Better Late than Never

It’s been a pretty hectic time since last week’s Democratic National Convention finished. Of course, there was the Barack Obama speech as well as John McCain’s choice of a running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. I wrote out my thoughts on those issues while spending some quality time on a Denver-Madison, Wisconsin flight after spending endless hours trapped in the puddle-jumper end of DIA; I know these stories are old news, but I think it’s still worth posting:

Obama Speech: Mission Accomplished, But Not Much More

From my seat in what’s normally the south end zone of Mile-High Stadium I could tell that the sellout crowd on hand for Barack Obama’s speech accepting the nomination would have stood and cheered so long as they got a glimpse of the Senator. Obama could have stood at the podium reading from his autobiography, or told them why John Elway sucked as a quarterback (which he does, but that’s a different matter), the crowd was with him. So that’s why he didn’t need to speak in an earth-shattering way – he didn’t need to reach the heights he did in his post-primary speech from New Hampshire, or at the DNC four years ago. But he did have to deliver more specifics to a campaign that had so far frustrated some undecided and even Democratic voters with its vague “Change” and “Hope” messages, and he did just that.

From last night: “So let me spell out exactly what change would mean if I am President. Change means a tax code that doesn’t reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it. Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas… I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow. I will cut taxes for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle class. And for the sake of our economy, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.”

I think for a lot of people, those kinds of messages were needed. Sure, he didn’t lay out every step for getting the nation off of oil, but he didn’t have to – there’s no need to go all policy wonk on 75,000 people and a massive TV audience. But he did have to give examples of goals he will set for his presidency that are more substantive than “Change we can believe in.” Don’t  get me wrong, Barack Obama delivered a good speech last night, but not because of any soaring oration or rhetorical skill. In 20 or 30 years, few people will remember direct quotes from this speech, but they will be able to say they saw a politician attract 75,000 people, who waited in lines that took hours, to watch him speak. What people will remember in 10 weeks, the Obama campaign hopes, is that this was a substantive discussion of goals by a candidate for President – and when they go to the polls on November 4th, that’s more important.

McCain Chooses Woman… Oh, Sorry, Sarah Palin

About 12 hours after Barack Obama took the stage at Mile-High Stadium last night, John McCain announced his pick for Vice-President: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. I should preface this by saying that because I’ve been in the Denver airport all day (thanks, United!) I haven’t been able to see much news about the announcement. But clearly, this is a move to win over disillusioned Clinton supporters still not attracted to Barack Obama, but I don’t know if it’s a pick that will pan out well. One of McCain’s main arguments against Barack Obama is his lack of experience, but Palin’s time in government is made up of her time as Alaska Governor, and before that as mayor of a 6,900-person town (which I think counts as a major metropolis in Alaska).

Palin’s gender played a big part in McCain’s choice of his nominee, and it allows someone like Joe Biden to really turn the tables on the experience argument. Biden has already come out as the attack dog in this campaign, and the Vice Presidential debates probably won’t be a fun experience for Palin. I haven’t had time to really research Palin (I didn’t even include her in my top picks for a Republican VP), but I can’t really tell why she was picked if, as the McCain campaign has said, gender played no part in the process. I can tell that she enjoys her firearms, though (as shown by a picture of her peering down the scope of an AK-47, pointed at the camera) – how long until that photo appears with “John McCain’s Vice President will Blow You Away” in a MoveOn.org ad?

In a campaign built on experience and military judgment, I don’t know if they want the Governor of the most sparsely populated state in the union a heartbeat (and let’s face it, some group on the left will make John McCain’s age and Sarah Palin’s experience an issue) running the country as Commander in Chief. Perhaps some more research will help me understand the picking of Sarah Palin more, but as for right now, I don’t think John McCain made a great decision.  

UPDATED: It would appear as if the McCain choice was successful in its timing, effectively stunting an Obama bounce for a short time. Politico first wrote that the bounce was smaller than many had expected (probably because of a lack of post-game coverage by networks the day after because of the Palin pick), but yesterday came out with a Gallup poll saying Obama had reached the 50% mark for the first time in the campaign.

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SfA Pregame: Monday

It’s Monday, August 25th, the official first day of the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and I’ll soon be headed down to the Pepsi Center. After a night of long editorial meetings and (very) brief sleep, the Youth Radio team is hard at work prepping for the first day of a convention already packed with some big headlines.

First, word came last night that Senator Hillary Clinton would assemble all of her pledged delegates at the Colorado Convention Center Wednesday night, and formally release them to Barack Obama. I think this is a good move for Clinton and a good sign for the 08 DNC, because it helps set a tone of party unity the Democrats have longed for since the primaries ended in June. The Democrats may think the split has been healed, but as shown by a recent McCain campaign ad, and a conentious debate between Obama and Clinton supporters on our flight out here, it hasn’t – and the Republicans will look to capitalize on any of her 18 million voters that haven’t made the switch.

Next, Senator Ted Kennedy has made it to Denver, and could make a surprise appearance sometime during the convention. An appearence from the Senator could really electrify this convention, and provide an inspirational story that all the delegates (and, really, anyone in politics) can get behind. And don’t underestimate the power of Senator Kennedy to create party unity: give the Obama-Clinton delegates a common cause to rally around (even if it isn’t really political) and you’ll see a more complete party.

Well, we’re off to brave the general havoc of the 2008 DNC. Check back in with youthradioflows.wordpress.com later tonight for more news and analysis of the Democratic National Convention.

Ad Wars: Housegate

Yes everyone’s favorite scandal suffix now applies to John McCain’s blunder in counting his houses, and the gaffe has made its way into new ads from Barack Obama and the Democratic party. This is the newest, titled “Out of Touch“:

This comes on the heels of a similar ad, “Seven,” with the same premise. The Democratic National Committee also released a spot mocking McCain, called “How Many?” with man-on-the-street interviews asking people if they’ve ever forgotten how many houses they own. There have also been commercials mocking McCain’s answer from the Saddleback Forum, where he said that the qualifying income to be considered rich is a $5 million a year salary. Yet for the amount of resources the candidate and the party have dedicated to these ads and campaign stops going after McCain, I still don’t think the Democrats have done enough when compared to earlier Republican attacks.

Could you imagine if Barack Obama had said that rich was $5 million a year, or if he forgot how many houses he owned? The story wouldn’t just be in ads, it’d be all over Limbaugh, O’Reilly, and Hannity, and getting much more play than this story has seen. Democrats can take a holier than thou approach ad say they won’t make it as huge an issue and Republicans would, but if they really want to win this election, they would have gone after McCain much more than they have. Republicans have won past elections by framing the debate (thank you, George Lakoff), and they’re doing it very well this time around (for instance, they’ve taken the question from “should we be in Iraq?” to “is the surge working?”). If the Democrats were more able to do that – frame the debate by painting their opponent as one thing or another – and if they found the guts to go after McCain for this gaffe the way the Republicans would Obama, they would make this election a lot easier on themselves.

Denver Can’t Come Soon Enough

According to a new CNN poll, Barack Obama has lost his once-large lead over John McCain, and now has just a one-point advantage. Granted, John McCain spent the last week on the war path and got some help from a friendly crowd at the Saddleback Forum while Barack Obama was on vacation and off the campaign trail, but it’s still a significant change in numbers. Combine that with a new Reuters/Zogby poll that shows McCain with a five-point lead over Obama, and the Democrats may find themselves limping into the Denver’s Pepsi Center next week.

Thankfully for the Obama campaign, before the Democratic Convention begins Monday they will have opportunities to bring more positive press back to their campaign – the most important of which will be his choice of a running mate. I would guess the campaign will send out their text messages announcing the veep nominee either this evening or tomorrow (and not sometime Friday, since, as explored in a great West Wing episode, nobody watches the Friday evening news and nobody reads the Saturday paper). That allows Obama to build up hype for his planned rally in Springfield, Illinois on Saturday, and ride into Denver with news of close polls pushed to the back page.

It’s been a tough start to the week for the Obama campaign, but the timing of the running mate announcement (and the impending convention) could turn the second half around.

Youth Radio (and Savidge for America) will be all over the Democratic National Convention next week, so check out youthradioflows.wordpress.com for all the news from Denver.

It’s All in the Timing

John McCain will probably announce his Vice-Presidential pick on August 29th, hours after Barack Obama’s speech closes the Democratic National Convention in Denver, and a few days before the Republicans have theirs in St. Paul, Minnesota. This announcement can have two possible outcomes: it can neuter the wave of media attention surrounding Barack Obama’s speech, or it can get passed over by networks still eager to go over the previous night’s events.

Obviously, the former is the affect the McCain campaign would most like to see, since the vice-presidential pick is an important card in the media battle presidential campaigns have become. When it is used well, the candidate has almost total news attention, with pundits on cable news shows devoting hours to the campaign and how it just got stronger (given that you make the right choice, of course). McCain will make his choice public the day after the Obama speech at INVESCO Field, and odds are it will be a good one, on par with his oration at ’04 DNC. Convention speech analysis (especially with a candidate whose skills at the podium have been prominently featured in the news), and general reaction from what promises to be an exciting convention, could (if Republicans gets their way) all be forgotten when McCain makes his veep choice the next day.

However the result Democrats hope for is just the opposite: McCain makes his veep pick, and – after a moment’s notice – everyone turns their attention back to the Obama speech and Democratic Convention. That would make the McCain campaign seem futile in the face of an Obama media onslaught, and it would further showcase the major difference in popularity between the two candidates.

So, which of the two will play out a week from now? Well, if the pick is a “safe” one (someone like Tim Pawlenty, whose name has been on veepstakes shortlists since the beginning), I think McCain’s worst-case scenario of a media that’s completely “Barackupied” come August 29th, will become a reality. And I think even a more unexpected pick (someone like Joe Lieberman) could have the same result. John McCain ‘s decision to announce his running mate the day after the Obama speech was a mistake – he’s taking a big risk, and I don’t think it will pay off.

Then again, I predicted these candidates would announce their picks a few weeks ago…

And remember – Youth Radio (and Savidge for America) will be at the Democratic Convention next week, so for all your DNC coverage check out youthradioflows.wordpress.com.

New McCain Ad Touts Popularity with Democrats

John McCain has a new ad out meant to show his popularity across the aisle:

The commercial features clips from well-known Democrats praising the Republican candidate: former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle , Delaware Senator Joe Biden, 2004 Presidential candidate John Kerry, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold (co-sponsor of the McCain Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act), even Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (whose clip of McCain praise includes a jab at Obama). The ad is successful in some regards, but might come back to bite McCain in the long run.

My criticism of earlier McCain ads was that they often spent too much time talking about Senator Obama and not enough saying why he’s a better candidate – but in this video, we hear total praise of McCain and only one shot at Obama. However, this exposes McCain to two dangers: he might come off as too liberal for some in the Republican base, and Democrats could go after McCain for his shift further right since he started running for President.

We all remember how much conservatives disliked the idea of McCain as the nominee when he first won in the primaries, and although he has done a lot to reassure those voters at the far-right end of the spectrum that he is one of them, McCain still has a lot of work to do. Having an ad that shows gushing praise from Howard Dean and John Kerry might appeal to independent voters, but not to the more dedicated Republicans. Also, Democrats have made a lot of noise about how McCain’s move to become more conservative during his Presidential campaign (like in this recent MoveOn ad), and a video called “Maverick No More” has already hit the YouTubes. Showing McCain’s former popularity with Democrats could only make their attacks more effective.

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