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The Unsinkable Movement.

“There’s something surreal about how fast the GOP has gone from arrogant triumphalism to its death throes. Just yesterday, the GOP’s mighty Titanic was cruising along, its opulent decks lined with fat-cat financiers and neoconservative warmongers, all smoking cigars, drinking champagne and extolling the deathless virtues of their fearless captain. The compliant media issued glowing dispatches. Karl Rove cackled with glee as he plotted out a permanent Republican majority. Then the luxury liner hit an iceberg known as reality…It’s a historic shipwreck, and the American people are diving off the foundering GOP hulk in droves.”

You already know the story by now. Still, at the risk of further wallowing in (highly dangerous pre-election) schadenfreude, here’s another timely obit for the conservative movement, by Salon‘s Gary Kamiya. Now I know that, no matter how good the polls look, linking these sorts of pieces before the returns are in (one week to go!) is a highly dubious proposition, karmically speaking. As Norman Wilson rightly warned Mayor Carcetti of Clay Davis, “You don’t dance on Clay’s grave until you’re sure the motherf**ker’s dead.”

Still, given that the McCain, Palin, and Dubya camps are now all openly shivving each other for spots on the lifeboats — Team McCain has now taken to calling the governor a “diva” and a “whack job,” Palin herself is now apparently eyeing 2012 (ooh, please run!), and everybody is naturally running from Dubya — the Titanic metaphor, however hoary a cliche, seems a safe bet regardless.

Sinking beneath the Wave.

“‘If you turn the clock back two or two and half weeks, you could make a plausible argument that if a couple of things go our way we will lose three to four Senate races,’ said one Republican strategist. ‘Now we will lose six to eight.’” Reeling from both the economic collapse on Wall St. and the ensuing shenanigans surrounding the bailout — which passed on its second try yesterday, despite continued opposition from a majority of the House GOP — the Republicans prepare to be ousted en masse in a month. “Polling in most Senate races over the past 14 days has shown a five-point decline for the Republican candidate, the strategist said.

Update: “‘Before the economic crisis, we had a number of races moving our way,’ said Matthew Miller, communications director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. ‘But now we’re seeing Republican numbers plummet.’ GOP officials largely agree. ” Is 60 in the Senate now in sight?

Round One: Obama by Decision.

“John, you like to pretend like the war started in 2007. The war started in 2003…You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong. You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shia and Sunni. And you were wrong.”

I doubt y’all missed it (even if the ratings were surprisingly low.) Nonetheless, Senators Obama and McCain held their first of three debates Friday night in Mississippi, ostensibly on foreign policy matters (although the economic situation on Wall Street took up the first half-hour.) [Transcript.] And the verdict? Well, to no one’s surprise, I’m going to go with Obama on this one. I’m just not going to pretend to be as fair and balanced as John King, David Gergen, and the other seemingly randomly selected poobahs of our Fourth Estate (who was the Aussie guy holding court next to Christine Amanpour?), who went out of their way on CNN to convince me that McCain seemed knowledgable, spry, and at ease during this event. Nope, I think I’ll side with the polls, which have a cool, level-headed, and magnanimous Sen. Obama winning the event handily.

The thing is, even more than with Sen. Hillary Clinton, whom I agreed with most of the time on the issues even when I disagreed completely with her GOP-lite campaign tactics, I just can’t take John McCain at all seriously at this point, and particularly after both Palin and the non-suspension suspension. So, when McCain tries to tout a career ostensibly spent in the service of congressional ethics, my inelastic brain just keeps thinking “Uh…Keating 5?” Anybody watching the past few years knows that McCain was as AWOL in the fight against Boss DeLay as he has been in countering Dubya these past two terms. And, whatever happened to McCain since 2000, speaking-truth-to-power is not something that comes readily to him anymore, if it ever did. So most of his early “I’m a proven maverick” speel Friday night fell on deaf ears from jump street in this household, and thus I can’t speak to how it might’ve played to those still-undecideds out there willing to buy into his craven sham.

That being said, I had a sense while watching — and the polls seem to bear this out — that McCain was making a critical error with his oft-repeated “Sen. Obama doesn’t understand” routine. That might’ve worked if Obama had seemed greener up there next to McCain, or if Obama was as inarticulate and incompetent as, say, Sarah Palin. But as it was, Sen. Obama came across as unruffled, competent, and conversant on all the issues the mythical maverick tried to paint him as naive on (and/or lie about.) And thus the strategy (or was it a tactic?), imho, backfired massively. Instead, McCain — missing the soft touch of Ronald Reagan, who turned age to his advantage against Mondale in 1984 with a joke and a smile — basically came across as a cantankerous old coot, dripping with undeserved contempt toward that damn whippersnapper in his yard.

It’s mainly for this reason that I think, however much the debate is being painted as a draw by the punditariat, Obama came out the clear victor: Sen. Obama did not seem callow or inexperienced in the slightest, but lordy did McCain — squinting, smirking, and drowning in derision — come across as aged. And I may be wrong about this, but I just don’t think the Old Man Withers strategy plays with the undecides. I know that many lefties out there wanted to see a more forceful Obama on the attack Friday night, but I don’t think that was his mission: It was more important that he, like Kennedy in 1960, seemed presidential, level-headed, and the very opposite of the risky gamble that the McCain folks would try to make him seem. In that, I think, he succeeded, particularly in contrast to the snarky old man standing across from him. Advantage Obama.

And here’s that bounce…

“‘The Republicans had a very successful convention [sic] and, at least initially, the selection of Sarah Palin has made a big difference,’ says political scientist Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. ‘He’s in a far better position than his people imagined he would be in at this point.’” As I noted over the weekend, you just can’t stop the post-convention bounce…Sad to say, some folks just like buyin’ whatever’s being sold, I guess. In any case, today’s Gallup polling has either McCain/Palin up 10 (USA Today/Gallup) (up 4 with registered voters) or up 3 (Daily Tracker). And, though this could be taken as good news if he maintains his recent record, Zogby also has McCain/Palin up 4.

Yikes. Still, I really wouldn’t worry about a little post-RNC turbulence just yet. Even before you factor in the huge problems with assessing “likely voters” this cycle, throw in the pollsters’ overreliance on landlines (and subsequent undercounting of Obama support), and look at the very favorable state-by-state breakdowns for us, these post-convention bumps are fickle creatures. Ask Presidents Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry. “[I]n an analysis of the impact of political conventions since 1960, Sabato concluded that post-convention polls signal the election’s outcome only about half the time. ‘You could flip a coin and be about as predictive,’ he says. ‘It is really surprising how quickly convention memories fade.’

So, don’t fret. We’ll sail through these choppy waters yet, folks. Update: Put another way… (Via MLR.)

Update 2: And, just like that, it’s gone.

Upon a Palin Horse.

“As one McCain aide put it: “We either get Hillary’s voters and we win, or we don’t. It’s not a mystery.” In a move that reeks of desperate Hail Mary strategizing (and, to my mind, grossly overestimates the potential PUMA vote in this country), John McCain chooses Alaska governor Sarah Palin, a woman he’d barely spoken to before yesterday, as his running mate. (I was flying back from Denver when the news hit, and it’s safe to say the selection of “Geraldine Quayle” was met with general jubilation throughout the plane.)

Basically, I think Sarah Palin is a wonderful pick…for the Democrats. Palin may have been an excellent governor over the past year — who knows? — but she’s an astoundingly poor choice for vice-president, worse even than Dan Quayle in the sheer tactical transparency of it. And I have every suspicion this gambit will backfire massively. To my mind, picking a running mate whose only obvious asset to the ticket is her second X-chromosome, and thinking that her sheer presence alone will somehow bring women to vote for McCain in droves, is not only a deeply sexist notion, it’s patently idiotic. (Just ask Walter Mondale how well the any-female-we-can-find strategy works.)

Her femininity aside — and, let’s be clear, that’s obviously why McCain picked her, unless (I say this as a short man myself) he just wanted a veep smaller than him — here’s a candidate who [a] mayored a town of 7000 people — college campus presidents have done more heavy lifting, [b] has been the GOP governor, for less than two years, of a state widely known to be a sinkhole of Republican corruption, [c] has her own ready-made scandal attached vis a vis this illegal firing of her ex-brother-in-law, [d] is a pro-life, creationist supporter of Pat Buchanan, and [e] has admitted earlier this month she didn’t even know what McCain’s stance on Iraq is. Now, that type of blatant ignorance may be what the GOP wants from their voters, but it’s damn sure not what voters want from their presidential tickets.

One has to wonder: If the McCain campaign was going to stake everything on such a pathetically obvious gambit for the PUMA vote, why didn’t they just pick Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who also has the advantage of actually being qualified for the job? Well, apparently Sen. Hutchison wasn’t sufficiently pro-life enough to fend off the fundies. So Team McCain had to venture all the way north of the border to find a pro-lifer up to snuff for the evangelical crazies…but don’t worry, he’s still a maverick independent and everything.

At any rate, because it’s so dead on, here’s the quality reaction of a MeFi’er, August Pollak, QFT. [Birddogged by WebGoddess.]

Oh my god, really?

Really?

Look, to be fair, I was halfway through a post last night on my own site about how ridiculous I though all the hard-right Freepers/Cornerites/etc. were harping about Palin. She was basically their new Fred Thompson. But I am seriously dumbfounded that they would have been this stupid.

Don’t get me wrong, on a PR level this is masterful for McCain. He’s killed all the momentum and press coverage about Obama’s amazing speech last night. So I really am amazed they think that one shot at gaining the press advantage was worth the most unbelievably inept VP pick I could have possibly imagined.

Forget even among fields of conservatives in general: is anyone from the McCain camp going to make a convincing case that Palin is remotely close to the most qualified woman in the GOP to be a heartbeat away from taking over a guy who turns 72 today and has a history of cancer? She has been governor- for 18 months- of a state with a population smaller than Obama’s state senate district in Illinois. Her previous office was the mayor of an Alaskan town with a population smaller than 3,000 people. At the very minimum, Obama has sat in on foreign policy sessions and dealt with national and international issues on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Palin has no foreign policy experience. This is literally one step above giving the slot to the winner of a game show.

So in what I can only perceive as a complete fit of insanity, McCain has decided to destroy with one pick the three talking points he had as an advantage over Obama:

Experience: She has none. Palin is utterly unqualified to be president of the U.S. Senate, let alone the country should anything befall McCain.

Celebrity: She’s a former beauty pageant winner who’s done multiple cover shoots for fashion and culture magazines and her claim to fame is being the subject of an article titled “America’s Hottest Governor.” There will be more talk about how she’s attractive than her actual policy credentials. Her gender, in light of her utter political weakness, will be seen blatantly- and rightly- as the novelty McCain picked it for. There is no clearer a celebrity pick for McCain than this one.

Moderate Female Voters: Putting aside for a moment that she’s outrageously anti-choice, if McCain truly believes that what really appeals to middle-age working-class white women is a younger, prettier, but amazingly less-qualified woman getting the promotion that Hillary Clinton didn’t, then I can’t really reflect any greater how utterly deaf to the interests of women the Republican Party is.

Jesus tap-dancing Christ. If McCain wanted a former beauty queen with no experience and a criminal investigation on her record I don’t know why he didn’t just pick his own wife.

Zing.

Update: Rasmussen has the first post-Palin poll, and it seems a gender gap has already emerged — Women aren’t really buying it. “These numbers pretty much speak for themselves, but men have a favorable impression of Palin by a 35-point margin, whereas women have a favorable impression of her by an 18-point margin. Conversely, by a 23-point margin, women do not think Palin is ready to be President, whereas Palin lost this question among men by a considerably smaller 6-point margin.” [Via Firedoglake.]

Baked Alaskan.

“‘I’m not a big fan of the prosecution’s charges, but I think he’s got some ethical issues that put a cloud over him,’ Stibitz said. ‘So, I’d probably go with Begich.’” Thank you, Alaska Republicans: Embattled Senator Ted Stevens — he of the recent indictments — has managed to win the GOP primary in Alaska, meaning he’ll face off against popular Anchorage mayor Mark Begich in November, and — if the polls bear out — will likely lose. From what I gather, almost any other Republican candidate could’ve probably held the seat in this predominantly GOP state, so this is good news for us.

Echoes of the Spring.

“‘The most important thing we learned is this: Hillary Clinton won 8 of the last 13 primaries,’ said Steve Schmidt, Mr. McCain’s top strategist. ‘He is beatable.'” Facing an uphill battle against Sen. Obama, John McCain takes several pages from the Clinton playbook. Well, thanks much for pre-plowing that road, Senator. I don’t think it’ll make much difference in the end, whatever the polls say at the moment, but we might as well make the GOP work for a strategy next time.

In related news, Bill Clinton still seems stuck in a moment he can’t get out of. “‘I am not a racist,’ he continued. ‘I’ve never made a racist comment and I never attacked him [Obama] personally.’” Uh, riiight. Tell you what, Mr. President: We’ll forgive you if you just stop insulting our intelligence about it.

Update: He’s still picking at the scab. “‘You can argue that nobody is ready to be President,’ the former President told ABC News.

Into the Memory Hole. | For the Record.

“‘She’s no longer campaigning for president,’ said Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee. ‘She’s focused on her work in the Senate, campaigning for Senator Obama and other Democrats.’” With the Dems back on the same team, the Clinton campaign scrubs its website of anti-Obama material from the primary era. As such, this seems as good a time as any to definitively put to rest these Penn-inspired primary fictions as well:

  • Sen. Obama won’t be able to compete in crucial swing states.“: He’s currently up in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, as well as Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Iowa, and Virginia…and does Montana count?

  • Sen. Obama can’t even win the big Dem states“: The most recent polls have Obama up 28 in California and up 20 in New York.

  • Sen. Obama has a ‘Latino problem’“: Obama currently beats McCain by 30 among Hispanics, 59%-29%. (This is already better than Kerry in 2004.)

    So R.I.P., goofy primary reasoning. You won’t be missed.

  • The bygones are bygones.

    “We cannot let this moment slip away,’ Clinton pressed. “‘For anyone who voted for me and who is now considering not voting, or voting for Sen. McCain, I strongly urge you to reconsider. I urge you to remember what we are standing for in this election.‘” In the aptly-named town of Unity, NH, Sen. Clinton campaigns with Sen. Obama. (They’ve also now maxed out donations to each other, and Obama continues to hire senior Clinton staff.)

    In not-unrelated news, new polls put Wisconsin (+13) and Minnesota (+17) pretty firmly in the lean-Obama column. Says CNN: “The Illinois senator now has 231 electoral votes — 39 shy of winning the presidency,” and that’s not counting OH, FL, CO, NM, VA, or IA…all states we have a solid shot of picking up. Again, I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’m feeling pretty confident about our prospects these days.

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