Baywatch Biden

IT’S UNITY, STUPID

Democrats are boasting about the pair of “prominent Republicans” addressing this week’s Democratic National Convention, including former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach Monday night and Fairbanks, Alaska Mayor Jim Whitaker on Tuesday night.

Both politicians earlier endorsed Barack Obama for president because of his desire to unify the country. Wouldn’t you know, Democrats are now finding it difficult to unify their own party.

MINY OR MOE?
 
On November 4, voters will choose “the lesser of two evils” to become president of the United States.
 
“This is a battle to become the lesser of two evils rather than the best of the bunch,” says Washington political pollster Frank Luntz, who in a memo obtained by this columnist on Monday writes that so-called floating, or undecided voters, “have huge hang-ups with both candidates,” albeit for different reasons.

“Obama’s weakness is his lack of definition and the fear that he really doesn’t have any answers,” Mr. Luntz says of Democratic candidate Barack Obama, while Republican John McCain‘s “weakness is a fear that his answers are too closely aligned with President Bush.”

His memo comes on the heels of a political dial session Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research conducted Sunday on behalf of AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons.

“I have done roughly 500 political dial sessions in the past 10 years [-] most of them with floating voters. In that time, I’ve seen them break for one candidate or another based on ads, debates, interviews and other stimuli. But never have I seen them divide unanimously in favor of one attribute over another,” Mr. Luntz says in the memo.
 
“We hear about ‘change,’ ‘change,’ ‘change,’ Well, there’s one attribute more important than change. Accountability trumps change.”

The dial session, conducted in Denver, gave respondents 30 different attributes to rate in importance. Not only did accountability come in first, but it outranked ‘change’ in importance to 20 of the 21 participants. By comparison, ‘agress with me on the issues’ was chosen by just one person.

Says Mr. Luntz: “The candidate who can capture the audience’s perceptions of accountability will win. Period.”
 
THE ‘BOUNCE’
 
Soon it will all be about the “bounce.” Or will it?

Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, explains that the “bounce” is the jump in the polls a political party experiences as a result of its week of “media propaganda, broadcast free on all major news networks and in every news publication" — in other words, the Democratic National Convention this week, followed by the Republican National Convention on September 1 to 4, when, as Mr. Sabato puts in the word, “boring becomes a religion.”

Writing for the UVa center, Mr. Sabato says traditionally once the conventions have concluded, both parties “compare their bounces, and inevitably someone has a case of bounce envy.”
 
But don’t pay the bounce much attention.
 
“Bounces can fade quickly,” Mr. Sabato cautions. “Historically, this has been truer on the Democratic side. Jimmy Carter slid from 63 percent after his convention to 51 percent on Election Day 1976, Michael Dukakis from 54 percent to 46 percent in 1988; and Bill Clinton from 59 percent to 43 percent in 1992.”
 
And don’t think Republicans have the advantage, either, for holding their convention last.
 
“It doesn’t make all that much difference which party has the first or second convention,” Mr. Sabato says.
 
“Pretty propaganda shows can move polls temporarily, but it is the election fundamentals that determine the general election outcome.”
 
LIFEGUARD JOE

"He was just so cute, so adorable," recalls Wilmington, Del., native Elaine Manarin, a language arts and math resources teacher at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes Lower School in Alexandria, who reveals her childhood "crush" on Windybush Swim Club lifeguard Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.

"Every other girl at the pool had a crush on him, too," she adds.

"It was a local little swim club. He was in high school, and I was two years younger — I was Elaine Smith in those days," Mrs. Manarin tells Inside the Beltway, referring to the Delaware Democrat who was tapped this past weekend to be the vice-presidential running mate of Sen. Barack Obama.

"He was so friendly to everybody, adults and children alike. He always had a huge smile on his face and a little gleam in his eye — he still has it; I can see it on television," she notes. "I was the person who checked the members’ club passes when they came in, and he was the tanned lifeguard. And I had a crush on him, but he didn’t know that.

"We would get off work at the same time, and sometimes he would give me a ride to my house. One night it was really cold and he lent me his jacket, and don’t print this, or I will kill you, but I actually stuck the jacket under my pillow that night."

A few years later, she and Valerie Biden, the senator’s sister, were attending the University of Delaware, and Mrs. Manarin recalls bumping into the young Mr. Biden.

"And I will never forget this," she says. "During our conversation he made the point of saying that, ‘One day I want to be the president of the United States.’ "


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