- The Washington Times - Friday, August 22, 2008

Serious threat

“Say what you will about Republicans making a muddle of governing, but they sure know how to campaign,” CNN analyst David Gergen writes at ac360.blogs.cnn.com.

“The turn of events that John McCain and his team have engineered in recent weeks is one of the most significant events of the campaign and now poses a serious threat of an upset this fall,” Mr. Gergen said.

“In just a few short weeks, they have not only thrown Barack Obama on the defensive and made him seem smaller but they have also made McCain seem larger and more commanding.

“And it has not just been one event but a string of them that they have tied together to propel McCain upward from the ads (which most of us in the media didn’t like) to the way McCain seized upon the drilling and Russian issues to his winsome performance at Saddleback. The capacity to create issues and momentum practically out of the ether is the sign of a strong campaign. Both McCain and his team are impressing voters.

“And the results are now showing up in the polls: not only are some key states like Ohio breaking toward McCain but the Reuters/Zogby poll [Wednesday] showed McCain opening up a five-point national lead — and stunningly, voters said in that survey that he would be better handling the economy than Obama! That is the bread and butter issue for the Democrats, one they should be able to seize upon to capture seats up and down the ticket.”

Passion gap

“A few days before Barack Obama was to announce his choice for vice president, he was asked at a North Carolina town meeting what qualities he wanted in a running mate,” Joe Klein writes at www.time.com.

“He wandered through a derisive, if desultory, critique of Dick Cheney, then switched gears. ‘I want somebody … who shares with me a passion to make the lives of the American people better than they are right now,’ he said. ‘I want somebody who is mad right now that people are losing their jobs.’ And I immediately thought, Uh-oh.

“Memories of John Kerry in 2004 came flooding back, of how he tended to describe his feelings rather than experience them, of how he suddenly — and unconvincingly — started to say he was ‘angry’ about this or that when his consultants told him that Howard Dean’s anger about the war in Iraq was hitting home with voters. And then, in the general election, Kerry kept repeating the word ‘strength’ rather than demonstrating it. Clearly, Obama’s consultants have given him similar advice, that he was on the short end of a passion gap — that it was time for emo. A day earlier, he had said wage disparities between genders made his ‘blood boil.’

“One of the great strengths of the Obama candidacy has been the sense that this is a guy whose blood doesn’t boil, who carefully considers the options before he reacts — and that his reaction is always measured and rational. But that’s also a weakness: sometimes the most rational response is to rip your opponent’s lungs out.”

Big opportunity

“‘I think Obama is not tall on experience,’ Robert Redford told the Irish Times last month, ‘but I believe he’s a really good person. I hope he’ll win. I think he will. If he doesn’t, you can kiss the Democratic Party goodbye.’

“The second part of the dual prediction is, of course, overstated; the Democratic Party will remain intact should Sen. Barack Obama taste defeat in November. But it’s more right than it may seem at first. The 2008 presidential election represents the Republican Party’s best opportunity to advance its agenda in recent presidential history,” Wynton C. Hall writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“You read that right,” said Mr. Hall, a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution.

“If history teaches us anything, it is that national political parties rise and fall by the psychological political warfare each wages upon the other. With Democrats’ electoral expectations at an all-time high this presidential cycle, the fallout from a 2008 presidential defeat would widen the already-expanding fissures in the Democratic Party’s base.

“Consider the fallout that might ensue for the party’s voting coalition if [Sen. John] McCain wins.

“Democratic women would come away disillusioned at the prospects of having missed the chance to run the first female presidential candidate, and never knowing what might have been. Black voters — nine out of 10 vote Democrat — would be deeply disenchanted that the first black candidate for president lost amid the single-best political climate for Democrats since Watergate.

“The liberal elite that dominates America’s university campuses, some of Obama’s fiercest and most devoted supporters, would have to confront the realization that the Democratic Party would likely never again nominate a candidate of Obama’s leftist bona fides. And as for what remains of union households, 2008 has already marked the personal implosion of one of their most vocal champions, Sen. John Edwards.”

Focus of fury

“It’s hard to tell whom Joe Lieberman is causing more heartburn these days — Democrats or Republicans,” the Wall Street Journal says in an editorial.

“The independent Democratic senator has infuriated his Democratic colleagues because he’s planning to speak at the Republican convention next month for his friend John McCain. Ask Mr. Lieberman — the last of the Democratic foreign-policy hawks — about Barack Obama’s credentials to be president, and he pulls no punches. The betting is that Majority Leader Harry Reid will take revenge and strip Mr. Lieberman of his committee chairmanship if Democrats have a larger majority in 2009,” the newspaper said.

“Meanwhile, the Republican blogosphere is erupting over rumors that Mr. McCain might choose Mr. Lieberman as his vice president. Our e-mail box is full of panicky reports that the Arizona Republican is giving it serious thought, and that this would doom Mr. McCain’s chances in November. …

“Our own view is that Mr. Lieberman would make a fine secretary of state, and that, given the political risks, making him vice president would probably be too great an election gamble. …

“We have no doubt he’d be a better vice president than many oft-mooted Republicans, including some of those who are favorites of the anti-Lieberman alarmists.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-328 or [email protected]

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