hype then do the opposite at the voting booth.

We’re not feeling this for some reason.

For one, what’s up with applying old school concepts to new school paradigm shifts?  It appears we’ve passed that point where everything conventional about American politics is now unconventional.  Two: the racial code wording is driving us up the wall: Joe the Plumber, Joe Six Pack, Hockey Moms, “Real America”, “Bradley Effect” – enough of that.  But, three, as Nate Silver gets into it on FiveThirtyEight.com:

With so many “X factors” like race, cell phones and turnout, there is probably an extra margin of error this year. And polls aren’t terrifically accurate to begin with. But there is no reason to conclude that the polls are systematically overestimating Obama’s support; the reverse is at least as likely to be true. McCain, in all likelihood, will need to win this election fair and square—which means that he has his work cut out for him.

Thus, keeping it real.  Basically, folks need to drop the “Bradley” buzz and simply make certain they and everyone they know who is eligible go vote.

Thoughts on Voting Solutions

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on October 22, 2008

Two middle-aged, Caucasian Australians from Brisbon somehow ended up within conversation distance.  Vacationing in the Big Apple, they sought refuge from the hundreds converging on Adam Clayton Powell Bldg. square on 125th Street in a last ditch effort at voter registration as New York’s deadline loomed.

There was much music, many folks, the thump of dancehall and hip hop in the crisp Fall air and lots of clipboards.  Something about this festive hour some two hundred yards away from the Apollo disturbed newfound Aussie friends.

“You register to vote?” they frowned.

“Yeah …,” confused.

“Why’s that?”

“Wait – I don’t understand. What do you mean?”

Not knowing much about Australian politics, student of American politics got schooled on Australia’s compulsory voting system.  How you get fined in Australia if you don’t vote.  How Australian elections are “boring” but at least every citizen participates.  They were stunned that we weren’t doing the same thing in the U.S., assuming mandatory voting was the norm. A small group of us schooled them back.  Still, after 20 minutes of pleasant exchanges over our political systems, we felt a bit stupid. The rush of college kids rushing to fetch last minute registrations was surreal in the wake of our Australian conversation.

It led to an overflow of thoughts.  Why not compulsory voting here?  The answer seems obvious: we’re a democracy and democracies shouldn’t force citizens to do anything.  Still, we force people to pay taxes; we force drivers to pay tolls. The very fabric of a functioning society is based on compulsion by law – what’s the difference if we’re forced to vote?

We just appear rather ridiculous scrambling to register the unregistered every four years.  The Ultimate Solution to the voting problem may be contained within the compulsory voting model.

Early voting as a key solution may not be that bad of a consideration … considering the current system’s inability to handle massive overflow at the polls.  We’re seeing signs of that in this election as an unprecedented number of voters are overwhelming the polls.  So, early voting is the anti-mea culpa, states can avoid criticism for not handling the obvious by expanded offering of early voting.  Watch this become a more dominant trend, particularly as Presidential cycles get longer.

GEPR Guest Blog: Webster Brooks on Cooperation w/ Iran …

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on October 22, 2008

Why Obama Must Secure Iran’s Cooperation to Withdraw Troops in Iraq

Guest blog by Webster Brooks lll

Should Barak Obama become America’s 44th president, his plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in sixteen months and “end the war” will require the cooperation of Iran. While the presidential campaign debate narrowly focused on the troop surge, the reduction of violence in Iraq has obscured one fundamental truth; the Iraqi government will continue to be dominated by pro-Iranian forces led by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. Pro-Iranian militias will remain largely in control of the Army, the national police and the intelligence apparatus. The question is; how can Obama win Iran’s cooperation in Iraq while simultaneously putting the brakes on their nuclear ambitions and support for “terrorist” organizations?

The calculus of a new Iraq peace strategy that incorporates Iran’s cooperation is straight forward. Iran wants dramatic reductions of the 130,000 U.S. troops perched on its borders and threatening its national security. Tehran also wants an end to U.S. troop cross border raids and ongoing U.S. covert operations inside Iran authorized by President Bush’s executive finding in 2007. On the other side of the ledger Obama needs to start moving troops out of Iraq immediately and shifting forces to Afghanistan. He also needs Iran’s help to reign in Iraqi Shiite militias, and push Shiite leaders to negotiate in good faith by giving minority Sunni forces enough political and economic clout to avoid the resumption of sectarian warfare.

Barak Obama is fully aware that his 16 month troop withdrawal timetable is not realistic. Iraq’s government, national army and national police will not be prepared to take full control by August 2010. Thus, he must play for time to allow Iraq’s government to stabilize while national reconciliation inches forward. If violence and U.S. troop deaths are minimal, Americans will be forgiving of an extended timetable. The critical next step in the process and one that is out of Obama’s control is the Status of Forces Agreement currently being negotiated with Iraq. It calls for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq’s major cities by June 2009, and for all U.S. troops to be out of Iraq by December 31, 2011. Under pressure from other radical Shiite forces and Iran to shorten the timeline, Maliki announced on October 19 that the agreement is not satisfactory and must be amended before being voted on by Iraq’s parliament. Thus, the Status of Forces Agreement will shape the withdrawal timeline that Obama ultimately will navigate.

Going forward, the political and military landmines that could impede progress toward a U.S. troop withdrawals in Iraq are formidable. Extremists and al Queda forces will not go gently from Iraq. Obama and American military leaders in Iraq will also need to craft a strategy to maintain the military separation between the Sunni Awakening forces and al Queda. In addition to the political reconciliation process, Obama will need the assistance of Iran and Saudi Arabia to help broker and guarantee agreements between the Sunni, the Kurds and the majority Shiite. The next big hurdle will be the national and provential elections in Iraq in 2009, and the explosive referendum on the status of Kirkuk. Ironically, Iran also has presidential elections in 2009. If President Ahmadinijad is defeated by a more “moderate” candidate, Obama’s ability to work with Iran and sell his policy to the Ameircan people could become immeasurably easier. 

To secure Iran’s cooperation in Iraq Obama must make the first move. At the moment, Iran holds a strong position in Iraq. Iran’s long standing ties with Iraq’s majority Shiite religious community, its substantial economic investments in Iraq and its ties to the Kurdish political leaders constitutes substantial political clout. Thus, it’s unlikely that Obama can coerce Iranian cooperation by threatening aerial strikes against their nuclear sites, getting sanctions on Iranian gas imports or an improbable land invasion. Quite the opposite, Obama could open the door to direct talks with Iran on the Iraqi conflict with soft power. By reviving recently scuttled  proposals to establish direct commercial airline flights between Iran and America, and by resurrecting talks on opening a U.S. Interest Section in Tehran, Obama could signal to Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei that there is a genuine interest in diplomacy.

Apart from direct talks with Iran on Iraq, Obama should revive the Geneva Contact Group with Iran to discuss a broader array of issues. The Contact Groups’ back channel negotiations proved invaluable in gaining Iran’s assistance at the outset of the U.S. Afghanistan invasion. Obama will also be under tremendous pressure from Republicans and military hawks to halt Iran’s nuclear drive to master the uranium enrichment process. Obama’s initial efforts will likely center around getting an IAEA verification team back on the ground in Iran. Obama can score a huge political breakthrough if he can convince the Iranians to temporarily suspend enrichment activity while getting the inspection teams up and running. However, he may have to settle for allowing enrichment to continue as a condition for getting the inspection teams back in. The nexus of Obama’s position must be that today we have the worse of both worlds; no IAEA nuclear inspections and Iran’s continuation of the enrichment process. The non-starter that Obama must avoid is insisting that Iran stop its uranium enrichment program as a pre-condition to talks.

What is most critical to a new Obama administration’s foreign policy approach in the Persian Gulf is to cultivate an environment that encourages Iran to re-examine the opportunities to improve its relations with the United States and its own national security interest. Iraq is the place where the national security interest of the U.S. and Iran intersect and both sides have something to gain. If substantial progress can be made there, the potential to achieve progress in Afghanistan and on the nuclear standoff will be dramatically improved.

The New Rallying Cry: Don’t Forget New Hampshire!

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on October 18, 2008

Supporters and haters of Sen. Barack Obama are beginning to feel like this race is over.  Everywhere you look and everything you hear is that it’s all over but the inaugural parade and Barack H. Obama, Jr.  is the next President of the United States.

Not so fast supporters, haters, “analysts”, and bandwagon jumpers says the current junior Senator from Illinois, don’t forget New Hampshire. 

Obama is loudly telling anyone and everyone that this race is not over.  He has invoked his party’s uncanny ability to constantly snatch “defeat from the jaws of victory” and his own inability to close the Democratic nomination show after Iowa.  Obama has reminded voters, the media and his staff (today in a very terse and short all staff conference call) that everyone thought the primary race was over after Iowa but New Hampshire got in the way. 

Obama owned a large lead in the polls in the Granite State after stunning favored Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Sen. and Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards in the Iowa caucuses but lost to Clinton just 5 days later by 8,000 votes. 

Obama is right to check the electoral enthusiasm now, lest people start thinking that he’s got the White House all wrapped up and then don’t bother to go vote.  Many swing state polls are in the margin of error, he doesn’t know how people are going to act behind the curtain or at the kitchen table as they cast their ballots and Vice President Al Gore also led by this same amount at this same time eight years ago. 

Their is no question Obama has the momentum and the fluctuation of the economy and Sen. John McCain’s uneven debate performances, his scorch and burn campaign tactics and Gov. Sarah Palin’s campaign to offend just about everyone is pushing the race in Obama’s direction.  However we have seen presidential races turn around in a Bush second (remember 2000 and 2008) so anything can happen in 18 days so the Democratic nominee is wise to rally his supporters around the January 8th Clinton surprise and cry out don’t forget New Hampshire.

Did McCain Miss An Opportunity?

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on October 16, 2008

Sen. John McCain did a whole lot of chest pounding and sh…stuff talking about how he was “gonna kick Obama’s…backside” in the last presidential debate at Hofstra University and for about 20 minutes he was on a roll.  But after firing his best shot early he ended up with an uneven performance, his best however in the trio of debates, that resulted in a third straight loss according to instant polling.

While a lot went into McCain’s third straight beat down the GOP nominee may have missed an opportunity to turn the race around or at least create some buzz by saying he would run a squeaky clean campaign for the next 20 days.  He could have taken the high ground saying America deserves better and what he has seen and heard in the last two weeks have concerned and worried him.

This abrupt campaign change would have shown him as the more grown up candidate, the candidate with right temperment and actually put “country first.” Instead he whined, complained and cheap commented his way through the final 70 minutes of the debate.  With each divisive comment, complaint and whine the CNN live response lines indicating how undecided Ohio voters felt about the candidates remarks dipped and showed the disgust of his negative campaigning. 

The polls have also dipped for McCain precipitously coinciding with the fiscal crisis and the new negative campaigning by McCain. The Republican needed a game changer or at least a momentum slower and got neither. Changing the strategy on the fly may not have slowed Sen. Barack Obama’s momentum or changed the game, but the effort could not have hurt any more than his spotty and uneven performance last night.

“Joe the Plumber” for President …

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on October 16, 2008

The first, near full half-hour of this last Presidential debate found McCain strong – and winning by whatever low, anti-intellectual standard we’ve set during the course of this general campaign. Winning by effectively coordinating and focusing his punch lines.  We all know that these debates are hardly “ad libbed” – they are pretty much choreographed.  Talking point mantras are repeated endlessly by both candidates.  They know what their scripts are.  It’s a matter of who can control their script, who can convey it the best.  Who can spin it stronger.  In the beginning, McCain spun it the best with the introduction of “Joe the Plumber.”

And, since media coverage of this campaign is built on catch phrases of the day, this is what struck the chord. Spare us, please, the electoral marketing pitches.  The funny names to describe voters in a high stakes election.

But, then it went into questions about the tone of the campaign, and McCain simply went flat and angry.  He was like a whiny, real-life caricature of Mr. Wilson flailing his arms about at Dennis the Menace.  His messaging went way off course, caught up in the moment of the attack.  Smoking the crack pipe of conservative machine insistence on “attack, attack,” McCain got lost in a patchwork of incoherent accusations about Ayers, ACORN and other stuff regular peeps aren’t really worried about these days.

The problem here is that McCain is steady trying to impress his conservative base, particularly at a time when he’s going to need independents, moderates and some Democrats to win.  Doing so means reveling in a rhetorical mosaic of cultural and racially-singed code words like “Joe the Plumber” – which means: “hey – angry White dude out there.  Yeah – you!  Vote for me – you tired of people like ‘that one’ taking everything over? Then vote for me.”

Was there any “gamechanger” tonight (the buzzword of the election)?  We don’t think so.  Obama, who could’ve easily landed some serious punches, continued to play it safe with well-managed reponses.  He still looked in control, occassionally laughing in what we felt was a burst of incredulity at how McCain made it that far.

A Dangerous Level

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on October 10, 2008

There is no question the campaign for president has reached a negative level that hasn’t been seen in quite sometime in presidential campaigns. 

But while we are concerned about the general level of negativity, we are alarmed about the rising level of anger being shown in the hustings.  As Sen. John McCain and running mate Gov. Sarah Palin have opened the gates of hell and gone on a blistering personal attack against Sen. Barack Obama it is the anger shown by partisans that is worrisome. 

From the screaming “I’m mad” man in Wisconsin yesterday to the shouts of “kill him,” “take him out” and “terrorist” that have greeted McCain and Palin since they opened the gates last week the anger on the trail ought to worrisome to everyone, including the GOP ticket themselves.  Shouts of racial insults and anger is not something we’ve heard in campaign settings since the 1950’s and 1960’s and we doubt McCain/Palin want that comparison…or do they?

It took the senior Senator from Arizona nearly a week to ask crowds to be “respectful” of Obama but we wonder if that will be enough to tamp down the emotions that have been conjured up especially if the original stirrer-in-chief, the first term Governor of Alaska, doesn’t follow McCain’s lead.   

The campaign is already at gutter level and sending it into the sewer doesn’t benefit anyone even if you end up winning the White House.