- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2008

RECIPE FOR LOSING

“[Sen. John] McCain was always the Republican every Democrat I knew feared most, precisely because he has long been the one we liked most,” Susan Estrich writes at www.foxnews.com.

“He is not, as one of my liberal media friends said derisively, a doddering old man. He is a very smart guy with an amazing story to tell whose service and sacrifice for this country, and his willingness to stand up to his party on important issues, deserve respect, and he gets it from everyone but the hard left,” the writer said.

“To be sure, at the beginning of the summer, McCain’s campaign was pretty unfocused and disorganized. It isn’t anymore.

“Expecting Republicans to run lousy campaigns is a recipe for losing. They are good at campaigns. Attacking them for their negativity is no way to beat them. Attacking John McCain for not using a computer is beyond dumb. (I actually had a debate with one Obama supporter about whether McCain should have been able to adjust the position of the keyboard so as to type notwithstanding his war injuries. It finally ended when I practically screamed that any debate that turned on just how severe McCain’s injuries were during his POW days was a debate he won. Oy.)”

FLORIDA TIED

A CNN poll released Wednesday showed Florida’s presidential race tied with 48 percent for both Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama, but it seemed contrary to other polls showing Mr. McCain with a solid lead of five to eight points in the Republican-leaning state.

But two new polls released Thursday also suggest the state may be closer than pundits expected. American Research Group has the candidates at 46 percent each in Florida, and a National Journal poll has them tied at 44 percent each.

Despite those surveys, pollster Scott Rasmussen told Christina Bellantoni of The Washington Times that his recent surveys also have given Mr. McCain the lead. But he’s not surprised Florida is tightening, given the spate of bad economic news.

“None of us really know how the financial crisis will play out,” he said Thursday.

Mr. Rasmussen also suggested that Mr. Obama’s aggressive advertising over the summer — several million in ads while Mr. McCain spent nothing — may be paying off.

The latest ad analysis showed the candidates nearly even in Sunshine State spending, but Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told supporters in a Web video this week the Florida campaign would “cost” $39 million. Mr. McCain is limited to spending $84 million nationwide since he is using public financing while Mr. Obama is not. Still, pollsters don’t think Florida will remain so close for long.

“I don’t think Florida is the state that will put [Mr. Obama] over top,” Mr. Rasmussen predicted.

DIFFERENT STANDARD

“Liberal columnists and the mainstream media have been unusually tolerant of Barack Obama’s exaggerated claims of major legislative accomplishments,” Fred Barnes writes at www.weeklystandard.com.

“Just this week, Obama said his proposal was the ‘basis’ for the economic stimulus package that was enacted last winter, a claim even Democrats regard as false. But Sarah Palin’s insistence that, as governor of Alaska, she killed the infamous Bridge to Nowhere — that’s another story. She’s accused of lying by the Obama-leaning media,” Mr. Barnes said.

“She isn’t lying. Palin did kill the bridge. It wasn’t an act of great political courage. It didn’t have to be, since the bridge had become a national symbol of wasteful congressional spending. But Palin did have the option of saving the project — several options actually. And there was still some support for the bridge among state and local (in Ketchikan, where the bridge was to be built) officials in Alaska. But Palin chose to terminate the whole thing.

“Maybe it’s her bravado that has driven Palin’s critics to distraction. In her speech accepting the vice-presidential nomination at the Republican nomination, she declared she’d sent Washington this message about the bridge: ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ She’s repeated that line in campaign appearances.

“In any case, the contrast with Obama, who has no major accomplishments to show for his four years in the Senate, is striking. Besides killing the bridge, Palin brought down the Republican establishment in Alaska and took on the oil companies in the state.”

GEOGRAPHIC GAFFE

John McCain either doesn’t want to meet Spain’s prime minister any time soon or isn’t quite sure who he is, the Associated Press reports.

In a radio interview broadcast Thursday in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries, the Republican presidential candidate repeatedly dodged questions as to whether he would invite Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to the White House if McCain wins in November.

“All I can tell you is that I have a clear record of working with leaders in the hemisphere that are friends with us and standing up to those who are not,” Mr. McCain said. “And that’s judged on the basis of the importance of our relationship with Latin America and the entire region.”

He had been asked, however, about a leader in the other hemisphere, one who has never met President Bush face to face since Mr. Zapatero pulled Spain’s troops out of Iraq.

Mr. McCain added, when that was pointed out: “I am willing to meet with any leader who is dedicated to the same principles and philosophy that we are for human rights, democracy and freedom and I will stand up to those that do not.”

Responding to the first of four questions on whether he would confer with Mr. Zapatero, Mr. McCain said he’d talk with leaders who cooperate with the U.S. and then discussed Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his work in fighting drug cartels.

MICHELLE VS. SARAH

Michelle Obama asked voters Thursday to make their choice on the issues, not because, “I like that guy” or “she’s cute.”

Might she be talking about Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin?

“I’m talking about me,” she said with a smile.

Sen. Barack Obama’s wife, however, is not on the ticket in the presidential election. Mrs. Palin is.

Mrs. Obama is part of a concerted effort involving her husband, his running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to neutralize the appeal that Mrs. Palin has brought to Sen. John McCain’s ticket for some female voters. They are doing so unmistakably but gingerly, so as to not appear sexist or invite another lipstick-on-a-pig tempest, the Associated Press reports.

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

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