McCain’s Folly (aka Palin the Albatross)

October 24, 2008

In 1867, Secretary of State William Seward bought the state of Alaska for the United States. At the time, critics derided the purchase as “Seward’s Folly”.

But over the next several years, Seward was exonerated. America got a great deal in purchasing Alaska, one of the richest states in terms of natural resources and beauty.

History will not be similarly kind to the latest “Folly” involving Alaska – John McCain’s pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his Vice-Presidential nominee. In a year that overwhelmingly favors Democrats, the GOP’s only hope of winning the Presidency was to appeal to moderates and independents. Against this backdrop, the pick of Palin is inexplicable.

Sure, she has excited the shrinking Republican base, but the swing voters that McCain needs think that she is not up to the job. To make matters worse, many Republicans agree with that assessment. 

The numbers don’t lie: in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 55% of Americans think that Palin is not qualified to be President, which at the end of the day, is the only real job of the Vice-President. This concern is magnified by the facts of John McCain’s advanced age and his past bouts with cancer.

In effect, then, 55% of voters believe that McCain made a bad choice on his first big executive decision of the campaign – the selection of his running-mate. He probably wouldn’t have had much of a chance no matter who he had picked, but his choice of Palin is a deal-breaker. To put it bluntly, it’s got too many people wondering about “the fundamentals” of John McCain’s judgment. This is why, even if the highly-unlikely occurred and the political climate changed dramatically over the next 11 days in order to favor a Republican, McCain has no chance to win.

Governor Palin’s glaring lack of experience and depth of knowledge on the big domestic and foreign policy issues of our time reveals the choice for what it was – a political gimmick. And a bad one at that – did they really think that she could capture any Hillary voters? Were they actually betting that her looks would make up for her policy deficiencies? Whichever way you slice it, the McCain campaign’s ubiquitous slogan of “Country First” couldn’t ring any more hollow.

Alas, history will not exonerate McCain as it did with Seward. On the contrary, when the tale is written of McCain’s landslide defeat in the 2008 election, his pick of the untested Governor of Alaska will be seen as one of the biggest, most fundamental mistakes of a doomed campaign.

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Goldwater Redux

October 22, 2008

With each passing day, the McCain campaign seems to fall into a deeper state of political panic. Today came the news that they have decided to double-down on resources in traditionally blue Pennsylvania, while scaling back and all but conceding Iowa, Colorado, and New Hampshire. This despite the fact that there are now 1.2 million more registered Democrats in the Keystone state than there are Republicans, and despite the fact that Barack Obama is up double-digits in all the state polls.

It doesn’t require a deep analysis to see what is going on here. This is the final part of the Republican Party’s dark strategy to whip up enough “he ain’t one of us” fervor, especially in states with older white populations such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, to somehow overcome their huge deficits and win the election. First they called him a terrorist, then a socialist, now a communist. As if those desperate lies weren’t cynical enough, John McCain is now rooting, almost overtly, for the “Bradley effect”. Apparently, the McCain campaign believes that their only prayer left is to hope that the tribalist tendencies of some people in this country are still strong enough that they will defy the overwhelming Democratic mood of the country and vote against Obama merely because of race. 

Hmm.. This reminds me too much of 1964, when that other Arizona GOP Presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, hoped to ride a wave of anti-Civil Rights sentiment (that’s a kind way of saying racist) to the White House.

We all know how it turned out for Goldwater, and McCain won’t fare much better. New and motivated voters will swamp any remnants of the “Bradley effect” and McCain will join Goldwater in US infamy as two of the biggest losers in Presidential election history.