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Just Like Palin, McCain Not Doing Well In “College”

As Al Gore would begrudgingly remind you, there is only one way to the White House and it is through the Electoral College. That is unfortunate news for the McCain-Palin ticket, because recent polls in important battleground states are showing voters move in an Egyptian-style exodus towards the Promised Land of Obama-Biden. Short of McCain parting the economic Red Sea or raining national security locusts down on liberal activists, a win for him in the election is becoming a mathematical improbability. Postponement-gate is looking like it will be a disaster for McCain, whose aides issued a statement today saying that he will participate in tonight’s debate, despite the fact that consensus on an economic stimulus package for Wall Street has fallen apart. This is not to mention Palin’s Titantic-sized collapse on CBS News at the behest of the huggable Katie Couric, who gained my respect as a prime-time anchor by calling Palin out on her inability to construct a sentence in the English language.

According to realclearpolitics.com, which averages all available polling data to create a fairly accurate index of where voters stand, the Democrats are starting to run away with the election. Intrade market odds – created for compulsive gamblers who could not confine their betting to the ponies – have spiked in Obama’s favor, 56.8 to 42.3. Further, McCain’s averaged favorability ratings, an excellent indicator of how independents plan to vote, has fallen 3% this week alone. I am sure that many of you think these numbers are less scientific than the Wassila Assembly of God, considering the variety of poll data that has been released this week. In my defense, I would like to turn to the Electoral College for a moment, to remind you all of the uphill battle that McCain faces. One would think that this exercise should be positive for a ticket including Palin, who has a great deal of experience in college, as she attended six colleges in as many years. Unfortunately, unlike the many schools that Palin attended, this “College” is a little bit harder to pass.

As it stands right now, Obama-Biden has 171 solid electoral votes in the bag, while McCain-Palin has 158. States that are considered “solid” for either candidate are leaning more than two statistical deviations, or about +8-10%, in a candidate’s favor. These include states like California, New York and Illinois for Obama; Arizona, Alabama and Texas for McCain. Obviously, thirteen electoral votes is not much of a lead when a presidential candidate needs to hit 270 (or win a Supreme Court case about hanging chads and engage in massive voting fraud) in order to be elected. But, factoring in states that are “leaning” towards one candidate or the other with greater than one statistical deviation, or about +4-5%, portrays an entirely different story. Here, Obama has Washington, Colorado, New Mexico, Michigan, and New Jersey, which total fifty-seven electoral votes. That puts him at 228, just forty-two away from the Presidency. McCain, on the other hand, has only five electoral votes “leaning” in his favor with less than forty days left on the campaign. What state is leaning in McCain’s favor, you ask? West Virginia, which should have been a lock for the Republicans a long time ago, but, with the events of the last week, has unexpected moved away from McCain.

When comparing Obama’s 228 to McCain’s 163, one could rationally conclude that these numbers do not mean much, considering the hefty 147 votes still up in the air and the possibility that states currently “leaning” in Obama’s favor could defect. Polling data and recent presidential selections in these states, however, tell a darker story for the hopes of McCain’s campaign. In Colorado and New Mexico, states that were widely considered to be toss-ups only a couple of weeks ago, are now an average of +5.4% and +6.0% in Obama’s favor, respectively. Both of those states went to Bush in the last election, but Obama is polling at over fifty percent – a fairly impressive “mandate”, to borrow a phrase from Dubya. Washington state is currently an average of +6.0% for Obama, while New Jersey is a pretty solid +7.0%. Michigan, which the McCain campaign thought they could realistically seize, is now an average of +5.2% in Obama’s favor. The economy really hurt McCain in the heart of the Rust-Belt, where economic difficulties are nothing new. Worse for McCain, Washington, New Jersey, and Michigan were all strong supporters of both the Kerry and Gore tickets, making it pretty easy to see that they aren’t going anywhere for Obama. That being said, without any defections, McCain would have to win 107 of 147 of the remaining electoral votes in order to just clear the 270-election hurdle. So, what about those “toss-up” states? Let’s have a look.

The critical toss-up states are Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina, with each holding at least fifteen electoral votes. These five battleground states compose ninety-six of the remaining electoral votes, which means that McCain has to win just about all of them to have a chance (remember, he needs 107 of 147 to win). Pennsylvania is almost a lock for the Obama campaign. He is polling at +3.5% and it went to both Kerry and Gore in the last two elections. If you give Obama Pennsylvania, at twenty-one electoral votes, you start to see just how dire McCain’s position is. He would have to win 107 of the remaining 126 to just barely win the election. Clearly, Florida and Ohio could go either way, but both went to Bush in the last two elections. So, for argument’s sake, I’ll give them to McCain. That would put his total up to 211. Not bad, but we are running out of states.

Virginia is one of the most interesting states in this election, because it is demonstrating that the urban sprawl of D.C. is finally having a significant impact on presidential politics there. Obama has a very slim average lead of +0.3%, making it statistically impossible to tell who is actually ahead. McCain, however, if he was doing anywhere near as well as he needs to, should have locked this historically sanguine-red state down a long time ago. The same goes for North Carolina, where McCain is polling at an average of +3.5%. This is not nearly as strong as Bush, who took the state by a double digit margin. Giving McCain every benefit of the doubt, I’ll give him both Virginia and North Carolina, despite the statistical vagueries of their polling data. That puts McCain at 239. If Obama wins the traditionally blue states of Minnesota and Wisconsin, where he is significantly ahead in the polls, then he finds himself at 269. Obama would only have to win either New Hampshire or Nevada, both of which are statistical toss-ups, to clinch the win. Even if he failed to do that, he would still win the election. How? Because 269-269 ties go to the House of Representatives to be broken by a simple majority – and we all know who controls that body of government.

My point in performing this long numbers game is to show that even in John McCain’s dream scenario, he would still lose. Moreover, I cannot imagine that Obama won’t pick up at least one of the following states: Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, or Virginia. Indeed, as Karl Rove pointed out in the Wall Street Journal this week, the first debate will be decisive. If McCain does anything less than clean the floor with Obama, it’s safe to say that this election is just about over.

What Is The Deal With Sarah Palin?

Several excerpts from Katie Couric’s interview with Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, which will air in full tonight on CBS, have been released on the internet.  During the interview, Palin appeared to consistently repeat talking points and express vague generalities without much evidence or justification for her claims.  Palin’s flawed preparation was so obvious that Couric, considered a fairly reputable and non-partisan news anchor since departing the three-hour playdate known as “The Today Show”, explicitly pointed out her gaffes on CBS’ own morning news program.  Even the Kansas City Star ran a front-page article saying, “Couric Carves Up Palin.”  When local newspapers in the reddest of the red states use language like that, you know it didn’t go well.

The Alaskan Governor’s almost complete lack of knowledge on issues like the economy and the distinctions between the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, while disheartening, did not upset many Republicans a month ago, when she was pulled out of thin air by the McCain campaign to join the ticket.  Palin had little to no economic or foreign policy experience as the governor of a sparsely populated non-continental state, but she was resolute and confident in her socially conservative rhetoric.  Republicans were galvanized by her Reagan-esque fire and assumed that by the time the debates rolled around, she would be a steamroller for McCain.  But now that some time has passed and that has clearly not happened, one is left to wonder what has happened since that fateful night in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Upon examination of this latest interview, of which there have been few and far between, the only thing that has changed from the Republican National Convention is that now Palin looks like a deer in the headlights.  When pressed by Couric on the controversy over McCain adviser Rick Davis’ ties to Freddie/Fannie Mac, Palin began the stumbling that would persist throughout the interview.  Palin did not know whether it was “a year or two” since Davis had last received funds from the troubled loan giants and looked visibly upset that she could not answer the question more appropriately.  At one point, Palin paused for several seconds and broke eye contact with Couric, unable to find her words.  In all fairness to Palin, I’m not sure what anyone could honestly say about this clear conflict of interest, but she should have at least been ready for such an obvious question.

The vice-presidential candidate’s confusion did not end there, as Couric pushed for details on the $700 billion economic bailout plan working its way through Congress.  Following her statement that another Great Depression was “a road that American may find itself on,” Palin’s ineptitude, not as a person, but as someone trying to retain the second-highest office in the United States Federal Government, became nothing less than obvious.  Here is a transcription of what followed:

Couric: Would you support a moratorium on foreclosures to help average Americans keep their homes?
Palin: That’s something that John McCain and I have both been discussing – whether that … is part of the solution or not. You know, it’s going to be a multi-faceted solution that has to be found here.
Couric: So you haven’t decided whether you’ll support it or not?
Palin: I have not.
Couric: What are the pros and cons of it do you think?
Palin: Oh, well, some decisions that have been made poorly should not be rewarded, of course.
Couric: By consumers, you’re saying?
Palin: Consumers – and those who were predator lenders also. That’s, you know, that has to be considered also. But again, it’s got to be a comprehensive, long-term solution found … for this problem that America is facing today. As I say, we are getting into crisis mode here.

It’s one thing to not know whether to support a complicated economic stimulus package, but it is entirely another to be unable to recite even the basic pros and cons of the debate.  Saying “multi-faceted” does not indicate you know what those multiple facets are, which Palin clearly did not.  Oh, and by the way Sarah, it’s “predatory lending”, not “predator lenders”.  You aren’t – in fact – hunting large game.

The most perceptually embarrassing moment, unfortunately for Palin, was still to come.  Couric, becoming visibly annoyed at Palin’s inability to respond in a satisfactory way (much like Charlie Gibson’s “angry professor” moment over Palin’s inabiity to provide a definition of the Bush Doctrine), started to repeat her questions. Once again, the transcription tells the story better than I:

Couric: You’ve said, quote, “John McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business.” Other than supporting stricter regulations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years ago, can you give us any more example of his leading the charge for more oversight?
Palin: I think that the example that you just cited, with his warnings two years ago about Fannie and Freddie – that, that’s paramount. That’s more than a heck of a lot of other senators and representatives did for us.
Couric: But he’s been in Congress for 26 years. He’s been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation, not more.
Palin: He’s also known as the maverick though, taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he’s been talking about – the need to reform government.
Couric: But can you give me any other concrete examples? Because I know you’ve said Barack Obama is a lot of talk and no action. Can you give me any other examples in his 26 years of John McCain truly taking a stand on this?
Palin: I can give you examples of things that John McCain has done, that has shown his foresight, his pragmatism, and his leadership abilities. And that is what America needs today.
Couric: I’m just going to ask you one more time – not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation.
Palin: I’ll try to find you some and I’ll bring them to you.

In another clip from the interview, released early this morning, Palin responded to Couric’s questions about Iraq and Afghanistan.  I’ll spare you all the transcription for this one, but suffice it to say that Palin’s understanding of the two conflicts is tantamount to skimming a Rand McNally atlas.

Palin has had weeks to review and prepare the Republican case, so her inability to respond to these basic questions has got to be troubling for her once faithful Republican-backers. Especially considering the dearth of materials probably put together for her by Steve Schmidt, McCain’s top campaign advisor.  A high school debater that was given flash cards to study would have had better answers for Couric than Palin did.  Literally – I debated in high school for four years and I promise you that we had a better understanding than Palin on every single issue.  Despite what some Democrats may say, the Republicans do actually have arguments that can be sustained with proper justification.  There is logic, albeit flawed, behind the free-market non-regulatory paradigm that has shaped Wall Street and the various conflicts that the United States is engaged in abroad.  There are legitimate sounding answers to these questions and I was quite nervous about Palin spouting them out.  I’m not that worried anymore.

So, Couric’s interview forces the question: what is the deal with Sarah Palin?

What is becoming clear is that Palin simply cannot understand what is going on.  There are clearly too many voices coming from the McCain camp – telling her what to say, do, and think – for her to know up from down.  Her “Thanks, but no thanks” line about the infamous Bridge to Nowhere, which she relied on over and over again in her pubic speechs, has become the subject of cultural mockery.  Palin appears on the verge of collapse.  To her comfort, so does John McCain.

I’m starting to think the “next Great Depression” won’t refer to the American economy, but McCain and Palin’s sad walk into obscurity and irrelevance.

Mrs. Palin, Go Back To Alaska and Stay There

Like many of our fellow Americans, I was caught completely off guard by Senator John McCain’s (Arizona-R) choice of Governor Sarah Palin (Alaska-R) for his running mate in the upcoming presidential election.  After reviewing her policies, and McCain’s alternatives, it has become painfully and frightfully clear why she was chosen.  I use the words painfully and frightfully with the utmost deliberateness, because if the Republican ticket wins this election, it means three things: (1) a George Lucas-esque “Return of the Oil Companies”, (2) an assault on the idea of social progress, and (3) the continuation of dishonest, manipulative, and coercive federal politics.  In other words, if McCain-Palin wins, buy a hat and hold the fuck onto it.

McCain needed a boost prior to his nomination of Sarah Palin.  His other choices, with the exception of Joe Lieberman (Connecticut-Indep.), would not have given him anything to work with.  Tom Ridge, Mitt Romney, and other wealthy, old, white men would not fit the bill, because they did not add anything but an increased tax bracket to the McCain ticket.  So, the critical question is: why Palin and not Lieberman?

For a moment, imagine the clamor among aides at the McCain headquarters on the “Straight Talk Express”.  You have two sides intensely arguing with Senator McCain in the middle, much like his experience in Washington.  One says, “Lieberman: he brings the experience and liberal mindedness to capture those elusive swing voters and independents, as well as his previous supporters from prior presidential bids.  He could steal votes from right under the Democrats’ noses!”  The other group says, “What if we got a woman? What if we stole all those uppity Hilary Clinton supporters who care more about gender than issues? And, most importantly, WE NEED SOMEONE WHO WILL GALVANIZE THE BASE! WE’VE GOT IT…PALIN!”

For all of you who are wondering what it means when pundits spout this phrase, let me play the role of political translator.  It means, “We simply cannot have every social reactionary in the Midwest and the South sit at home rather than vote for McCain, who unfortunately does not hold views from the eighteenth century.” It means, “Our VP choice needs to be someone that mega-churchgoers can stand up (or kneel) for, and the only way to do that is to find someone who thinks the only trinity better than Jesus, God, and the Holy Ghost is Guns, Oil, and War.”  It means, “Fuck any attempt at fixing any problems in this country, because winning this election is more important to our friends in large corporations who stand to get fucked straight in their smelly pocketbooks if the Democrats win (at least for a little while).”

Surely, the Republicans among you, if there still are any, are seething.  This won’t help. Sarah Palin is either a moron or in extremely intense denial. There, I said it.  At this day and age, anyone who truly believes after a period of intense thought that: (1) the solution to our energy crisis is more oil drilling, (2) gay people are bad, (3) there is no such thing as global warming,  (4) the protection of the 2nd Amendment is necessary, (5) “hockey mom” is a legitimate qualification for the second highest office in the country, and (6) the war in Iraq is “directed by God” does not have a fully functioning brain or is so tied up in identity politics that they are incapable of rational thought.  If you don’t think that these are her policies, please read The Weekly Standard – I assure you, they are.  If you think that I am a moron for saying this, please continue reading.  Assuming this article, of course, is not being dictated to you because you’re illiterate.

All jokes aside, Palin’s stance on the issues is…well, scary.

Talking Point #1: The Return of Big Oil

Governor Palin has repeatedly supported drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).  Bypassing the whole ‘endangering the caribou’ problem, anyone who thinks that ‘more oil’ is a solution hasn’t really come to terms with the nature of energy policy.  The only way that humanity can survive its ‘Green Challenge’ is to once again become a part of nature by taking out what it puts back in.  Finding oil is not the issue and neither is driving down gas prices.  McCain may pretend he likes wind turbines, but, as Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has aptly pointed out in a couple of recent Op-Ed articles, McCain has missed or voted against the last six renewable energy bills.  Why?  That would severely hurt his campaign finances from the conservative business lobbies, who would eat shit if people didn’t use oil anymore.  It’s as simple as that.  Palin is just another example of how the McCain ticket has no regard for the environment or energy policy.  The last time we gave Big Oil the reigns, it didn’t work out so well (See: 2000-2008).  Moreover, Palin’s husband is employed by British Petroleum.  Although I’m sure that won’t effect her decision making at all.

Talking Point #2: The Assault on the Idea of Social Progress

It doesn’t matter what your stance on abortion is.  Blasphemy for a liberal, I know.  But, what is more important is the idea that ideas can evolve.  Not surprising that someone who discounts evolution, would deny it in other contexts, but then again, it should be.  Palin campaigned hard in Alaska to introduce a “Creationist” curriculum in public schools.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  What do scientists have to do, short of inventing an animal that evolves every twenty minutes, to demonstrate that they are not making this up and that the Jews didn’t put them up to it?  Palin also is firmly against gay marriage, something that conservatives like to call a “pro-family” stance.  There is nothing “pro-family” about it.  Palin takes what biblical scripture is interpreted to mean by questionably-in-the-closet pastors and that is the end of the debate.  That is anti-logical and we can no longer support that kind of thinking.  Use your rational faculties to come to decisions based on evidence and we’ll talk.  What does it take to convince people, nearly two thousand years after Aristotle, that logic is actually a legitimate knowledge production device?  It makes me want to pull out my hair.

Talking Point #3: Coercive, Manipulative, and Dishonest Electioneering

McCain’s choice of Palin over Lieberman says one thing most explicitly – I don’t care about representing anyone but me.  Like Lieberman, whose turncoat and extremely eerie speech at the Republican National Convention made even Republicans cringe, McCain has made it clear that he is in it for himself.  He just wants to win.  I get it John, it’s a lot of power.  But maybe for just a moment you can see this as not another righteous battle between you (virtue) and bad (bad).  This is about more than you.  Palin has no function in this election except to get people who you clearly don’t regard very highly – reactionaries.  If you did like them, and if they liked you, you would not need Palin.  You appeal to them because their votes count as much as my vote and that makes them powerful.  As Walther pointed out, President Bush still has a 30% approval rating.  WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? People that John McCain is desperately trying to befriend.  David Brooks of the New York Times claims that McCain saw in Palin a “maverick” nature like his own, accepted it, and looked no further.  They only met once for crying out loud – I don’t think that was it.  Brooks is right, however, that Palin’s space should have been for someone with experience and strategy.  Instead McCain opted for hockey sticks and guns.  I’m holding my breath until after the election.

Questionable Hiring Practices at the McCain Camp

A tanker of ink will be spilled over the qualifications of Sarah Palin to be President of the United States of America.  People will analyze everything she’s said while in office and everything she will say throughout the campaign.  Many different authors will write many different life narratives for Sarah, ranging from the glowing to the ghastly.  Her relatives and friends will be contacted by the press and they’ll tell stories that reveal her character traits beyond the “Sarah Baracuda” that’s already been widely reported.  Reports will continue to surface about ‘troopergate‘, her pregnant 17 year old daughter and the father of the child.  (“I live to play hockey. I like to go camping and hang out with the boys, do some fishing, shoot some s- – – and just f – – -in’ chillin’ I guess.”)  This wealth of media-worthy material will likely obscure the most important aspect of the Palin story. John McCain is a fool for picking a stranger to be his VP.

We all get wrapped up in the political circus as it unfolds before us, but every now and then we need to remember that the President is the most powerful person in the world.  John McCain was willing to give that power to someone he met only twice, and only once in person.  Only a fool would believe that a single, one on one interview is enough to determine whether or not someone could be President of this country.  John McCain proved to be that fool.

It isn’t as if McCain had no one else to chose from.  It was widely reported how McCain wanted to run with Joe Liberman or Tom Ridge.  Both were people with whom McCain was exceedingly familiar and both are at least superficially qualified. Unfortunately, neither was a friend of the Evangelicals.  Instead of opting to do the ‘maverick’ thing and picking someone he trusted, McCain opted for the quick political fix.  After an amazingly brief vetting process, he chose an attractive woman who is  highly regarded among Evangelicals.  He disregarded the fact that he is placing a stranger (someone he does not know) one martin olive away from the Presidency.  I know it sounds glib, but seriously: how could John McCain be so callous about America’s insurance policy against his death?  You may love McCain, but I don’t think it’s logically possible to argue that he picked someone he was confident could lead America if something happened to him.  Unless he looked into Palin’s soul like Bush looked into Putin’s, I think he’s going to have an extremely difficult time explaining to Americans that Sarah Palin was chosen for anything other than the most desperate political reasons.  I hope people will remember that even in today’s cynical poltical environment, the VP is more than a political shoehorn for a presidential candidate: she is an insurance policy.  I, for one, am not comfortable with Sarah Palin being the McCain Presidency’s insurance policy and as more information about her is revealed to the public, I think it’ll be clear that McCain was never comfortable with his selection either.