ENPR: Grim Picture for McCain
Outlook: The picture is as grim for Sen. John McCain and Republicans as it is for the U.S. financial sector. If the election were today, Sen. Barack Obama would win in a blowout, with huge coattails at the Senate and House level.
- Fairly or not, the GOP and McCain are bearing the blame for the economy, which right now is more terrifying than horrible for most people. That is, fear about the future is far deeper and more widespread than actual economic suffering.
- McCain is not the only Republican falling in the polls. On the Senate side, the competitive races have all taken a turn towards the Democrats, and previously favored Republicans have fallen behind in recent polls. Once safe GOP senators now look endangered. Already 2008 was looking bad, but, after the last few weeks, this will be another 2006 unless Republicans somehow turn things around.
- It’s not simply anti-incumbent sentiment dragging down Republicans, either. Vulnerable freshmen House Democrats have seen their poll numbers improve along with Obama’s. Democratic House gains, which we predicted last week to be a mere 6 seats, could reach 20 seats if things keep going the way they are now.
Overview: Obama, who has been the slight favorite since clinching the nomination, is now the odds-on favorite in an election about to take a turn for the ugly.
- Republicans may have made a devastating mistake in nominating McCain, whose lack of clarity, conviction, and understanding on the economy has handed the Democrats a win on this issue, where a more economically savvy Republican could have won the day.
- Obama is poised to win with a clear mandate for his broad message of regulating the economy. McCain has not forced Obama to give specifics — either on which regulations were "shredded" by Republicans and caused this downturn, or on what sort of new regulations Obama wants to create.
- All is not lost for the GOP, though. The election is four weeks away, and anything can happen in that time. Just what could happen to save McCain and stem the GOP losses, though, is hard to imagine right now.
- McCain’s campaign was foolishly honest — and correct — in admitting that they need to change the subject away from the economy. Today, that looks like a long shot.
- McCain campaign staffers, before the current troubles, expressed frustration that their efforts to focus on issues like Social Security, spending, judges, and national security got nowhere with a media entranced with Obama’s charisma and personality. They concluded that they need to pierce the myth of the Obamessiah in order to have a chance. That conclusion is even more true today.
- The efforts by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to focus on Obama’s alliance with unrepentant radical terrorist Bill Ayers could presage the McCain campaign’s late tack.
- Judging by current polls, Obama would win today in an Electoral College blowout, beating McCain by about 100 electoral votes. As always, though, anywhere both candidates are below 50%, McCain has a very strong shot, even if Obama is ahead.
- McCain is lucky the election is not today. A comeback should not be ruled out.
Presidential Debate: Tuesday night’s townhall-style presidential debate was a bust for McCain, who needed a win to shift momentum.
- Once again, the most important dynamic was Obama’s superior confidence and clarity on economic issues. Obama repeatedly hit McCain and the GOP for deregulation, and McCain never challenged him on the issue, instead offering what came across as a weaker me-too argument. Unless the campaign is willing to invest a great deal of time in explaining it in understandable terms, Fannie Mae is too arcane an issue to run on.
- McCain’s talk of drilling and cutting taxes sounded irrelevant amid today’s plunging stocks, bankrupt banks, promises of economic doom, and foreclosure crises. These easy GOP salves don’t work today.
- Regulation, regulation, regulation. Obama’s boldness and consistency in calling for more regulation was striking. He’s in tune with his party on this score. Democrats haven’t sounded so interventionist since Walter Mondale.
- Where McCain did hit back in the economic realm was on health-care, assailing Obama’s promised fines and mandates, deriding "government-run healthcare."
- On foreign policy, it was a draw. The McCain campaign continues to overplay the arcane-sounding issue of Obama’s willingness to meet with foreign despots "without precondition." This time, rather than descend into the weeds as he usually does, Obama dismissed the issue.
- On style, Obama won hands down in a format that was supposed to favor McCain. Where Obama displayed his mastery in showing sympathy (he feels your pain) and came across as serious, McCain often was awkward, sounding out of breath as he paced the stage, and looking creepy when he smiled.
Vice Presidential Debate: The Republican highlight of the past week, Sarah Palin put in a strong performance, shattering expectations. Just as noteworthy, Sen. Joe Biden did not make a fool of himself.
- Palin was clear, confident, and relaxed, and she never appeared to be in over her head. On the economy, she was clearer than McCain, hitting Obama and Biden for advocating "redistribution" of wealth as well as "government-run" healthcare. Still, she called for more "sound oversight" of the economy.
- Biden, like Obama, hammered away on the need for more regulation.
- On foreign policy, Palin was not impressive, but nor was she embarrassing as Democrats had hoped and Republicans had feared. Biden, meanwhile, showed his competence on the issue.
- The Biden-Palin matchup was more substantive than either of the presidential contests so far.
Louisiana-2: In a change from past practice, Louisiana held party primaries over the weekend. Rep. Bill Jefferson (D), under indictment for bribery, finished first with an anemic 25%, forcing him into a runoff with runner-up Helena Moreno (D) who garnered 20% of the vote.
The runoff will be Election Day, November 4, and the general election will be December 6. In Moreno’s favor, 75% of the primary electorate voted against the incumbent. In Jefferson’s favor, Moreno is white. The winner of the Democratic primary will win the general election.
Louisiana-4: Former Webster Parish Coroner John Fleming (R) and trucking company executive Chris Gorman (R) will face off in the November 4 GOP primary, while the Democratic contest will feature attorneys Willie Banks (D) and Don Carmouche (D). The winners face off in December in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Jim McCrery (R). The district leans Republican but could be in play.