Showing posts with label Republican convention. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Republican convention. Show all posts

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Why Attack the Community Organizer?

It took me a while last night and this morning to wrap my mind around the mocking line of attack that both Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani pursued in their speeches an evening ago. I mean, why, after a night of extolling the virtues of service, would you attack another person's service? Why indeed. I get the need to attack. That's politics. Everyone does that. I also understand the need to strike back after what Republicans found to be an unnecessary series of attacks on their nominee's choice for vice president after the Alaska governor's roll out last Friday. After all, Bill Clinton's campaigns' modus operandi was rapid response to attacks. That may not remove the fact that last night seemed a petty response, but pettiness in the face of pettiness is just tacky. Regardless, that's politics as well.

So why go after Obama on his experience as a community organizer? Why go against what, on its face, is your best interest? Yes, it fires up the Republican partisans, but it also fired Democrats up as well. But the question is, "How did it play among the independents and undecideds?" Here's where we start to answer the why of this particular line of argument. If both Palin and Giuliani look petty in making the argument, this likely backfires with those independents and undecideds. As one of our loyal readers, Rob, pointed out time and again during primary season -- at least in our discussion group meetings here at UGA -- the candidate or candidates perceived as negative lose. It happened to Romney in Iowa against Huckabee and in later primaries against McCain. And it happened to Hillary Clinton in her battle against Barack Obama. If that logic extends to the general election, then Palin, Giuliani and the McCain campaign have fundamentally misread the mood among the electorate. But does that logic extend in this case? During the primaries, the crowd was made up mostly of partisans. The general election brings in a completely new swath of voters or potential voters. I would argue that yes, this segment of the electorate would be turned off by an attack perceived as petty. Partisans already dislike the other side and expect the attacks. But independents and undecideds, while likely expecting the attacks, don't particularly like them. The point is that they may be turned off and have their mind changed. Whereas, with partisans, they'll be turned off but will have already made up their minds anyway.

But the question remains: Why attack Obama's past as a community organizer, especially when that could come back to haunt you and your party among the most crucial portion of the electorate in this election? Well, I think it all depends on this perception of pettiness. And that is affected by who this message was intended for. Yes, there was a lot of "red meat" in both Palin's and Giuliani's speeches last night. That played to the base of the Republican Party. But if we focus on Sarah Palin and the context of not only her but the speech as well, we can begin to see where the GOP was headed last night.

Fire up the base?

Appeal to independents and undecideds?

Huh? Why did you just write all that only to come to that conclusion? Good question. Palin's speech was about her background, her small town background. It was about life as a regular American. Fine, that appeals to independents and undecideds, but how is this attack in any way appealing to those folks? Well, it likely wasn't appealing to all independents and undecideds, but it was targeted at as many of them as the GOP could get to. And much of that is dependent upon how the concept of "community organizer" is defined in people's heads. If you tuned in to the Democratic convention a week ago, you learned about this aspect of Obama's life. In fact, I'm sure that most people could easily parrot the line, "He could have written his ticket to Wall Street but chose to be a community organizer instead," with relative ease -- with as much ease as they could tell you that John McCain voted with George Bush 90% of the time or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, put country first. But even if someone could tell you exactly what a community organizer is based on what they heard last week, I doubt that in most cases it is something most voters can relate to. Folks from urban environs can relate to it, but folks who have a background similar to Sarah Palin's may find it a stretch. So Palin can "get away with it" because she spent the first third of her time last night explaining what her background was and getting people to relate to her and her vantage point. To people in her corner, at least background-wise, community organizer is something of a foreign concept, nevermind the service aspect of it. [Incidentally, coming from Rudy Giuliani, this line of attack is somewhat disingenuous, given his experiences in New York. He likely knows very well what a community organizer is. But he was the keynote speaker. He can fire up the crowd and the base without it being overinterpreted. That's the role of a keynote address...or can be.] Soldier, people get. That's a concept that people can grasp. But community organizer is a concept that is as unknown to people as Sarah Palin was just a week ago.

Now, does that make it okay to attack that experience? I don't know. But does a pretty good job of drawing "community organizer" out as a foreign concept. And once you've accomplished that, mocking becomes a much more palatable enterprise. Granted this interpretation is vulnerable to the "politics of division" rebuttal from the Obama campaign since it cuts across an urban and not urban (I won't say rural because the suburbs and exurbs fall in between and may or may not gravitate toward the argument.) divide. And of course that brings with it some racial undertones that I won't get into here. At the same time, though, it is worth bringing up.

Among persuadables, did this work? Again, I can't say for sure, but it is a clever way to potentially peel off some of them at the margins. Nate Silver Sean at FiveThirtyEight mentioned in his wrap-up post to the evening (and especially the Palin speech) that the Democrats outnumber Republicans and that firing up both bases is somewhat counterproductive. While that's true, all the McCain campaign has to do is persuade enough of these small town, average Americans to swing a state like Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, or Ohio, or Michigan or Pennsylvania to win the election. Now getting from A to B in that is easier said than done, but I can see how they are trying to get there with that speech last night.

*For the record, I thought Palin was fantastic last night. The bar was lowered due to the firestorm surrounding her because of and since her selection, and that helped, but she did a great job for someone who was thrust into the spotlight only five days earlier. She passed the first test, but she will still have to withstand direct questioning from the media and/or in the debates. For that, stay tuned.

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Monday, September 1, 2008

It's Never as Easy as Taking Away Half the Delegates

Nor is it easy to seat state delegations apparently. The message concerning each wasn't clear it seems.

Yesterday, I discussed the apparent difference between the Democratic and Republican parties on penalizing states violating the timing of delegate selection events. The Democrats stripped Florida and Michigan of all their delegates before returning half of them and then, just prior to the convention, restoring complete voting rights to both states. The Republicans, at least according to reports out of Wyoming had stuck with their "if you go early, you lose half your delegates" rule. But the statement in the article on seating seems to have been false and so too is at least one aspect of the delegate penalty.

Here's the deal:
1) The Boston Globe reporting on the New Hampshire delegation, and its relationship with McCain since 2000, referred to a delegation that was 37 members in size. Huh? That's large for a small state that was penalized and voted for John Kerry four years ago. Was this referring to the size of the delegation with family members and friends tagging along or did New Hampshire avert the sanction regime?

2) In hunt of an answer to that question, I came across a piece on the Florida situation, one that implied the state would have a full delegation at the Republican convention. What? Are there sanctions or not (or worse yet, why didn't Wyoming get the memo)?

3) The Detroit Free Press finally clarified the situation in its story about the Michigan delegation's trip to the convention. Apparently all of the sanctioned states have their full delegations in attendance (the pre-sanctioned sizes), but only half of those members have voting rights. That number includes both actual delegates and their alternates. And that explains the 37 for New Hampshire; 24 delegates, 13 alternates. But only 12 of those 24 can vote on the presidential and vice presidential nominations.

And the seating position point in the Wyoming story appears to be false, since New Hampshire, according to the Boston Globe, is up front with the Arizona delegation. Michigan didn't look to be at the back either when a member of its delegation spoke not long after the convention kicked off in St. Paul during C-SPAN's converage.

This isn't as large a story as the rumormongering and subsequent revelations about a certain VP nominee and her family, but the clarification was worth bringing to everyone's attention.

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

From Wyoming: An Answer to the "Will the GOP Sanctions Have Teeth" Question

This week, as convention season has kicked off, we've cast an eye on the various sanction regimes that could be employed to deal with the frontloading of presidential primaries and caucuses in the future. 

Along the way I've done my fair share of mocking the current hollow sanctions. One question about 2008 remained though: Would the McCain campaign and the RNC let the sanctions slide for Wyoming, New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina and Florida? All five had their delegations cut by half for holding nominating contests prior to February 5. 

[What about Iowa and Nevada? They went early too. They did, but both held caucuses, the first steps of which were not determinative. No delegates were directly chosen in those January precinct meetings. In Wyoming on the other hand, nearly half the state's delegation was chosen in the January 5 meetings.]

Well, the word out of Wyoming is that those sanctions are alive and well. Furthermore, those from the Cowboy state will be sitting in the back of the hall in St. Paul (That rhymes a bit too much. I feel like Jesse Jackson describing what he felt was the "inclusion illusion" at the 2000 GOP convention now.) with the other states in violation. The obvious question now is, does it really matter? Would any of these five states have changed what they did? 

I doubt it. 

But sticking to their guns isn't something the GOP will be able to highlight with any great effectiveness this week. They can't come out and say, for example, "The Democrats flip-flopped on this, but we didn't. We're the party of reform." Well, I suppose they could, but they'd risk turning off some people in hotly contested states like Florida, Michigan and New Hampshire. They would not be able to fall back on the excuse Florida Democrats used in defense of their position to remove the stripping of all of Florida's delegates by the DNC. In other words, they wouldn't be able to blame it on the actions of the other party. Florida's state government (legislature and governor) is controlled by the Republicans. 

In Michigan, Republicans also had their hand in the state's move, though not to the extent that Florida Republicans did. Only New Hampshire's move was solely due to the decisions of Democrats. But that's due to the quirk of New Hampshire election law that leaves the decision up to the secretary of state, Bill Gardner -- a Democrat. He was given the ability by the Granite state legislature in the 1970s -- Yes, he's been the secretary of state there the whole time -- so that the state could quickly and efficiently to deal with challenges to their first in the nation status. 

This will not see the light of day this coming week in the press, but given our discussions here this week, it is certainly worth noting. 

NOTE: I'll be back later in the day with a later-than-usual Sunday update of the electoral college projections.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

On GOP Conventions and VP Selections

What, during the Democratic Convention?

Yeah, let's look at what's ahead for and what's in store from the Republicans. First let's look at the St. Paul convention next week. The GOP convention is already under attack, and not just from Democrats. Tropical Storm/Hurricane Gustav is heading into the Gulf of Mexico and forecasts have it making landfall sometime early next week -- during the Republican's convention -- in the New Orleans area. Now, I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure remembering Hurricane Katrina was not at the top of the list of things to be highlighted by the Republicans next week. So already, even before the convention kicks off, there have been, now, two things that have "gone wrong" for the Republican Party. First, this developing story in the Gulf isn't helping the party of Lincoln stay on message, and second was the news that the GOP is basically doing nothing to combat frontloading ahead of the 2012 election. Now, one of those is obviously a bit higher up on the priority list at the moment. People won't truly be paying attention to the frontloading thing for another three and a half years, but given the mission of this site, FHQ finds it necessary to include it here.

Already the weather has claimed the speaking spot allotted to Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, who has pre-emptively declared a state of emergency in his state. That's a blow to the party because the Republicans now miss out on an opportunity to show off an up-and-coming presence within their party, someone who was mentioned as a possible running mate for McCain.

Obviously, this is an unpredictable situation, but it is worth tracking as we approach the Republicans' turn in the spotlight.


The second topic I want to cover is the GOP VP announcement that is likely to come either today or tomorrow. Well, I suppose McCain has the option of doing it on Saturday as well, but as someone at a football school, I question the wisdom behind timing that announcement on the first full day of the college football season, not to mention a holiday weekend. Those issues aside, who is going to be the addition to the Republican ticket? Much of the recent buzz -- FHQ included -- has centered on Mitt Romney, but in the wake of the Biden selection and the Democratic convention, has that sentiment changed? David Brooks on PBS's coverage of the events last night in Denver said that Biden's performance and the course of the Democrats' convention had put the onus on McCain to shake things up with a Lieberman, or someone similar, selection. So we have three basic questions here:

1) When will the decision be announced? Today? Tomorrow? Some other time?

2) Who will it be?

3) Have the Biden selection and the Democratic convention given McCain reason to reconsider an already made choice or to alter the thought process on the matter altogether?

The comments section awaits for not only answers to those questions, but your thoughts on last night's proceedings in Denver.

H/t to Daniel for alerting me to the weather implications for the Republican convention yesterday.

NOTE: Also, I'm going to try and add in the 2000 data on the third party post from the other day. If I get to that, I'll have something up later in the day.

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