- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

OP-ED:

As the quintessential candidate’s wife, Michelle Obama headlined the opening night of the Democratic National Convention with the patriotic theme “One Nation.” Mrs. Obama has been working hard to come back from that stinging remark about not being proud of her country until her husband ran for president. While Hillary Clinton, who speaks tonight, is no doubt proud of her country, she’s not so enthusiastic about her party’s presidential nominee.

For all the talk about a catharsis and so-called party unity, forget about it! Ain’t gonna happen! And Nancy Pelosi can keep trying to paint the prettiest picture possible, but the party powers-that-be need to come to grips with the fact that they’ve lost supporters who will never be unified and will never get back. Just ask the “Colorado Democrats for McCain” Chairman Silver Salazar. He told me: “I was a Hillary supporter and saw in Hillary the same thing Joe Biden is saying [about Barack Obama] - the experience and knowledge. She could’ve been president on day one, Obama needs on the job training.” Mr. Salazar went on to tell me that he has personally contacted many “Hillary delegates” at the convention who share this sentiment. The latest CNN poll, out Monday, seems to support this ground swell of defectors. It has Mr. Obama’s support among Clinton voters down from 75 percent to 66 percent; 27 percent now say they will vote for John McCain.

And for all his talk about building bridges, the senator who would-be-president blew it with his pick for vice president. Mr. Obama has often touted the need for bi-partisanship and a desire to appeal to independents, conservatives and even some Republicans. The pick of a running mate at least as liberal as he, has all but shut the door on that notion. Short of nominating Mrs. Clinton (which could not be done after fallout from the primaries), nominating a vice presidential candidate who reflects the center-right tilt of the country (i.e. Tim Kaine) would have gone a long way in supporting this notion. Instead Mr. Obama went with the safe, old-guy who affirms what the rest of the country already knows (and Sen. Joe Biden himself has said frequently) about Mr. Obama - he’s weak on foreign policy. Although Mr. Biden is considered “experienced,” Mr. Obama may not be getting what he bargained for in the way of sound foreign policy advice. Mr. Biden voted for the war in Iraq while Mr. Obama hung his hat on being against it. Mr. Biden’s controversial “divide Iraq into three quandrants” idea was a complete flop and roundly criticized by Mr. Obama. And the 65-year-old may come from blue-collar roots, but his out-of-touch-remarks about Indians owning 7-Eleven’s and Mr. Obama being a “clean” and “articulate” African-American reveal his 36 years as a Washington insider (10 years longer than Mr. McCain), has left him a bit more out-of-touch than in sync with the average American.

It is almost comical how the mainstream media has been working itself up in a tizzy, feverishly searching for the “reasons” behind Mr. McCain’s recent gain in the national polls, “explanations” for the race being a dead-heat and “why” blue-collar workers (who supported Mrs. Clinton) aren’t flocking to Mr. Obama. Yesterday, New York Times columnist Matt Bai surmised that the “Race isn’t about race.” Well, duh. Just as Hillary’s loss to Barack wasn’t about her being a woman. Give the American people some credit. At some point, some people just aren’t going to like what they are hearing from the candidate. And this week (OK, the past few weeks), they haven’t been too fond of what’s coming out of Mr. Obama’s mouth.

That said, the Illinois senator will most certainly enjoy a post-convention bump (anywhere from 5 percentage points to 10 percentage points.) It won’t be because of Mr. Obama’s vice presidential pick (more than 70 percent of those polled told The Washington Post, his selection had no impact.) But to his credit Mr. Biden is an effective attack dog and if he rides the post-convention tide, he can undoubtedly do what Mr. Obama won’t - go after the McCain machine with some success.

Republicans are most assuredly considering how their pick will pair with Mr. Biden. But it won’t be Mr. Biden who can fix what’s broken within his own party.

If anyone “unifies” the Democrats this week, it’ll be Ted Kennedy.

Tara Wall is deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Times. twall@washington times.com.