Politics

John Gizzi Report: Will Palin Pull At Barack’s Bump?

Will Palin Pull At Barack’s Bump?
 
Barack Obama did get a convention "bump" followng the Denver conclave that nominated him for president last week. The question now is whether John McCain’s stunning selection Friday of Sarah Palin as a running mate will cut into the "Barack bump."
 
A Gallup Poll following Obama’s acceptance speech showed the Democratic hopeful leading Republican McCain by a margin of 49% to 41%.  That’s a bump, all right, as Gallup had put Obama and McCain at 45% each in nationwide surveys before the convention. In fact, it is the strongest performance Gallup has recorded for Obama since the nine-percentage point edge the Democratic hopeful enjoyed before his European tour in July. 
 
The Rasmussen Reports seconded Gallup’s findings. Its post-Denver poll showed Obama with a lead of 47% to 43% nationwide over McCain.
 
And Palin?  Following McCain’s almost-never-expected choice of the Alaska governor as his running mate Friday and their joint appearance in Denver, Rasmussen showed that 53% of voters nationwide had a favorable opinion of the 44-year-old Palin.  However, the same poll showed that two-thirds of voters did not know enough about Palin to have an opinion.  (Rasmussen also found that Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden had a 48% favorable rating among voters nationwide).
 
As pundits, pols, and headlines focus now on the newly-minted vice presidential candidate and her qualifications (or lack thereof, depending on who’s writing about her), Palin’s impact — positive or negative — will be determined in the coming days. 
 
Parting shot:  Although Barack Obama did appear to regain his momentum and a lead from the Denver convention, it is nothing like the the 20-point lead that Bill Clinton had in some polls after the New York convention that nominated him in ’92.  Unless there are more powerful speeches such as Obama’s acceptance speech (watched by 38.4 million television viewers, a 57% increase in audience over John Kerry’s acceptance address in 2004), this race will go down to the wire. 

Will Palin Get the "Biden Quiz?"

Preparing for the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. and considering the reaction of Democrats and the press to John McCain’s choice of a running mate, I note the harping on Sarah Palin’s credentials.  After her stunning selection to run with McCain, the Democrats’ narrative finds the press accelerating the questions about the Alaska governor’s resume, specifically her lack of "foreign policy experience."
 
Before you start with the standard response that her expertise in international matters is about the same as Bill Clinton’s when he ran for President in 1992 or any governor, I have to note that Palin will square off in debate October 2 with Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
 
What if, I thought, the Democratic nominee faces Palin and gives her "the Biden quiz?"  For those who don’t recall, when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on Ronald Reagan’s nomination of William P. Clark to be secretary of state, Biden quizzed Clark on specifics about world leaders and related matters that he clearly knew the nominee could not answer.  Clark, then a California Supreme Court judge, did not know the answers (or even pretended that he did ) to the following:  Who was the prime minister of South Africa?  The prime minister of Zimbabwe? The "bilateral issues" between the United States and Brazil?  The countries in Europe and NATO that are most reluctant to go along with theater nuclear force modernization? The countries from which the U.S. had the greatest difficulty getting cooperation in the placement of long-range nuclear weapons on European soil?  What is happening in the British Labor Party?
 
Biden freely admitted to Clark that "no one but me, not my staff suggested I use this approach" and that "[t]his is one of the most distasteful question-and-answer periods in which I have participated."
 
". . . I don’t know how else to do my job," added Biden.
 
Clark volunteered to Biden and the other committee members that he was not a foreign policy expert, that he was named because President Reagan wanted him "coordinating and implementing" policy rather than making it.
 
Although the Foreign Relations Committee confirmed his nomination by 10-to-4 and the full Senate gave him confirmation by 70-to-24, Judge Clark, as his biography The Judge observed, "was the laughing stock of the world.. . .Foreign papers called him a ‘nitwit’ and the ‘Don’t Know Man.’  The London Daily Mirror editorialized: ‘America’s allies in Europe — Europe, Mr. Clark, you must have heard of it — will hope he is never in charge in times of a crisis.’"
 
As it turned out, Bill Clark turned in a stellar performance as Number Two at State.  He moved on to be Reagan’s national security adviser in the White House and then was confirmed as secretary of the interior.
 
As the biography of Clark by Paul Kengor and Patricia Clark Doener notes, "[A]fter his interrogation of Clark, Biden casually pulled him aside in the hallway and said , ‘Hey, Judge, no hard feelings. . .and don’t worry: I didn’t know the answers to those questions either." 
 
The "Biden test," however, remains a tool that interrogators dust off with candidates they think they can trip up.  We’re still seeing clips of candidate George W. Bush in 2000 not knowing the names of Pakistani President Pervez Musharaf ("He’s a general, isn’t he?") and other world leaders.  Is it not too far-fetched to think that, 27 years after he first deployed his test on Bill Clark, Biden will turn it on Sarah Palin?
 
Of course, I can’t say, nor can I say whether Palin will tick off the names of such world leaders as Japan’s Prime Minister Fukuda or the hard-to-pronounce name of the president of Georgia.  But let me make a suggestion for a reply: "Senator, you know very well I don’t know some of those names.  And before your staff researched them and wrote them down for you, neither did you.  But I will say that when I am vice president and bringing America’s message overseas, I will know their names — their positions on key issues, the culture of their nations and their personal political histories, as well as what they think of us.  And, perhaps more importantly, they’ll know the name of the leader of the free world, John McCain."

Clintons Rallied Supporters Before His Speech

Stuck on a word: John Gizzi sends reports back from press gallery at Democratic convention in Denver. Photo courtesy of Ted Fiskevold

Denver, Col. — Shortly before Bill Clinton’s much-awaited address to the Democratic National Convention last night, I ran into 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern on the convention floor. Mentioning what just about everyone I had spoken to this week was talking about, I asked McGovern whether he felt Clinton had gotten over any bitterness toward Barack Obama and whether supporters of Bill and Hillary Clinton would unite behind the man who defeated their first-choice candidate.

"I think so," replied McGovern, who enjoys a stature among the Democratic left that Barry Goldwater enjoyed among the Republican right years after his own landslide defeat. "But, look, we’re a pretty ornery party and we’re never really 100% united." As for Clinton himself, who had helped organize Texas for McGovern in 1972, the grand old man of Democratic liberalism said: "I think he’s coming around fine." He added that "Bill will give a barnburner of a speech tonight."

The exchange with McGovern was just the latest version of a question that had been bandied among reporters, pundits, and pols in Denver for the Democratic conclave.

"What’s the matter with Bill Clinton?" was the way one of my colleagues posed the question to James Carville at a press luncheon on Wednesday. Without missing a beat, the longtime political adviser to both Clintons replied: "Ask me tomorrow" — meaning ask him after Clinton’s speech. Carville went on to say that relations between Clinton and Obama "are much warmer than those between Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan in 1976 and Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy in ’80." He and former Clinton pollster Stan Greenberg both predicted a powerful, unifying speech by the 42nd president.

"Bill Clinton will unite them when he addresses the convention and Bush and Cheney will unite them even further when he addresses the [Republican] convention on Monday," predicted pollster Luntz, whom I encountered on the floor of the Pepsi Center shortly before I spoke to McGovern.

Luntz, McGovern, and Carville were all proven correct. Clinton’s speech was a hit, right down to its jabs at John McCain and reminders that Republicans made the same attacks on his youth ("Remember 1992?") and inexperience that they now at Obama.

Now, one doesn’t have to look hard at Democratic Party events to find veterans of the campaigns of Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in ’04 who will complain that Bill Clinton "didn’t exactly break his heart" for their candidates. But the evidence is that this time, Clinton means it.

Fear of Another GOP Win

Following the Clinton address, I learned that there was a private reception at the Invesco Field (where Obama will make his acceptance speech Thursday) for delegations from Pennsylvania, Florida, New York, and New Jersey. The common denominator of those delegations, one guest told me, "was that they were all from states that went strongly for Hillary in the nomination process. [Pennsylvania Gov. and Hillary backer] Ed Rendell addressed the group and made a strong pitch for supporting Obama. Then, Bill and Hillary Clinton came out. He gave a brief version of the speech he gave tonight. She stressed how difficult it was for Democrats to win the Presidency, that it was only achieved three times in the last the last thirty-two years and twice by ‘someone I know very well.”

"There’s too much at stake for us not be unified," said Florida state Sen. Ted Deutsch, a Clinton delegate who now strongly supports Obama. The Boca Raton lawmaker said there is no lingering resentment toward Obama among Florida Clinton supporters and that, fearing a third consecutive Republican win of the White House, the rival Democratic factions in his state were united.

This was the mantra I heard repeatedly from former Clinton workers, as the convention adjourned after Joe Biden’s acceptance speech and conventioneers walked to their buses. Delegate Marta Mattox of Texas recalled to me how she had gone to Iowa and "walked through the cold and the snow to help Hillary Clinton in the caucuses."

But after Clinton was finally shut out of the nomination, Mattox told me, "Barack Obama called Jim [her husband, former Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox] and asked for our support. We moved equipment from the Clinton headquarters to Obama’s headquarters in my Suburban."

Mattox believes that a McCain victory would be "horrible." She said that she could never support the senator because "he had changed his maverick positions to appeal to the Republican right wing and especially to the Christian right."

Her views were echoed by delegate Pamela Marsh of Alaska. Like Mattox, Marsh recalled her volunteer work for Clinton, how she stood "in five below zero weather to drum up support for Hillary in our Alaska caucuses." Now, Marsh said, she tells audiences of Democratic women that if they don’t work for Obama against McCain, "you will be cutting off your nose to spite your face." Again, it is fear of McCain and "the right wing" that motivates Marsh to campaign for Obama.

So when Bill Clinton says "that makes eighteen million of us" Hillary Clinton supporters who are now firmly in the Obama camp, he means it.

Top Demo Pollster Says McCain Will Pick Ridge

Denver, Col.– One of the premier Democratic pollsters in the nation predicted on Wednesday that soon-to-be Republican nominee John McCain will "take a risk" and tap former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge as his running mate.

Speaking at a packed press luncheon hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Stan Greenberg — best-known as Bill Clinton’s pollster in his presidential campaigns and throughout his years in the White House — said that McCain might well have a problem with McCain’s "pro-choice" views. But, when a candidate "is on the edge of being able to move" significant amounts of voters, "he’ll take a risk." That "risk," Greenberg feels, is the former governor and Bush Cabinet member Ridge.

As for Mitt Romney (who spoke at the Monitor lunch yesterday), Greenberg said "I want Romney. I hope we get Romney. I pray for Romney."

The pollster, who joined with Carville to prepare a study on how Barack Obama can win Reagan Democrats, revealed that he had been polling on possible McCain tickets. A GOP ticket with Romney, he said, "doesn’t produce a thing [for McCain]" and that the former Massachusetts governor actually is liked less by voters as they get to know him.

Veteran political correspondent Carl Leubsdorf pointed out that Romney was the son of popular former Michigan Gov. George Romney, was himself born in Michigan, and could deliver the Water Wonderland’s electoral votes to the GOP. Greenberg disagreed and said Romney is not helped in Michigan by the fact that his father was governor forty years ago. His survey research showed that this who his father was "does not shift a half a percentage point" for Romney in Michigan.

While not specifically guessing who McCain would turn to later this week, James Carville was also on hand and told reporters his instincts were that McCain "will surprise you" with his choice of a running mate.

"One thing McCain and I have in common," Carville said, "is that we’re both crapshooters. He’ll surprise you."

Carville Doesn’t Read Platforms, Either

"You all right, man?" James Carville shouted at me during the Monitor lunch after I told him I had been reading the Democratic Party platform before joining him and Stanley Greenburg at the Brown Palace.

I cited some of the decidedly left-of-center planks I had been reading in the party manifesto entitled "Renewing America’s Future." Among them were calls for "universal health care," bilingual education, technological job retrainngand making a abortions "safe and legal" — a change from the "safe, legal, and rare" language that had been in quadrennial platforms since 1992.

Did not some of these points make the platform a decidedly left-of-center document and thus make the Obama-Biden ticket a target for major assault from the right?

"You know, [the late Louisiana Gov.] Earl Long used to say about the state attorney general, ‘If you want to hide something from Jack, stick it in a lawbook,’" Carville laughed, "If you want to hide something from me, stick it in a party platform. I haven’t the foggiest idea what’s in that thing!"

Pollster Greenberg also weighed in on the platform, saying that party platforms exist "to bring groups along." As for actual governing, however, "they have nothing to do with policy," he said.

Controversy Among Delegates Over Roll Call and Clinton — Will She or Won’t She?

Denver, Col. — On the day of Hillary Clinton’s triumphal address to the Democratic National Convention she had hoped would nominate her for President, supporters of the New York senator were fiercely divided over whether she should permit her name to be placed in nomination for President and a roll of the states polled. Even after Clinton’s speech and warm words about Barack Obama, the Clintonistas were still talking about whether a formal roll call should be taken, with delegations from states casting votes for either senator — even though the outcome has been certain for several weeks and Clinton ended her campaign to endorse Obama.

Clinton herself could put it all to rest by simply asking that the roll not be called. But at least as of Tuesday night, she had given no clue as to what her intentions were. That her supporters discussed it so heatedly today was strong evidence that not all Democrats have fully accepted Obama as the presidential nominee.

Riding Denver’s celebrated "light rail" above-ground subway this morning, I asked two Clinton delegates from Texas whether a roll call would be, as some Obama-backers fear, divisive.

"It’s not what I would consider divisive," Henry Garcia of San Antonio, Texas told me, "Eighteen million voters supported Sen. Clinton. Obama should have at least looked at her as a running mate, So what is wrong with a roll call?"

Was he upset by the choice of Joe Biden rather than Clinton as Obama’s running mate? Garcia, a U.S. Navy veteran who is commander of the San Antonio American Legion, replied: "That will be determined in November. If we fall short a little, yes, I’ll be upset." For now, Garcia said, "Biden was probably Obama’s best bet because of Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience. Obama needed a linebacker, so he drafted Biden."

James Forman, Democratic chairman of Van Zandt (Tex.) County, was riding with Garcia and me to the convention center. As to whether or not there will be a convention roll call, Forman (who was still wearing his "Hillary" button) said: "I’m pledged to vote for Clinton and will do so."

But Freddie Simpson of South Lexington, Kentucky, president of the Maintenance of Way brotherhood in the Teamsters Union, had another view. When I asked whether there should be a convention roll call, the labor leader shot back without hesitation: "No. The party needs to be unified."

Clinton delegate Maria Carter of Gainesville, Florida took a middle view. As we left the Pepsi Center following Sen. Clinton’s address, I asked whether she felt that the candidate she had worked for should have a roll call.

"Whew! That’s a tough one," said Carter, "I really haven’t thought that one out. On the one hand, her supporters are going to be disappointed if there isn’t a roll call. But, on the other hand, I can see where the Obama campaign would be disappointed if there was one." (Carter said she will work vigorously for Obama in the fall).

Leaving the convention after adjournment, I ended the day as I began it: riding the light rail and discussing a roll call. Denver real estate man Henry Strauss, a Hillary Clinton supporter who had backed former California Gov. Jerry Brown for President over Bill Clinton in ’92, tells me: "Sure. There ought to be a roll call. She did win delegates from many states. This is a democratic system — well, an abrogated one anyway."

Romney In Denver: Was Monitor Lunch Audition for Veepship?

Denver, Col. — In his appearance yesterday at the Christian Science Monitor luncheon, Mitt Romney deftly avoided any discussion of whether John McCain has sounded out his one-time nomination rival as a running mate. But, in what is probably his final press forum before McCain reveals his choice of a running mate Friday, Romney appeared relaxed, informed, and hard-hitting. In a sense, he seemed to be auditioning for the role.

Admitting he was "going to sound tacky," one of my colleagues who joined Romney for lunch at the storied Brown Palace Hotel asked the same question that caused McCain so much irritation of late: "How many homes do you have?"

"Four," shot back the former Massachusetts governor and venture capitalist, "One less than John Kerry!" The roomful of cynical reporters roared.

Echoing the theme of the Republican war-room here during the Democratic National Convention, Romney said that Barack Obama was "a fine person, but not ready to be President." He then underscored what is expected to be the McCain team’s playbook against the Democratic nominee: that he would aggravate a sensitive situation in the Middle East by "meeting with the world’s worst actors without conditions;" that running mate Joe Biden "has a record of being wrong on foreign policy as long as his years in office;" that Democrats talking about McCain’s multiple residences opens up Obama to criticism of his neighborhood in Chicago that includes "convicted felon Tony Rezko and [onetime militant Weatherman] Bill Ayers;" that both Democratic ticketmates opposed the surge in Iraq that is proving a successful strategy.

As for his own relationship with McCain and whether they have seriously discussed running together, Romney deftly dismissed any specific reply.

"I have nothing for you on the vice presidential front," Romeny told us.

As to whether he has been "vetted" by Team McCain, the 61-year-old Romney shot back: "I’m not going to get into the process. I could, but I’m not going to."

Insisting that "I’m not here to describe my qualifications for the vice presidency," the onetime Winter Olympics czar heaped praise on erstwhile rival McCain. He called the Arizonan "a fine American," cited "my respect for his service to our country, even though we disagree on some issues," and then said they agreed on "taxes, trading with other nations, and health care." Despite heated debate over how to deal with illegal immigration during their nomination fight, Romney said that he and McCain are now on the same page because McCain now feels "we must secure the border first."

Warmly recalling how he and wife Anne spent a long weekend at the McCains’ Sedona ranch with the senator’s family and friends, Romney said "I would suggest we were friends."

Mayor Daley Still Defends Ex-Weatherman Militant Ayers

Denver, Col. — Despite all the controversy surrounding Barack Obama’s friendship with onetime "Weatherman" militant Bill Ayers, the Democratic nominee’s most powerful political ally in Chicago again refused to disavow or criticize Ayers.

"No, I know Bill Ayers and he’s a good man," Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley told me on the convention floor of the Pepsi Center. He recalled to me how "Bill’s Dad, Tom Ayers, was president of Commonwealth Edison and a good friend of my father’s [Richard J. Daley, mayor of Chicago from 1955-76]."

Now a professor of education at the University of Illinois in Chicago, Bill Ayers was a major figure in the antiwar movement and radical left in the 1960’s. He was a leader of the militant Weathermen faction of the far-left Students for a Democratic Society and, along with wife and fellow New Leftist Bernadine Dohrn, went underground in 1969 and finally resurfaced eleven years later. Ayers has admitted he participated in bombings of New York City Police headquarters in 1970, of the Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972. Ayers also participated in the Days of Rage riots in Chicago in 1970 .

But all of this was dismissed by Daley, who said that "the Vietnam War divided a lot of families. And then we had the death of Robert Kennedy, which really changed things for the worse in politics. It really took about 25 years to get all of that and move on." (While Ayers has written that he was radicalized by the anti-Vietnam movement, many of the militant actions he was involved with such as blowing up a statue that honored Chicago police casualties in 1970 had nothing to do with Vietnam; he and wife Dohrn re-surfaced from years of living under assumed identities only after all federal charges against them were dropped because of prosecutorial misconduct).

The mayor also predicted that the fall campaign "will be about the economy — strictly" and that economic issus would take precedence over national security. Daley also praised the party platyform because it "deals with real urban issues." However, when I asked him what he felt about the party manifesto and it’s strong pro-abortion language. Daley replied "I haven’t read all of it."

We discussed the 1968 Democratic convention in his home city, which Daley attended while a law school student. I recalled how, by less than 100 votes, the convention voted to create a commission to study and change party rules. This, of course, led to the rise in primaries and diminished the political clout of party leaders such as Daley’s father. Was it a mistake for the party to go in this direction with its rules?

"Well, we have primaries and we have a caucus system — it’s so complicated," he told me, "I don’t want to question the system."

RIDGE’S OTHER APOSTACIES

With Ridge reportedly on McCain’s short list for Vice President (along with Lieberman, Mitt Romney, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty), conservatives last week recalled that, in addition to the life issue, they have long had a string of major disagreements with the former Pennsylvania governor and Bush Cabinet member. As HUMAN EVENTS noted when George W. Bush considered him as a running mate (see “No to Ridge,” H.E., May 26, 2000), “Ridge’s ‘moderation’ extends beyond abortion. He opposed the Strategic Defense Initiative, he opposed Contra aid, he opposed defunding the National Endowment for the Arts, he opposed excluding gays from the military, and he supported the Equal Rights Amendment." At the time, we also noted that as a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania from 1982-94, “in nine out of 11 years, the National Taxpayers Union rated him to the left of the average Republican on tax-and-spending issues. The American Conservative Union gave him a lifetime rating of 51% and many times during his 12-year tenure in Congress, his ACU rating dipped into the 30s, territory normally reserved for liberal Democrats.” Supporters of Ridge would offer the excuse that he needed to vote more to the middle to survive politically in the Erie, Pa., district he represented in those years. However, his successor and fellow Republican Phil English has a lifetime ACU rating of 77% and scored 80% in ’06 and 88% in ’05.

Dems Discuss Platform With HUMAN EVENTS — This Is Change?

Denver, Col. — Going down to the convention floor of the Pepsi Center here for the first time Monday, I found Democrats universally content with their party platform. Entitled “Renewing America’s Promise” and actually crafted earlier this month by the Democratic Platform Committee, the party manifesto has been accepted with next-to-debate — certainly not in the choreographed proceedings that will nominate the Obama-Biden ticket.

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley told me that overall, he felt it was a good platform and that while some would disagree with parts of it, Democrats overall would accept it. “I haven’t read it all,” the mayor added.

Daley was being very forthright in admitting this to me. I regretted I didn’t get to ask renegade Republican and former Iowa Rep. James Leach the same question following his convention speech Monday night. Leach, now a Republican for Obama, hailed the platform his candidate is running on as “a call for change” and “a clarion call for renewal.”

Change? Change to what? Renewal? Renewal of what? Pure and simple, this was the standard Democratic call for spending and lots of goodies for more Americans that, more often than not, have characterized Dems’ platforms.

The platform vowed “to provide immediate relief to working people who have lost their jobs, families who have lost their homes, and people who have lost their way.”

“Other language is easier to understand,” wrote syndicated columnist Debra J. Saunders, “Just think dollar signs. Lots of dollar signs.”

She was referring to the energy rebate “that would send $1000 to families to make up for high fuel prices.. . .Seniors win, too. Renewing America’s Promise calls for eliminating income taxes for seniors who make less than $50,000 a year—because ‘every senior deserves to live out their life with dignity and respect.’ (Now they think it’s not dignified to pay taxes).”

“Renewing America’s Promise” goes on to call for “affordable, comprehensive health care” (in shorthand, universal health care). It also endorses “innovative transitional job programs that place unemployed people into temporary jobs and train them for permanent ones,” and twice the present funding for after-school and summer learning programs.

Even some portions of the liberal agenda that have been increasingly questioned by party centrists make it in the final document. As Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama himself express a willingness to consider offshore drilling, the platform does not. Rather, it proclaims that “we can’t drill out way to energy independence” and condemns “the tyranny of oil.” As educators have begun to question the utility of bilingual education and several states have scrapped it in the public schools, the Democratic platform underscores the party’s commitment to “transitional bilingual education.”

And, as has been widely reported, the much-watched party plank on abortion still endorses Roe v. Wade but is even more pro-abortion than before: it supports making abortions “safe and legal”—a departure from the so-called “Bill Clinton language” that has been in the platform since 1992 and called for making abortions “safe, legal, and rare.”

Need I go on?

After many quadrennial conventions in which the Democratic Party did strive to tone down some of the platform language and stands that marked it as a leftist party, the party is again offering its most active members “red meat” and “the real deal.”

Yes, Mayor Daley was at least honest in admitting to me he had not read all of his party’s platform. I suspect there are many centrist Democrats here and throughout the nation who have not read all of it or not read it at all. They should.

Behind Enemy Lines: The GOP Outpost in Denver
GOP Calls Obama "Mile High, Inch Deep"

Denver, Col.–James Carville would have loved it. The Republicans have their own "war room" right in the heart of "enemy territory," the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Soon after arrivng here last night, I dropped by the GOP’s operation, which is dubbed "Not Ready ’08" and greets visitors with a poster of Barack Obama bearing the legend "Mile High, Inch Deep."

No less than twenty-four staffers are manning the Republican outpost in Denver. On a quiet, pre-convention Sunday, four young bloggers led by "blog warrior" Liz Mair busily churn out material on Obama and newly-minted running mate Joe Biden. Tomorrow, a group the Republican operation calls "Discerning Democrats"–former Hillary Clinton supporters who now back John McCain–will meet reporters. During the remaining three days of the Democratic conclave, speeches by Obama, Biden, and other Democrats will be responded to by a star-studded line-up of Republican surrogates: Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, both vice presidential prospects for McCain, and GOP convention keynoter Rudy Giuliani.

"These are great surrogates," Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan told me, noting that the triumvirate of visiting Republican speakers "will develop certain themes" during the four-day Democratic convention. Romney, Pawlenty, and Giuliani will underscore "the clear differences" between McCain and Obama and focus on energy and taxes, according to Duncan.

"You don’t raise taxes during an economic downturn," Duncan observed, "and when it comes to supply and demand on the energy issue, Obama and Biden are focusing too little on supply and too little on demand." He also said that the Democratic ticket’s long-standing opposition to the U.S. action in Iraq was fair game for the GOP.

Carville and Company introduced the "war room" to respond to and attack Republicans back in 1992. It may have taken a little time, but from my visit to the Republican operation in Denver, I concluded that an old dog can ineed learn new tricks.

Duncan to Stay on As RNC Chairman

In past election cycles, the Republican nominee for President names his own operative as chairman of the Republican National Committee. But, in the more recent mold of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and George W. Bush in 2000, John McCain is going to leave the sitting party in place–at least through November.

That’s what Mike Duncan told me yesterday. When I asked if he would stay on as RNC chairman, Kentucky GOPer Duncan replied: "Sure. I was elected." (Under a controversial arrangement put through the RNC by the Bush White House in 2006, Florida Sen. Mel Martinez became "general chairman" of the party and Duncan became full-time chairman; amid growing complaints about the unclear nature of the dual-chairman arrangement, Martinez left the party post after less than a year and Duncan became the lone RNC head).

Actually, Duncan has what he calls a "wonderful working relationship" with McCain and his campaign high command. McCain and his team pointed out that the RNC has outraised the Democratic National Committee by more than $100 million so far–a sharp contrast to the whopping seven-to-one spending advantage that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee now enjoys over its Republican counterpart.

The party leader added that McCain has done an outstanding job in helping the party activists (with whom he has long clashed on issues ranging from illlegal immigration to campaign finance regulation) raise money. According to Duncan, McCain has appeared at "more than 100 events" to raise money for the RNC, state parties, and his own campaign fund.

The news of a Republican apparatus well-funded and in fighting trim comes as McCain is prepared to accept federal matching funds for the fall campaign with the accompanying spending limits. With more than three million small donars nationwide, Obama has waived the federal funding and thus has no limits on what he can spend in the fall.


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