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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: September 8, 2008 @ 12:07 pm

    Pendulum swings towards McCain

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Only a couple of weeks ago I would have said Barack Obama was going to win the US presidency in November. John McCain by contrast looked old, tired and very much  yesterday’s man. But since the two conventions I have changed my mind and I’m putting my money on McCain at this stage.

            There are four reasons why I have changed my forecast: 1) It was obvious from the Democratic  Convention that a significant number of Hillary Clinton supporters were still unhappy; 2) Obama’s speech to delegates, polished as it was, did not live up to the hype; 3) McCain turned a negative into a positive when Hurricane Gustav delayed the start of the Republican gig: he visited an emergency centre in Mississippi and behaved like a President, full of soothing reassurance, whereas Obama basically issued coments to the media (in Dublin, Ohio!); 4) The Sarah Palin nomination was a master-stroke.

            I couldn’t agree less with Charles Krauthammer’s analysis in today’s Irish Times. The man just doesn’t get it. Palin connects with the electorate on all sorts of levels. The hockey-mom; anti-corruption campaigner; gun-toter; anti-evolutionist; anti-abortion; woman-who-made-it-to-the-top; highly-effective public speaker; elegant appearance; etc.

            In one fell swoop, McCain has garnered women’s votes; the gun lobby; the chip-on-the-shoulder-I-hate-Washington blue-collar vote; hard-pressed parents juggling kids and career; and the religious right. And for all her strange taste in children’s names, Palin is a natural politician.

            Of course anyone who recalls the civil rights struggle in America in the ’60s with Martin Luther King and the Selma march would love to see an African-American in the White House. Obama is a charismatic candidate with a wonderful smile whose personality is strongly reminiscent of John F. Kennedy at his best.

           But he has little administrative experience and what he stands for is not entirely clear. One imagines his people must be in a tizzy at the moment, figuring out how to deal with a McCain campaign revitalised by the Palin factor. Presumably Obama will try to capture some of the right-wing ground now held by the Republicans. Bill Clinton’s former advisor Dick Morris called it “triangulation”.

            There is a certain irony in the fact that the people choosing the next leader of the free world are in many cases so provincial. Many Americans do not even possess a passport, but they still get to choose the leader who will dominate the international stage for the next four to eight years. Given the level of interest in the election here in Europe, perhaps we should also demand the right to choose! Meanwhile the latest poll shows McCain edging ahead.

    Deaglán de Bréadún, Political Correspondent, The Irish Times and author of The Far Side of Revenge: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, recently published in a second edition by Collins Press, Cork www.collinspress.ie

    • Keith says:

      Palin will either win it or lose it for McCain. While she connects with a lot of people in the Republican base, she’s also got the potential to say or do something really bad to throw it all away. It’s McCain’s to lose at the moment though.

    • ruairi says:

      Palin has yet to utter a single word about policy. Wait til she is interviewed / goes up against Biden in a debate, I think the majority of non-political Americans will doubt her.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      I would disagree that Palin has garnered “women’s votes; the gun lobby; the chip-on-the-shoulder-I-hate-Washington blue-collar vote; hard-pressed parents juggling kids and career; and the religious right.” She has perhaps given McCain an ‘in’ with those groups. However if the pro-choice people who supported Hillary vote for the republican ticket largely because of Palin then they are even more stupid (if that is possible) than those that will refuse to vote for Palin despite agreeing with her views on everything simply because she is a woman. Remember the Klan of all groups endorsed Obama over Hillary! The aftermath of conventions is an off-the-map time in polling terms anyway. I was never of the view that Obama had this nailed down, sure the numbers for Kerry and Dukakis looked as good as they did for Obama in August of ’04 and ’88. It comes down to the campaigns and voter turnout now. McCain has ensured that the religious right will turn out, the problem is he may have lost the independents.

    • Most observers I have spoken to are of the view that Biden is really up against it in the debate with Palin. It’s not that he won’t be better informed on, say, foreign policy issues, given his lengthy service and vast experience. But these observers say that, if he leaves himself open to the charge of being in any way patronising or the least bit “superior” in his attitude towards Palin, he’s a dead duck and so is Obama. If that happens, and whatever reservations some of them may have about Palin’s views on abortion, a lot of women voters will turn towards the Republicans overnight. You can take it that the Democrat campaign team will be very nervous on the evening of October 2nd. My election-watching friends say Biden would be better off to lose the arguments as long as he comes across as a nice guy. It’s a widely-held view that the debate between Kennedy and Nixon swung it for JFK in 1960.

    • Brian Boru says:

      I have had a bet on paddypower.com for a number of months of about €140 that McCain would win, because I think I understand the American electorate better than a lot of Europeans, who are far to the left of American voters on moral issues, economic issues, capital punishment and guns.
      It isn’t the popular vote that counts over there, but a body known as the Electoral College. Each state has a number of Electoral College members called electors, and whichever candidate comes first in the state gets them all, except (theoretically) in Maine and Nebraska, which theoretically divide their electoral votes proportionately according to some complex formula to do with congressional districts (though the circumstances never arose for this to happen).
      To win the presidency you need to win enough states to have 270 electors supporting your candidate when the Electoral College meets. If it’s a tie of 269 each, then the existing (rather than the next) House of Representatives chooses the next President, but in a complex manner, i.e., the House divides up into 50 state delegations, with each delegation voting for who should be President.
      At present, the Democrats control 26 state-delegations, meaning that a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College will mean Obama is sworn in next January. The winner of the popular vote has been the loser of the presidency on 4 occasions in history, and never to the Democrats’ benefit (Samuel Tilden actually lost to Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 in spite of outpolling him in the popular vote 51-45).
      You also have to remember that since the Civil Rights era, the Southern (former Confederate) states have usually voted Republican for President – the exception being Carter in 1976 who won all of them. Even Clinton’s victory in 1992, including in 5-6 Southern states, has to be seen in context – when the South has voted Democrat for President since 1968, it has only been for Southern candidates, who are more socially conservative than the Democratic party nationally.Clinton’s welfare-reform agenda and balancing the budget can be seen in this context. And even with all this, Clinton’s victory in 1992 was with the help of a strong third candidate in Ross Perot, who split the conservative vote enough for Clinton to win many conservative states like Montana, Georgia and Colorado.
      So in choosing someone rated by the National Review magazine as the biggest liberal in the Senate, and not from the South, and with zero executive experience and little experience of elective office, the Democratic party have made a big mistake and thrown away an election that should have been theirs. While opposed to the Iraq War, I look forward to a more assertive US policy in terms of containing Russian imperialism, as McCain, unlike Obama, is a long-term critic of Putin. I have been disappointed with the Western appeasement of Putin’s adventurism in Chechnya in recent years, and hope things will change under McCain.

    • I’m not much of a gambler but someone gave that company my email address and the betting this morning was 4/7 Obama (from 1/2) and 5/4 McCain (from 6/4). I assume you got better odds than that.

    • Brian Boru says:

      Yes, Deaglán, my bets were from last April when the odds on McCain were 9-2, and 6-4 for a Republican winning (they were separate betting-options back then).

    • Butchy's All Seeing Eye says:

      Biden and crew are licking their chops for the Vice-Presidential debate and hoping for an opportunity like this one:


      Biden’s handling Palin sensitively is one thing. Palin having to answer questions about Asif Ali Zardari and the vagaries of the Sunni Awakening is another.

    • Deaglán says:

      So you get €630 if McCain wins, Brian. Not bad.

    • le Catch says:

      I agree with Keith (#1). Palin can win or lose this race.

      In A.A. Gill’s great report back from the convention in this week’s Sunday Times, “There is the brassy glow of nemesis about her, a delicious hint of salty revelations to come.” Fingers crossed eh?

    • Deaglán says:

      Thanks John. It has to be said that the personal attacks on Ms Palin quoted in the article you refer to are completely out of order. One has seen this kind of thing in the past, directed at the Left and Liberals by the Right wing. It is quite something to see it coming from the other direction this time. To his credit, Obama has taken his distance from this line of criticism.

    • John says:

      Deaglán, I’m surprised. My view of the Left and Liberals is that they are very good at personal attacks. Irish Liberalism is surely an oxymoron of some sort given that anything they don’t agree with they try to ban or silence. An Irish journalist was on about not liking Palin because she was anti-gay marriage/abortion, etc., then running down the US because, in her opinion, they are not likely to elect a black President. Do you think Ireland will ever contemplate any of the above? We don’t even have a black newsreader on RTE!

    • Frank says:

      As an American, aside from the last paragraph (which I think is enormously unfair for a variety of reasons mainly having to do with the size of our country), I think your analysis is pretty much correct. I would only add that one of Obama’s big problems is that his message — as was the Democratic convention’s — is full of pessimism, and Americans nearly always reject pessimism. Think Reagan vs. Carter.

    • Deaglán says:

      I take your point, Frank, about the size of the country and I’m a big fan of the US on the cultural/social/human level. But I still think it is bizarre that the head of the world’s only superpower is voted-in by an electorate whose knowledge of international affairs is limited in comparison with other developed countries. Our fate is in their hands. As for attacks by the Left and Liberals on Sarah Palin, John, what’s new about it is that they seem to be criticising her on Right-wing grounds. Attacking someone because his or her daughter is pregnant is the kind of thing one usually hears from extreme conservatives. Your idea of a black newsreader on RTE is a good one, by the way. Why not?

    • Jacque Denise Yap says:

      We have to sacrifice now in spending, tighten our belts, hunker down, get serious. Our legacy to our future generations looks mighty grim, if we don’t change our entitlement thinking. One of the most immportant responsibilities our next President will face is picking Supreme Court judges. The direction of our country depends on it. I trust McCain with that decision and, for that reason, I will vote for him. Saw their TV ads in http://pollclash.com

    • Finbarr says:

      It is, of course, the electoral college that counts, not the popular vote, and at the moment Obama has a commanding lead there. The Palin pick was a masterstroke in the short run for McCain, but in the long run it will be disastrous, since it undermines any argument he might make on the basis of experience and being a firm hand on the tiller. It is ludicrous that we might entrust decisions about Iran, Russia and Israel to a man who makes decisions in the way he did to come up with Palin.

      As for Jacque Denise, and America’s need to get over our “entitlement thinking”, that’s rich coming from a supporter of Republicans whose policies have bankrupted the country and destroyed the military.

      No way is Obama going to lose this election. His is the steady hand. His is the campaign that is talking about issues (as opposed to porcine lipstick–give me a break!) The American voter could not possibly be so stupid as to vote for the Republican pair.

    • RRB52 says:

      McCain’s cynical choice of Palin guaranteed only a short-term gain, which has come and gone. Barring an egregious(and unlkely) mistake, the race is now Obama’s to lose.

    • Ferdinand says:

      “There is a certain irony in the fact that the people choosing the next leader of the free world are in many cases so provincial.” This statement portrays Americans as superficial and lacking in the understanding of the issues; in fact, what is happening in the US is a change in this election from a public focused on persona to an electorate focused on issues and ideology. Let me give you some examples: Many Americans admire Obama for his speaking skills but few admire him, and much more importantly the Democratic Party, for the recent debt crisis in the US. For years, since the Kennedy/Johnson era, we have been bombarded by government “backed” debt for schooling, housing and health care. With the recent deflation of personal assets caused by the inability of the subsidized populace to pay their car loans let alone housing mortgage, the public is realizing the fallacy of more ‘giveaways’ promised by Obama. It will financially destroy us. To go on, with healthcare, it is the same issue exacerbated by an unrelenting flow of illegal’s from Mexico. The privatized system works well and the public does not want to screw it up by a government-paid system. It does not work in the UK, Canada or, for that matter, Ireland (I know lots of doctors there). In fact, while the US Democrats are trying to ‘socialize’ the US healthcare system, the Europeans are trying to re-privatize (e.g. insurers are increasing). On foreign issues, the Democrats are lacking in team strength. It is not just about Obama or McCain, it is about who the rest of their team will be in the White House, Armed Forces, etc. McCain has it hands down. Also, it is becoming clearer to the electorate that the Mid-East strategy, while having flaws, has proven to be the best course. On energy, the Democrats want conservation with no alternative energy options while the Republicans are pushing nuclear power, coal gasification, shale and oil drilling.

    • RRB52 says:

      Ferdinand: Please be serious. For most of the past eight years republicans have been in control of the White House, Senate and House of Representatives. The Republican agenda has provided us with stagnant incomes, rising income inequality, exploding deficits, mounting home foreclosures, increasing unemployment, a degraded environment, an overstretched military, decreasing international influence, the profligate wasting of lives and money in Iraq, deregulation to extremes and a number of other wonderful results.
      In my experience, the concepts of accountability and responsibility are simply foreign to the “borrow and spend” Republican Party. But if you want to continue the Bush legacy, be my guest. Just don’t claim in the future that you weren’t warned of the dangers of political masochism.
      Have you noticed that Bush seems to have adopted some of Obama’s ideas of late? A “time horizon” for withdrawal from Iraq, and discussions/negotiations with “axis of evil” members Iran and North Korea were ideas voiced by Obama before Bush. When did Bush realize that diplomacy is not a four-letter word?
      I’m puzzled by your reference to “the Mid-East strategy”, since Bush ignored the Middle East for the first six years of his presidency. But I’m reminded of a comment made by James Carville when asked his opinion of a particular Bush policy. Carville responded: Bush policy? Bush policy is an oxymoron!

    • Christiane says:

      “Palin is a natural politician”?! What are you on eh!! She doesn’t know what she stands for, is CRAP at public speaking (remember her interviews!!!!!!!!) they were hilarious!!! I love her, she made everyone realize what an eejit McCain is and gave the Democrats a fair chance, I am ecstatic that Obama will run the White House, give the Democratic Party a chance, seeing how the Republicans and especially Bush have “run” the White House, Senate and House of Representatives!!!!!!!!!! Obama will change all of it in five days!!!!! THE VILLAGE IN TEXAS WILL GET THEIR IDIOT BACK!!!!

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