- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2008

Joke on McCain

“While Democrats absorbed the lessons of Pennsylvania this week, John McCain was coming to a few realizations of his own. For one, ‘big money’ in politics isn’t so bad after all,” Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley A. Strassel writes.

“That’s the takeaway from the presumptive GOP nominee’s new fund-raising strategy, which his campaign has quietly rolled out these past few weeks. The McCain camp is teaming up with the Republican National Committee to tap into big, big donations from big, big donors — hoping to close the big, big money gap with Democrats,” the columnist said.

“Their effort to do so will involve some creative abuse of the campaign-finance restrictions Mr. McCain authored a few years back. Whatever. The Arizonan may not yet fully understand that money is speech. At least he has come around to the view that more of the stuff is better when it comes to winning the presidency.

“Whatever has driven the shift — conversion, pragmatism, desperation — Mr. McCain’s new financial determination is welcome news to his supporters. GOP voters had worried their candidate would unnecessarily fetter himself with self-imposed finance restrictions. Instead, he looks eager to win. And as far as strategies go, this one is arguably Mr. McCain’s best shot at evening the odds against a money powerhouse like Barack Obama.

“The joke, of course, is that Mr. McCain helped create those long odds. Turns out this whole campaign-finance thingy hasn’t turned out to be the clean-politics, leveled-playing-field he envisioned. All it has done is handicap Mr. McCain.”

Puerto Rico’s vote

“If [Hillary Rodham] Clinton is to overtake [Barack] Obama in the popular vote that excludes Michigan and Florida, she will need a big victory in Puerto Rico’s primary. You didn’t know Puerto Rico had one? Well, it didn’t — until last month, when it swapped its caucus process for a primary election,” Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Jonathan V. Last writes.

“No one knows what to expect in that contest on June 1. Puerto Ricans are quite participatory. In their 2004 government elections, 52 percent of them voted, which translates to 2 million voters.

“But let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that Clinton were to win such an overwhelming victory that the Puerto Rican vote became the margin that put her ahead of Obama, even without Florida and Michigan. What would the superdelegates make of that? Remember, Puerto Ricans don’t have a say in the general election; they only get to vote in the primary.

“If it looks as though I’m stacking the deck against Obama, it’s because I am, but only to illustrate a point: Obama is in a strong position and may well be the nominee. But he needs to win at least one of the popular-vote tabulations. And to the extent that he is forced to make the case that the votes of various groups shouldn’t count — Michiganders, Floridians, Puerto Ricans — then his moral claim will be weakened.”

Rest of the story

“When the Pennsylvania returns rained down Tuesday night, the narrative became clear fast. The Democrats’ exit polls spelled disaster: Some 25 percent of the primary voters said they would defect to [John] McCain or not vote at all if Barack Obama were the nominee. How could the party possibly survive this bitter, perhaps race-based civil war?” New York Times columnist Frank Rich writes.

“But as the doomsday alarm grew shrill, few noticed that on this same day in Pennsylvania, 27 percent of Republican primary voters didn’t just tell pollsters they would defect from their party’s standard-bearer; they went to the polls, gas prices be damned, to vote against Mr. McCain. Though ignored by every channel I surfed, there actually was a GOP primary on Tuesday, open only to registered Republicans. And while it was superfluous in determining that party’s nominee, 220,000 Pennsylvania Republicans (out of their total turnout of 807,000) were moved to cast ballots for Mike Huckabee or, more numerously, Ron Paul. That’s more voters than the margin (215,000) that separated Hillary Clinton and Mr. Obama,” Mr. Rich said.

“Those antiwar Paul voters are all potential defectors to the Democrats in November. Mr. Huckabee’s religious conservatives, who rejected Mr. McCain throughout the primary season, might also bolt or stay home.”

The race card

“The old tale is a personal favorite for its insight into racial and ethnic calculation in politics,” New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“It goes like this: A fictitious town whose population is 90 percent Irish Catholic and 10 percent Jewish is electing a mayor and there are two candidates, one Irish and one Jewish.

“The Irish candidate wins 90 percent of the vote, to 10 percent for the Jewish candidate. The winner begins his victory speech by praising his Irish Catholic supporters, then deplores the clannishness of the Jews!

“Fast forward to the presidential race, where reality imitates comedy. With Barack Obama routinely getting 90 percent of the black vote, but only about 35 percent of the white vote, his top campaign aides are suggesting white racism is a problem.

“ ’I’m sure there is some of that,’ David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, told The New York Times about the impact of race after Obama lost Pennsylvania by 10 points. Axelrod added: ‘Here’s a guy named Barack Obama, an African-American guy, relatively new. That’s a lot of change.’

David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager, sees white racism as a problem in the general election. ‘The vast, vast majority of voters who would not vote for Barack Obama in November based on race are probably firmly in John McCain’s camp already,’ he told the National Journal.

“You knew it had to come to this, but you hoped it wouldn’t. ‘Race doesn’t matter’ was the chant of many Obama supporters when he was winning. But now that he has hit a wall with many voters on legitimate issues, race does matter, his supporters claim.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected] .com.


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