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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Wrapping up the Week of the DNC Convention: What in the Heck Was McCain Thinking?

Once again a hearty thanks to Don Gibson for taking us onto the floor of the Democratic convention. For me, I am so focused on local politics, that it took some time for me to get into the convention this year. But all in all, the Democrats did pretty much what they needed to do this week--they needed to come together and bury the hatchet from a tough primary season.

Hillary Clinton made that easy on Tuesday night with an electrifying speech that frankly, I thought was better than any speech that she had ever given. And I think it was not even close. It might have been a better speech than she was capable of giving.

Bill Clinton was Bill Clinton. The media spent a lot of time focusing on the personal differences between the Clintons and the Obamas, but they forgot something. With the Clintons, they are professionals first, Democrats second, and only third are they people.

If McCain's goal in naming Sarah Palin was to get the Democrats off the front page, he succeeded. However, if his goal was anything beyond that, I think the pick was an abysmal failure.

McCain expected that Hillary voters would support a right wing, anti-choice, anti-health care, and anti-environmental woman just because she is a woman, he is in for a rude awakening. Hillary supporters rightfully ought to be insulted by this pick. But once again it underscores just how important Hillary will be for this election. If she wants a key post, it is hers.

I know conservatives love this pick because Palin is a conservative. But let's face it, she's not just a conservative, she's an Alaskan conservative.

Her pedigree is just not impressive. I have to believe the Republicans could have found someone more qualified. She's been the Governor of a small state for a short period of time. Before that, she was part-time mayor of a city of 9,000 people. I cannot even think of a parallel person to this in California.

Her parents had to come back from caribou hunting so they could hear her announcement. Her husband is a worker for the oil company.

Do not just take the word of partisan Democrats on this. Gallup found that Democratic women said that the Palin pick makes 9% of them say that they are more likely to support McCain, but 15% less likely.

A Rasmussen Poll shows by a 41% to 35% margin, men said she was not ready to be president. Women more soundly reject her by a 48 to 25 margin.

In the Gallup Poll taken on Friday, overall 39% say she is ready to serve as president if needed, 33% said she is not and 29% have no opinion. That is apparently the lowest vote of confidence for a running mate since Dan Quayle.

Joe Biden on the other hand was seen as qualified by a 57 to 18 margin.

To me this pick does two things, neither of which are good for McCain.

First, it takes away the "he's not ready to lead" issue that the Republicans were attempting to use against Obama. The Democrats focused on that issue this past week. They knew it was a concern. The Republicans were going to focus on it exclusively next week at their convention. The issue is gone because every time the Republicans raise it, the Democrats have a quick counter.

Second, it puts the age issue on the table. Let us face it, McCain is 72. 72 is not old like it once was, but McCain is not in the best of health. He has survived at least two serious bouts of melanoma cancer. Therefore, he needed to have a strong running mate to diffuse any possible concern about the age and health issues. The line would go, well he's old and not in the greatest of health, but you will be in good hands with so-and-so. That defense is gone.

There is actually a third liability that enters the picture--the judgment issue. When they attack Obama as not ready to lead, the Democrats can counter that the first decision made by any Presidential candidate is their choice of Vice Presidential running mates. Obama can say his choice was the well-respected Senator from Delaware whereas McCain's choice was the former mayor from a tiny city in Alaska.

Those close to McCain suggest this shows his gambling side. He has rolled the dice. Privately they wonder if this is a decision more indicative about being down 20 in the polls then in a neck-and-neck race.

I did not understand this pick. I did not understand it when it was made and I do not understand it now. John McCain certainly changed the dynamics of this race, he certainly got the focus off of Obama's speech, but I am still not sure that this is a good thing for him.

When Governor Palin got up to speak, she sounded more like a PTA President than a Vice Presidential candidate. I respect PTA presidents in our local schools, but I guess I just expect a bit more experience from our Vice President. The key, though, is to watch the body language of McCain. He was not calm and comfortable. He was not confident. he was picking his fingers, fidgeting, and playing with his ring. I think this is a sure sign of a lack of confidence. Will the gamble work? We will find out. Right now though, I seriously question the judgment and decision-making of John McCain.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting