Sunday, October 12, 2008


With the election now 23 days away (and Bush entered into his final 100 days, if that's even imaginable), the power of the Barack Obama candidacy and campaign, combined with the collapse of the Republican brand and unsuitability of its candidate for the job, has led to a flowering of disarray within the Republican Party and the John McCain campaign itself.

There's growing criticism of the campaign from within the GOP, mainly complaints about the lack of a specific campaign message and a call (even from the always-wrong William Kristol) to drop the attack ads since they're only driving more voters to the Obama ranks. This while the Democrats coalesce, with a strong appearance by both Clintons with Joe Biden in Scranton, PA on Sunday, including a pleasing retooling of Hillary's "It takes a Clinton to clean up after a Bush" message to fit the Democratic Party as a whole.

Prominent Conservatives all over are breaking ranks for Obama, or choosing to sit out rather than vote for McCain, who leaks hints about a new economic plan on Saturday and then hauls that message back in on Sunday. This is a candidate who's still receiving debating tips through the media, I guess in hopes that he'll really nail that third one on Wednesday. With a campaign getting taking its negative tone from a grandiose paranoid anti-Semitic fraud, Tim Martin, exposed in The New York Times today. Is it any wonder that the mobs are being incited to such behavior when such a man is behind it?

Then there's the rumors of discord between McCain and Sarah Palin herself, i.e. with Palin doing whatever she wants, treating McCain with less respect than Obama does. (And did she get her house built as a kickback as Mayor?)

History tells us that it is unlikely that McCain can come from behind over the next three weeks and win. Obama is likely to announce September fundraising numbers this week, and with Palin driving his supporters to give, give, give, it is likely to break his August $66 million record. As Andrew Sullivan puts it, Obama is the Road Runner to McCain's Wily E. Coyote:

McCain never seemed to learn from the Clintons’ misjudgment of their rival. A key element of Obama’s strategy is classic rope-a-dope. He gets his opponents to splutter with irritation as “that one”, as McCain contemptuously described Obama in last Tuesday’s debate, glides towards them in the polls. He does his thing, raises masses of money, keeps his staff in perfect order and focuses on issues and themes. He can segue from the inspirational agent of change of the spring to the reassuring conventional pol of the autumn without anyone really noticing the seams. That takes political skill. You’ve either got it or you haven’t...

...And that’s exactly how Obama has handled McCain. Instead of attacking him frontally, he got in his head and provoked him into error. It’s easier with McCain than with the Clintons, because McCain is more volatile and more easily provoked. And so Obama cruised through August, picking a conventional running mate and punching his foreign-policy-credentials card with trips to Iraq and Europe. McCain’s response? He put out an ad equating the son of a poor single mother who made it to become president of the Harvard Law Review, a University of Chicago professor and the first black nominee for president with . . . Paris Hilton, whose only accomplishments are being born into immense wealth and making an internet porn tape.

When that didn’t work, and an unfazed Obama ran a flawless convention, calmed the Clintons and delivered one of the best acceptance speeches in modern times, McCain blew himself up with the Palin pick. His one sure-fire advantage – experience – was thrown away. His real base – independent voters and the media – was first wowed and then woke up. And as Palin became a national and international joke, as her ratings plummeted and as she lost her debate to Joe Biden (quite hard to do, given Biden’s capacity for verbal diarrhoea), McCain got even crankier and more unstable.

So, as Barack Obama hits Monday polling better than ever, one might wonder...which John McCain will we see this week?

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