- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2008

Two priorities

“In unison, senior Democratic strategists say that Obama faces two overriding priorities at the convention,” Ronald Brownstein writes at www. nationaljournal.com.

“One is to resolve doubts about his qualifications and agenda that McCain has seeded this summer with ads portraying the Democrat as a vapid celebrity and a soft-on-defense, tax-and-spend liberal. Even more important, many argue, Obama must reframe the fundamental choice in the election from whether he is ready to be president to whether the country wants to continue in the direction set by [President] Bush, particularly on economic policy.

“‘They’ve got to push the debate back onto economic issues and the direction of the country under Bush, and they have to connect McCain to Bush, particularly on the economy,’ said veteran Democratic strategist Bill Carrick. ‘They’ve got to really go for that … or they are going to spend all of their time fighting these cultural cartoon characterizations of Obama [from the Republicans].’

“Obama’s campaign appears to be thinking along the same lines. Asked in a Friday interview with ‘CBS Morning News’ what he most hopes to achieve at the convention, Obama said he wanted to make the economic ‘choice clear to the American people’ by asking whether they want to continue on the economic course Bush has set. ‘I want the American people to focus on whether or not we can afford to continue those policies for another four or eight years,’ Obama added. ‘Because that’s essentially what John McCain’s offering.’”

Biggest story

“Here’s an intriguing thought: The John McCain-Barack Obama fight isn’t this season’s biggest political story. That honor should be reserved for the intense Democratic push to win a filibuster-proof Senate majority,” Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley A. Strassel writes.

“Democrats know this is a huge prize, and they are throwing at least as much money and sweat into that effort as they are into electing Mr. Obama. What isn’t clear is that voters are as aware of the stakes. An unstoppable Democratic Senate has the potential to alter the balance of power in Washington in ways not yet seen,” the writer said.

“A quick recap of the numbers: Republicans must defend 23 seats, compared to 12 for the Democrats. Of those GOP slots, 10 are at potential risk: Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, Mississippi, Maine and North Carolina. The Democrats claim only one vulnerable senator this year, Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu. Depending on how big a day the party has in November, it is at least conceivable Democrats could get the nine seats they need to hit the magic 60.

“The nation has had prior almighty Senates, of course, and it hasn’t been pretty. Free of the filibuster check, the world’s greatest deliberative body tends to go on benders. It was a filibuster-proof Democratic majority (or near to it, in his first years) that allowed FDR to pass his New Deal. It was a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate that allowed Lyndon Johnson to pass his Great Society.”

Forget Iraq

“After five years of asking respondents how they think things are going in Iraq, New York Times pollsters suddenly switched to Afghanistan, where prospects are worse. Is it because an improving Iraq is losing its potency as an antiwar issue?” Clay Waters writes at the Media Research Center’s Web site (www.mrc.org).

“The story accompanying Thursday’s release of the latest New York Times/CBS News poll was buried on page 14, perhaps because there’s no real news: Obama led McCain by three, 45 to 42 percent, just within the margin of error, which is in line with other recent polling showing a tightening race.

“More revealing was the poll’s treatment of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: It contained not a single question about Iraq (the war was cited briefly, when respondents were asked to list favored priorities for their preferred candidate).

“Instead, the Times asks about Afghanistan, where things are becoming more unstable: ‘Question 72: What is your impression of how the war in Afghanistan is going for the United States right now - very well, somewhat well, somewhat badly, or very badly?’

“The Times last asked that question in March 2003 - more than five years ago, just as the war in Iraq was beginning. Now that Afghanistan is becoming more unstable, the question reappeared. Again, there were no direct questions about Iraq this time.”

The female vote

“It doesn’t take a political genius to realize that Barack Obama needed to nominate a woman for vice president,” Dick Morris writes in the New York Post.

“Obama’s key problem is that there is no gender gap. In the most recent Zogby poll, he runs only 2 points better among women than among men. A Democrat should be running 10 to 15 points better among women,” Mr. Morris said.

“If Obama is to have a hope of winning, he needs to improve his performance among female voters. The Fox News poll indicates that only about half of those who backed Hillary Clinton in the primaries are voting for Obama and that fully one in five is now planning to back McCain. Attractive to women voters because of his maverick positions on issues and his willingness to defy the Republican orthodoxy, McCain is garnering votes from women who should be part of Obama’s core constituency.

“So why didn’t Obama name a woman? He couldn’t nominate Hillary because she came with such baggage that he’d be spending his entire campaign swatting away charges directed at the Clintons. It would be priceless to see Obama trying to justify Bill’s refusal to publish the names of the donors to his library or to explain what Bill is doing in Dubai and Kazakhstan.

“But what about Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius? While not a national figure, she is attractive and articulate, and would have made a fine candidate. But Obama was terrified that the Clintons would wreck vengeance if he named a woman other than Hillary. But it was all a bluff. …

“Now, John McCain can take advantage of Obama’s blunder by coming back with a woman nominee for vice president. Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison would be an excellent choice.”

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

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