- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2008

A TURNOFF

John McCain continues to trail Barack Obama in this week’s latest polls, though there are signs that Obamamania may be abating slightly. An ABC News poll reports that Mr. Obama now has only a 49 percent to 46 percent lead among likely voters,” John Fund writes at www.opinionjournal.com.

“The good news for Mr. Obama is that he narrowly leads among independents and white women, key demographic groups he must add to his overwhelming support among Democrats and African-Americans. But his Achilles heel could prove to be young people, who provided much of the enthusiastic support he used to win the Democratic primaries. The ABC poll found that in March, 66 percent of voters under the age of 30 said they would vote in November no matter what. Today, that number is down to 46 percent - a far more typical measurement of the engagement of young people in politics,” Mr. Fund said.

“ABC’s George Stephanopoulos says enthusiasm for the Democratic candidate among young voters ‘has been dampened’ and ‘all of the questions in recent weeks on whether or not Barack Obama is shifting positions, becoming “a typical politician,” is turning some of them off.’

“Moving abruptly to the center, as Mr. Obama has been doing, may be a smart overall political strategy. But it clearly comes at some cost to his standing among his most idealistic supporters.”

TOO TRUE

“Former Texas senator Phil Gramm ran for president in 1996. He raised $20 million, spent nearly all of it, and won zero delegates. Political observers had long thought such a feat was impossible, and it remains astonishing even in hindsight. Recently we were reminded how he managed to pull it off,” Andrew Ferguson writes in the Weekly Standard.

“Earlier this month, Gramm gave an interview to The Washington Times in which he asserted that the U.S. economy wasn’t in a recession. We are, however, in a ‘mental recession,’ he said - a loss of consumer confidence, stoked by hysterical media reports, that threatens to tip the economy into a real recession.

“This is all true. You could look it up: A recession is two consecutive quarters of economic contraction, and the economy didn’t contract last quarter. But Gramm was pilloried for his factual statement,” Mr. Ferguson said.

“Before his interview with The Times, it was assumed (by professional assumers) that Gramm would be offered a high-ranking economic-policy-making job in a McCain administration, maybe even secretary of the Treasury; now assumers are assuming he’ll never get such a cool job - especially after he made matters worse by insisting a day later that the fact he had asserted was, in fact, a fact: ‘Every word I said was true.’

“To which the general reaction was: So what? Gramm’s candidate John McCain said that he ‘didn’t agree’ with the fact Gramm had cited. Clambering down from the high ground of the factual and the objective, McCain slipped himself into the slough of the subjective and the romantic, where politicians and voters now prefer to luxuriate. …

“In other words: What Gramm said was true, but it didn’t matter.”

OVERSIZED EGO

“Just like the Obama girl, Obama has a crush on Obama,” Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi writes.

“Barack Obama always was a larger-than-life candidate with a healthy ego. Now he’s turning into the A-Rod of politics. It’s all about him,” the columnist said.

“He’s giving his opponent something other than issues to attack him on: narcissism.

“A convention hall isn’t good enough for the presumptive Democratic nominee. He plans to deliver his acceptance speech in the 75,000-seat stadium where the Denver Broncos play. Before a vote is cast, he’s embarking on a foreign-policy tour that will use cheering Europeans - and America’s top news anchors - as extras in his campaign. What do you expect from a candidate who already auditioned a quasi-presidential seal with the Latin inscription, ‘Vero possumus’ - ‘Yes, we can’?

“Obama finds criticism of his wife ‘infuriating’ and doesn’t want either of them to be the target of satire. Tell that to the Carters, the Reagans, the Clintons, and the Bushes, father and son.”

LOOKING SOUTH

“At the start of every presidential race, the Democrats perform a masochistic ritual,” Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Dick Polman writes at www.philly.com.

“They promise to take a stand in Dixieland, get in touch with their inner NASCAR, sweet-talk the Southerners with a heavy emphasis on faith and flag. The aim, every time, is to capture some of those states and thereby clinch the election. Care to guess how well the Democrats have fared lately?” Mr. Polman asked.

“Eleven Southern states compose the Old Confederacy. The last Democratic nominee, John Kerry, won zip and lost 11. The previous nominee, Al Gore, won zip and lost 11. Indeed, all the Democratic nominees since 1980 have combined to win nine and lose 68 - a record of failure not seen in the annals of competition since Casey Stengel’s ‘62 Mets.

“Yet Democrats persist in thinking they can score on the GOP’s home turf - as evidenced, this time around, by Barack Obama’s decision to spend roughly $8 million (and that’s just his initial outlay) to sell himself in TV ads in four Southern states. This [past] weekend, Obama is opening 20 campaign offices in Virginia, a state that hasn’t voted Democratic since 1964. Either he’s smart to make these moves, which are designed to expand the battlefield, or he’s merely the latest Democrat to play Captain Ahab in a futile pursuit of the party’s great white whale.”

STILL NO.1

“While the nation’s intelligence world has greatly expanded since 9/11, the CIA continues to hold the top job when it comes to briefing and advising the president, a role that is not expected to change when a new administration comes into office,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column at www.usnews.com.

“Officials for the first time confirmed that CIA analysts write 80 percent to 90 percent of the president’s daily briefing despite the broad growth of intelligence and national security analysis in several agencies around Washington. That alone keeps the CIA at the top of the intelligence world, administration officials say, since it is the agency’s analysis that goes directly to the president and his national security adviser.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimescom.

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