Sunday, September 14, 2008

Obama Can't Win Against Palin

By Karl Rove

Of all the advantages Gov. Sarah Palin has brought to the GOP ticket, the most important may be that she has gotten into Barack Obama's head. How else to explain Sen. Obama's decision to go one-on-one against "Sarah Barracuda," captain of the Wasilla High state basketball champs? It's a matchup he'll lose. If Mr. Obama wants to win, he needs to remember he's running against John McCain for president, not Mrs. Palin for vice president.

Michael Dukakis spent the last months of the 1988 campaign calling his opponent's running mate, Dan Quayle, a risky choice and even ran a TV ad blasting Mr. Quayle. The Bush/Quayle ticket carried 40 states. Adlai Stevenson spent the fall of 1952 bashing Dwight Eisenhower's running mate, Richard Nixon, calling him "the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, and then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation." The Republican ticket carried 39 of 48 states.If Mr. Obama keeps attacking Mrs. Palin, he could suffer the fate of his Democratic predecessors. These assaults highlight his own tissue-thin resume, waste precious time better spent reassuring voters he is up for the job, and diminish him -- not her.

Consider Mr. Obama's response to CNN's Anderson Cooper, who asked him about Republican claims that Mrs. Palin beats him on executive experience. Mr. Obama responded by comparing Wasilla's 50 city workers with his campaign's 2,500 employees and dismissed its budget of about $12 million a year by saying "we have a budget of about three times that just for the month." He claimed his campaign "made clear" his "ability to manage large systems and to execute." Of course, this ignores the fact that Mrs. Palin is now governor. She manages an $11 billion operating budget, a $1.7 billion capital expenditure budget, and nearly 29,000 full- and part-time state employees. In two years as governor, she's vetoed over $499 million from Alaska's capital budget -- more money than Mr. Obama is likely to spend on his entire campaign.

And Mr. Obama is not running his campaign's day-to-day operation. His manager, David Plouffe, assisted by others, makes the decisions about the $335 million the campaign has spent. Even if Mr. Obama is his own campaign manager, does that qualify him for president? A debate between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Palin over executive experience also isn't smart politics for Democrats. As Mr. Obama talks down Mrs. Palin's record, voters may start comparing backgrounds. He won't come off well.

Then there was Mr. Obama's blast Saturday about Mrs. Palin's record on earmarks. He went at her personally, saying, "you been taking all these earmarks when it is convenient and then suddenly you are the champion anti-earmark person." It's true. Mrs. Palin did seek earmarks as Wasilla's mayor. But as governor, she ratcheted down the state's requests for federal dollars, telling the legislature last year Alaska "cannot and must not rely so heavily on federal government earmarks." Her budget chief directed state agencies to reduce earmark requests to only "the most compelling needs" with "a strong national purpose," explaining to reporters "we really want to skinny it down." Mr. Obama has again started a debate he can't win. As senator, he has requested nearly $936 million in earmarks, ratcheting up his requests each year he's been in the Senate. If voters dislike earmarks -- and they do -- they may conclude Mrs. Palin cut them, while Mr. Obama grabs for more each year.

Mr. Obama may also pay a price for his "lipstick on a pig" comment. The last time the word "lipstick" showed up in this campaign was during Mrs. Palin's memorable ad-lib in her acceptance speech. Mr. Obama says he didn't mean to aim the comment at Mrs. Palin, but he deserves all the negative flashback he gets from the snarky aside.

Sen. Joe Biden has now joined the attack on Mrs. Palin, saying this week that her views on issues show she's "obviously a backwards step for women." This is a mistake. Mr. Obama is already finding it difficult to win over independent women and Hillary Clinton voters. If it looks like he's going out of his way to attack Mrs. Palin, these voters may conclude it's because he has a problem with strong women.

In Denver two weeks ago, Mr. Obama said, "If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from." That's what he's trying to do, only the object of his painting is Sarah Palin, not John McCain.

In Mrs. Palin, Mr. Obama faces a political phenomenon who has altered the election's dynamics. Americans have rarely seen someone who immediately connects with large numbers of voters at such a visceral level. Mrs. Palin may be the first vice presidential candidate since Lyndon B. Johnson to change an election's outcome. If Mr. Obama keeps attacking her, the odds of Gov. Palin becoming Vice President Palin increase significantly.


Democrats Need to Shake The 'Elitist' Tag

By Lynn Forester de Rothschild

If Barack Obama loses the presidential election, it may well be the result of a public perception that he is detached and elitist -- a politician whose expressions of empathy for hard-working Americans stem more from abstract solidarity than a real connection to the lives of millions of citizens. Suggestions that Sen. Obama has failed to relate to working- and middle-class voters in swing states have dogged his campaign for months. His choice of Sen. Joseph Biden as his running mate only marginally corrects the problem.

While Obama supporters attempt to dismiss the charges about their candidate's perceived hauteur, they confuse privilege and elitism. Elitism is a state of mind, a view of the world that cannot be measured simply by one's net worth, position or number of houses. Throughout American history, there have been extremely wealthy figures who have devoted themselves to genuinely nonelitist principles. (Franklin Delano Roosevelt is probably the best-known example.) At the same time, many from modest backgrounds, like Harry Truman's foil, Thomas Dewey, personified elitism.

I'm a longtime Democrat. I worked for Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and supported Sen. Hillary Clinton in her presidential campaign. But I must face the uncomfortable truth that liberal elitism has been a weakness of the Democratic Party for more than half a century. In 1952 and 1956, for example, Adlai Stevenson emerged as the presidential candidate of the party's "new politics" wing. But while Stevenson's stylish, articulate, high-brow manner thrilled the nation's intellectuals, he could never connect with large numbers of working-class Democrats who found him aloof and aristocratic.

The "new politics" Democrats have found their new, improved Stevenson in Mr. Obama. In spite of his lofty liberal rhetoric, Mr. Obama is not connecting to millions of middle- and working-class voters, as well as women voters of all classes. Not only is his legislative record scant on issues that make a difference in their lives, but his current campaign is based mainly on an assumption of his transcendence.

Despite Mr. Obama's assertions that his campaign is about "you," much of his campaign is, in fact, all about him. In the months since the primaries ended, his creation and display of a mock presidential seal with his name on it, his speech at a mass rally at the Prussian Victory Column in Berlin, and his insistence on delivering his acceptance speech in front of fabricated Greek columns in a stadium holding 80,000 chanting supporters have crossed the thin line that separates galvanizing voters and plain old demagoguery. In this context, it should come as no surprise that Sarah Palin, mother of five, hockey mom turned governor and maverick reformer, would instantly zero in on the inherent weakness in Mr. Obama's candidacy, and contrast it with her own compelling life story.

It is ironic that the candidate who comes from a more privileged background -- John McCain -- can genuinely point to at least one crucial moment in his life when elitism went by the boards. Because John McCain's father was a high-ranking Navy Admiral, he was offered freedom from a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp. He refused, saying that he would leave only when every prisoner who had been captured before him was also released. Mr. McCain can truthfully tell the story of when he refused to be treated as special, and stood unflinchingly beside less-privileged Americans. It is a story that suggests the way he would govern as president of the United States.

Mr. Obama cannot point to any analogue to Mr. McCain's service. As he talks of himself, and his supporters talk about the amazing Obamaness of Obama, it is no wonder that millions of Americans, including loyal Democrats, still question whether his presidency would reinforce the splendor of Barack Obama rather than protect them and enhance their lives.


Obama's Lost Years

Barack Obama makes his first campaign visit today to his alma mater, Columbia University. Just don't ask the prolific self-diarist to talk about his undergraduate days in Morningside Heights. The Columbia years are a hole in the sprawling Obama hagiography. In his two published memoirs, the 47-year-old Democratic nominee barely mentions his experience there. He refuses to answer questions about Columbia and New York -- which, in this media age, serves only to raise more of them. Why not release his Columbia transcript? Why has his senior essay gone missing?

Now in our view, the college years shouldn't normally be used to judge a politician's fitness for office. We're not sure the transcripts of Al Gore, John Kerry and George W. Bush -- which showed them to be C students -- illuminated much for voters. The McCain campaign won't release his records, but we know he graduated at the bottom of his Naval Academy class.

But Mr. Obama is a case apart. His personal story, as told by him, made possible his rise from obscurity four years ago to possibly the White House. He doesn't have a long track record in government. We mainly have him in his own words. As any autobiographer, Mr. Obama played up certain chapters in his life -- perhaps even exaggerating his drug use in adolescence to drive home his theme of youthful alienation -- and ignored others. What's more, as acknowledged in "Dreams From My Father," Mr. Obama reconstructed conversations and gave some people pseudonyms or created "composite" characters.

Voters and the media are now exercising due diligence before Election Day, and they are meeting resistance from Mr. Obama in checking his past. Earlier this year, the AP tracked down Mr. Obama's New York-era roommate, "Sadik," in Seattle after the campaign refused to reveal his name. Sohale Siddiqi, his real name, confirmed Mr. Obama's account that he turned serious in New York and "stopped getting high." "We were both very lost," Mr. Siddiqi said. "We were both alienated, although he might not put it that way. He arrived disheveled and without a place to stay." For some reason the Obama camp wanted this to stay out of public view.

Such caginess is grist for speculation. Some think his transcript, if released, would reveal Mr. Obama as a mediocre student who benefited from racial preference. Yet he later graduated from Harvard Law School magna cum laude, so he knows how to get good grades. Others speculate about ties to the Black Students Organization, though students active then don't seem to remember him. And on the far reaches of the Web can be found conspiracies about former Carter national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who became the candidate's "guru and controller" while at Columbia in the early 1980s. Mr. Brzezinski laughs, and tells us he doesn't "remember meeting him."

What can be said with some certainty is that Mr. Obama lived off campus while at Columbia in 1981-83 and made few friends. Fox News contacted some 400 of his classmates and found no one who remembered him. He had transferred from Occidental College in California after his sophomore year because, he told the Boston Globe in 1990, "I was concerned with urban issues and I wanted to be around more black folks in big cities." He got a degree in political science without honors. "For about two years there, I was just painfully alone and really not focused on anything, except maybe thinking a lot," he told his biographer David Mendell. Put that way, his time at Columbia sounds unremarkable. Maybe that's what most pains a young memoirist and an ambitious politician who strains to make his life anything but unremarkable.


Palin has a dig at Obama over No.2 pick

Republican vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin has picked at the scars of the Democratic primary fight, saying Barack Obama must now be sorry he did not name Hillary Clinton as his running mate. The Alaska governor, who is trying to enlist vast numbers of women voters to John McCain's Republican ticket, is tilting at history by trying to become America's first female vice-president.

"I think he's regretting not picking her now, I do. What, what determination, and grit, and even grace through some tough shots that were fired her way - she handled those well," Palin told America's ABC News. Palin's comments came after polls in battleground states Ohio and Pennsylvania found that she was winning growing support among the crucial demographic of white women voters. Clinton has so far not overtly attacked Palin on the campaign trail, but will venture out to stump for Obama in the key state of Ohio this weekend.

When McCain sent shockwaves through the political establishment by picking Palin two weeks ago, Clinton issued a statement congratulating her on her "historic" nomination. "While their policies would take America in the wrong direction, governor Palin will add an important new voice to the debate," Clinton said. Later, at the end of the Republican convention, the former first lady issued a new statement amending her one-liner condemning McCain at the Democratic convention. "No way, No How, No McCain-Palin," she said.

Clinton's own historic quest, to become America's first woman president, fell just short after a gruelling six-month coast-to-coast nominating duel with Obama. But the Obama campaign pounced on video footage of Palin in March, when she said Clinton's "perceived whine" during the primary campaign "doesn't do us any good - women in politics, women in general wanting to progress this country". "Sarah Palin should spare us the phony sentiment and respect," Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who vocally backed Clinton during the primaries, said in an Obama campaign statement.


By 5-to-1 Public Thinks Most Journalists Trying to Help Elect Obama

A week after a Rasmussen Reports survey discovered that by a ten-to-one margin the public believes the media are trying to hurt Sarah Palin, a new Rasmussen poll of 1,000 likely voters, briefly highlighted Wednesday night on FNC's Hannity & Colmes, determined "69 percent remain convinced that reporters try to help the candidate they want to win, and this year by a nearly five-to-one margin voters believe they are trying to help Barack Obama." Specifically, "50 percent of voters think most reporters are trying to help Obama win versus 11 percent who believe they are trying to help his Republican opponent John McCain" with 26 percent saying "reporters offer unbiased coverage."

Even amongst Democrats, more think journalists are aiding Democrat Obama than Republican McCain: "While 83 percent of Republican voters think most reporters are trying to help Obama, 19 percent of Democrats agree, one percentage point higher than the number of Democrats who believe they are trying to help McCain." Most telling, "unaffiliated voters by a 53 percent to 10 percent margin see reporters trying to help Obama."

Matching the overall public perception of a pro-Obama media, "45 percent of Democrats say most reporters are providing unbiased coverage in the current presidential campaign, but only 20 percent of unaffiliateds and nine percent (9%) of Republicans agree." For Rasmussen's full summary of the poll taken on September 8 and released on September 10, see: "69% Say Reporters Try to Help the Candidate They Want to Win." An excerpt with other findings:
....Voters from both parties...are skeptical of media bias in general. Eighty-six percent (86%) of Republicans think reporters try to help the candidate they want to win, and a plurality of Democrats (49%) believe that, too. Seventy-four percent (74%) of unaffiliated voters agree. Only 21% of voters overall say reporters try to offer unbiased coverage....

Among all voters, 57% believe Obama has received the best treatment by the media, while 21% say McCain has been treated best. Only nine percent (9%) believe the media has been most favorable to Senator Hillary Clinton, who was Obama's closest rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Forty-two percent (42%) think reporters would hide information that hurts the candidate they want to win, but 34% do not agree. But there's a partisan divide here: While 63% of likely McCain voters believe reporters would hide information harmful to the candidate they favor, 52% of potential Obama voters do not agree....

The new Rasmussen survey echoes two other recent polls, one by Rasmussen and one by Fox News. My September 4 NewsBusters item, "Poll: By 10-to-1 Public Says Reporters 'Trying to Hurt Palin,'" recounted:
"Over half of U.S. voters (51%) think reporters are trying to hurt Sarah Palin with their news coverage, and 24% say those stories make them more likely to vote for Republican presidential candidate John McCain in November," Rasmussen Reports announced Thursday in posting survey results which determined "just five percent (5%) think reporters are trying to help her with their coverage, while 35 percent believe reporters are providing unbiased coverage." In Thursday's "Grapevine" segment, FNC's Brit Hume highlighted the findings from the poll of 1,000 "likely voters."
By wide margins, more Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters see the media as trying to hurt rather than trying to help Palin. For Republicans it's 80 to 6 percent, for Democrats 28 to 4 percent (with 57 percent believing reporting is unbiased) and for unaffiliated voters it's 49 to 5 percent.

And my July 25 posting, "Fox Poll: Two-Thirds Recognize Journalists Want Obama to Win," reported:
Just days after a Rasmussen Reports survey was released showing more than three times as many likely voters "believe most reporters will try to help Obama with their coverage" than help John McCain, a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll taken July 22-23 of 900 registered voters discovered six times as many think "most member of the media" want Obama to win than wish for a McCain victory. On Thursday's Special Report, FNC's Brit Hume relayed: "67 percent of the respondents think most media members want Obama to win. Just 11 percent think most in the media are for McCain."
A article added this damning finding: "Only about 1 in 10 (11 percent) volunteers the belief that the media is neutral on the race to become the 44th President of the United States." Those polled recognize the tilt in action: "When asked to rate the objectivity of media coverage of the campaigns, Americans feel Obama gets more of a positive spin by a better than 7-to-1 margin (46 percent more positive toward Obama; 6 percent more positive toward McCain)."

The "How the Public Views the Media" section of the MRC's "Media Bias Basics" lists many more surveys of how the public perceive journalists and the news media


Signs of trouble for Obama with working moms

Jessica Goral had pretty much made up her mind two weeks ago: she was going to vote for Barack Obama. Then John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running-mate. “She empowers a lot of women,” said Mrs Goral, a mother of two in Macomb County – a national bellwether in the battleground state of Michigan and an area rich in white, working-class swing voters who will play an important role in deciding the election in November.

“I like that she’s a brand new mother, and that she has the courage to stand behind her pregnant daughter. She relates to working women. For all of us who have children at home but have to go to work every day – she has given us a sense that we can still do it and can be an excellent mum,” she said. “Sarah Palin is a role model. She’s made me more likely to vote Republican.”

If Mr Obama should be in any doubt how gravely the vice-presidential nomination of the Governor of Alaska has imperilled his White House ambitions, then a day spent in Macomb County will make this clear: white women who voted for John Kerry in 2004 are suddenly deserting the Democratic Party.

This is Mount Clemens, in the heart of Macomb County, where the pollster Stan Greenberg first identified the phenomenon of the Reagan Democrats – the working-class, socially conservative, traditionally Democratic whites who deserted the party for Ronald Reagan in 1980. It is fair to say that this critical swing group now has a new name: Palin Democrats.

The Times spoke to dozens of women here – perhaps the key demographic in this election – in an area that is 88 per cent white, has one of the highest unemployment and home repossession rates in the country, and will play a big role in determining who wins Michigan in November. It is a crucial swing state that no Republican has won since 1988 but where Mr Obama is particularly vulnerable. Nearly all said that they were still undecided. Yet the disturbing fact for Mr Obama was how many said that they had been leaning towards him – until Mrs Palin entered the race. It lends new credence to a poll last week that showed white women fleeing from Mr Obama to Mr McCain.

Katherine Herman, 45, is a lifelong Democrat who has never voted for a Republican. Until now. “I have a friend who’s a Democrat, and like me, it’s Sarah Palin that’s caused her to lean in favour of McCain. Palin is tenacious. She’s sure of herself and would make good decisions for all Americans,” she said.

Stephanie Parker, 23, a single mother puffing on a Marlboro menthol cigarette in Main Street, Mount Clemens, voted for Mr Kerry and had been drawn to Mr Obama. “Palin’s made a big difference. I think she’ll do us great. What she stands for is fantastic,” she said. What does she stand for? “I couldn’t tell really. But I love her.”

Jennifer Zvara, 22, another single mother who voted for John Kerry, said: “I’m undecided but leaning more towards McCain because of Palin. It’s a women thing. She’s one of us. This race is about the running-mates – it’s not about Obama any more.”....

Michigan has been run into a ditch by Democrat energy policies and by a Democrat governor and legislature trying to tax their way out of a one state recession. There are plenty of reasons to vote against Democrats in Michigan and Palin is just one more for some.


(For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena . For readers in China or for when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.)


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