I recently attended a speech by the American Thinker's Richard Baehr on the topic of the Presidential race. First reaction: few commentators I've heard combine such an amazing political acumen with an equally incredible sense of humor. I've cleaned up the notes that were captured on-the-fly and -- hopefully -- they reflect the 90 minutes Baehr spent with a mesmerized audience.
I was in Denver Monday for a panel discussion... I invoked the mandatory three-shower rule after being in Denver.
Tonight, I'll discuss the state of race, where it's going, what's happening in the next two weeks, and then the debates. If McCain's a little ahead before the debates, it's his to lose. If he does well in the debates, it could be over.
This is very surprising because of the Democratic spending advantage. The Democrats had a huge setback with the Joe Biden pick... it is the first time in history that a VP pick didn't result in a bump... Obama actually dropped three points in the polls after Biden was named.
There are a lot of angry women in Denver... a lot of disappointed women. McCain has an opening. We're very lucky to have Obama as the candidate.
Hillary would have been much stronger in OH, WV, AR, etc.
I feel much better about the election than I have in the last six months. Every day, go to RCP site to see two polls, Gallup and Rasmussen. Three days into the Democratic convention and we're basically even.
After the DNC finishes, Obama will be up by 5 points or more, but that's expected. The GOP convention follows immediately, which is unique. The GOP should also get a VP selection that results in a bump.
The general reaction to Biden: Hillary got snubbed. And adding Biden for his "foreign policy expertise" (which is the President's call anyhow), accentuates the fact that Obama's weak on foreign policy.
Also: Biden doesn't wear well. The most dangerous place to be is between a camera and Joe Biden.
The Democratic convention's flames won't work: painting McCain as Bush is a non-starter. Everyone knows McCain has disagreed with Bush on substantive issues... "maverick" is a legitimate label. A lot of GOP folks didn't like McCain, but that's a good thing for this election. McCain has a lot of strength among independents.
There is a racial undercurrent to this election that's important to talk about. Obama's campaign has been behind this. You may have seen the Jacob Weisberg column in Slate... it's an outrageous column that argues "If Obama Loses... Racism is the only reason McCain might beat him."
But it's Obama's that keeps emphasizing, "I know I have a funny name... not a face you see on the dollar bills..." These are psychological operations trying to make you feel guilty for not being in his camp.
That's why Obama did better in caucus states. In states with a secret ballot, Hillary won 7 of 8 largest states. When you have to vote in public, no one wanted to be painted as the "racist". And lots of people aren't talking to pollsters... the number of undecideds is double those in 2004 at the same stage of the race.
The National Journal has Obama zero-rated for most liberal, Biden at three.
Why are there so many undecideds? It's likely because there's a pretty good vote lurking for McCain. People are concerned about perceptions... the media tells us we are voting for racial harmony. But that's not true, we're voting for a president.
The Electoral College... between 2000 and 2004 the red/blue maps of the states were nearly identical with only three states shifting. In each of these elections, four states were decided by 10,000 or fewer votes.
A tie in the Electoral College will be a loss for us this year, because the election then goes to the House and each state has one vote. Obama wins in the House if there is a tie.
Thus, the GOP needs 270, but the Democrats only need 269. Interestingly, you can find many combinations to get to 269.
My main concern until about a month ago was that more red states were in play, but that's changed. Some states that looked competitive are now leaning GOP: FL, NC, IN. If the Democrats had picked Bayh, IN would have been in play. Remember, Obama has never run anything, and neither has Biden (except his mouth)
The leading GOP VP choices are Pawlenty or Romney, both governors. Romney ran the Olympics, a very successful business, and a state (MA). Pawlenty helps in MN. And maybe in WI. I would guess Pawlenty... especially since the Democrats bagged their pick with Biden. The Republicans have a free pick. Romney would help in MI, NH and NV... there are a lot of Mormons in NV.
Obama's got an army trying to register voters. But people can get annoyed being harrassed. Recall that Obama outspent Hillary 3:1 in PA, but beyond a certain point people don't want to hear it.
And regarding William Ayers and Rev. Wright... Wright's coming out with a book in October... thank you, Lord. I think he's angry at Obama for being dissed after 18 years of counseling the younger man.
Which states should the GOP worry about?
IA: Only one red state in Obama camp.
NM: Obama has small lead, but McCain is a very friendly candidate for Hispanics.
NV: all Unions endorsed Obama, but Hillary won the caucus. Las Vegas and Atlanta have the two fastest growing Jewish populations.
FL: there's a significant shift in the Jewish vote (they have a high propensity to vote and because of that they represent 3% of the vote nationally and 6-7% of the vote in Florida!). In that state, the old Democrat 80 - GOP 20 shifts to 60-40 among the Jewish vote. Note that McCain is up 4-7 in FL in various surveys and Obama stopped running ads in Florida this week.
Jewish Democrats are panicked... Florida most of all... they see the Jewish vote dropping off. There is potential for a sea-change in the Jewish community. But it doesn't necessarily mean any permanent changes.
Most Jews will continue to vote Democratic until Eleanor Roosevelt dies.
CO - Tough state
VA - Voted GOP since '64, but becoming bluer. More comfortable about VA than CO. Polls a show small edge for McCain.
OH - could be a tough state for Obama; could be close, Dems will have huge push; the instant registration/vote scam could hurt, but Obama will have major issues. One Democratic insider told me that Obama is "underperforming in all areas, including the elderly." Let 'em keep dissing McCain as too old.
MI - real opportunity; it's basically a third-world state because the economy is hurting bad. There are boarded up buildings all over the place, 8.5% unemployment. Kwame has a few problems; and the Governor has lower approval rating than Bush. Also Union guys normally vote Democrat, but I'm not sure that's going to happen this year. It's 17 electoral votes, so it's big. Note that the Dem pundits are writing about how to win without OH... but if the GOP picks up MI...
On the Jewish vote, which will be critical: in 2004, it was 75%-24% for Kerry. The biggest concerns for Jews are separation of church and state, having a pro-life candidate, and being pro-Israel. Very liberal orientation.
Among Democratic Jews in Denver, the top three issues were: abortion, reproductive rights and Roe v. Wade.
But Iran is the real issue. Do you really think that Obama would allow Israel to overfly Iraq? Jews should have learned by now to take seriously the words of madmen.
Any sensible person knows that Roe vs. Wade is safe because Democrats will still control the Judiciary. You're dreaming if you think abortion rights are in danger. What is in danger is Israel.
In Illinois [Baehr is from Chicago], we have a little background on Obama. On Israel, he has an odd record...
His close friends included Rashid Khalidi (who said that suicide bombers are legitimate)... Ali Abuminah... Edward Said... Bill Ayers (unremittingly hostile to Israel - six black kids grew up without fathers because of a Weather Underground armored car robbery). Ayers' father was head of Commonwealth Edison... and he got off on basically a procedural issue.
Now Ayers is an academic and stresses less math and reading, more social justice.
Obama and Ayers served on boards together. I know one of Obama's neighbors, he got into a discussion with Obama about the Middle East before he ran for the Senate in 2004. He said he argued his case, and Obama argued his. Obama was sympathetic to the Palestinian.
Remember, Obama grew up in a Communist household, and always favors the weak over the strong. In that mindset, Israel's the strong party; the Palestinians are the weak party.
In 2004, when Israel responded to suicide bombers from West Bank with a security barrier, Obama gave a speech to tear down walls, not build them up. This year in Iowa, he said no one had suffered more from Palestinians... How about Darfur? If the Israelis are such despots, why has the Palestinian population quintupled? Not that Obama doesn't talk about Darfur.
Obama also said that being pro-Israel doesn't mean being pro-Likkud. Doesn't Israel get to choose its own party? What if Bibi Netanyahu wins the election? Why would Obama interfere? It's revealing... would a President Obama not work with Bibi?
One story and one comparison:
Iraq's a big issue. McCain said he'd rather win a war than lose an election... turns out he was right and Obama was wrong. And Joe Biden was with McCain a few years ago calling for more troops.
If we'd followed Obama's guidance, Iran and Al-Qaeda would control Iraq.
Last month there were 5 combat deaths in Iraq. There more among our troops serving in Germany and Korea.
When MoveOn.org ran that outrageous "General Betray-us" ad, over 95 senators voted to condemn it. A few abstained and Obama was one that did abstain! With Obama, politics always come higher than decency. How will Obama be able to look any serviceman or woman in the eye -- and pretend to be a commander-in-chief -- when he did that?
Conversely, McCain is respected by the military more than anyone since Ike. He has had three kids in the military and one in Iraq. His kids are the fourth family generation in the US Naval Academy.
[At this point Baehr concluded his speech to rousing applause and then took questions]
Q: The two polls that you use (Gallup/Rasmussen): are they really accurate?
A: They use very different methods... it's a very difficult year to poll. Americans' use of phones is so different. Cellphones are becoming very common... two groups are becoming cell-phone only (African-Americans and Americans under 30). There's a possibility for a bias there, so companies that do surveys are therefore changing percentages of the pool to compensate.
Q: Your evaluation of Hillary's speech vis a vis Obama?
A: I turned to MSNBC and they said it was a "Home Run"; turned to Fox and Chris Wallace said she did okay. Others thought she did the minimum she could do. She said nothing about Obama as commander-in-chief; nothing about the break-through represented by an African-American candidate... and a tepid comment about Biden. If she were in a tossup state, she'd be voting for McCain. She is much more disciplined than Bill... a much harder worker than Obama. Clearly if Obama doesn't win, she's back in 2012 and she'd tell the party "don't blow it again." If Obama loses, he'll be back too, he's a young man.
Q: Given Obama's money, how about concern around voter fraud?
A: Interesting story this week, Obama's campaign corrected a filing regarding ACORN, which has had voter fraud issues. ACORN was paid $800K for "advance work" for a few campaign events. But if you examine 1250 campaign events, you'll find the average expenditure to be $450. What the heck was the near $100K per event for ACORN events? Obama has already signalled that there will be walking-around money. But I'm more concerned about Wisconsin-type registration scams.
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