It's an unusually slow news period, even as weekends go--presumably because both sides are holding back their A-list material to allow the general public to recharge their appetites a little. (And is it just me, or does it seem as though the Beijing opening ceremonies took place, like, two years ago?) In the meantime, however, a wide assortment of "B-list" material out there has managed to gather into something not unlike an A-list story by its implication: The Republicans are in far deeper trouble in this election than a casual glance at the polling data would suggest.
To begin with we have the daily tracking polls, which show a slight bounce compared with yesterday's--in the wrong direction, an Obama advantage that rests between 49-46, according to Rassmussen, and 49-46 according to Gallup. A very reasonable (if not particularly palatable for McCain) explanation is that the Thursday night acceptance speech actually lost him votes. If true, there would be very little wiggle-room with which McCain could make additional mistakes this fall, to say the least.
Then there is the latest eruption of Alaska-sized baggage for the McCain team, this time in the form of an as-yet unquoted story documenting Governor Palin as an avowed racist. According to the story now making the rounds, when told in a public restaurant in Juneau that Senator Obama had secured the nomination of his party, Governor Palin's Christian-Evangelical upbringing apparently inspired her to shout, "So Sambo beat the bitch, huh?"
Then we have this story of the continued voter-registration drive in Virginia, which continues apace and is expected to sign-up at least the equivalent of George Bush's 2004 margin in the state, in new voters alone. And that's not counting all the demographics-induced influx of blue, the flips borne of disgust, or the many Bush '04 voters who will continue to identify themselves as Republicans and continue to vote for Republicans down-ticket, but will withhold their support from Senator McCain for President. Virginia certainly doesn't have to tip blue, even in front of the cumulative pressure of all of these electric-blue influences, but taken at eye-level the state would seem to present a difficult (not to say expensive) challenge for McCain's ability to pay defense.
Meanwhile, from a television studio someplace just this side of hell, a certain Bill O'Reilly has published a column in which he appears to have been comprehensively impressed with Barack Obama. "Like him or not," O'Reilly's opening statement begins, "you have to give Barack Obama credit for waging a smart, focused campaign." He goes on to say, "After going mano-a-mano with Obama on television, I am also persuaded that he is a sincere guy—that he wants the best for all Americans. He's an ideologue, but not a blind one." This goes to show why Barack Obama is on the inside-track to becoming our next President, while this author is teaching community college: Less than a week ago, The Key Grip was predicting that the O'Reilly interview would be horrendous mistake, precisely because it had no potential up-side. Now it appears as though the up-side, as inconceivable though it may be, is that Senator Obama thoroughly charmed and impressed none other than the Devil-incarnate's under-butler, Bill O'Reilly.
If the Obama people aren't already putting the finishing touches on a commercial that quotes this piece, they certainly should be.
The Sarah Palin saga continues to unfold, naturally--with the most-anticipated development being the release of the Enquirer article (that didn't actually say much that was new, aside from insinuating that Palin is still conducting an extramarital affair with her husband's former business partner, and suggesting that the timing of the Bristol-is-pregnant announcement resulted at least in part from a bitter power struggle between the Governor and her daughter). The far more interesting coda to this round of Palin incoming, at least from this column's perspective, comes in the form of a reply that The Key Grip received to an e-mail he sent directly to the author of the article, urging that certain other allegations be pressed and not forgotten. The entire text of the reply from that journalist is as follows:
Dave. Thank you for writing. At present the Enquirer has seven full-time reporters and nine paid freelancers in Alaska, looking into any number of aspects of the Sarah Palin story.
....To which we say, this may represent news to the McCain campaign--but it certainly can't be good news. Certainly if there is a shred of truth to any of the so-far unconfirmed stories about Palin, ranging from the true maternity of Trigg, at one unsavory extreme, to Palin's apparent penchant for profoundly un-Christian racial epithet, at the other, that truth cannot be far from the grasp of an army of cash-for-quote reporters, combing a sparsely populous and notoriously inbred state. There is even a story suggesting that Youtube will soon feature a video of Governor Palin, making a repeat appearance at the same church where she recently told the parishioners they should pray to Jesus for a pipeline, only this time Palin will reportedly be shown speaking in tongues. As this author has mused on more than one occasion in the past, you really can't make stuff like this up.
Speaking of Governor Palin (something this column has never done before, right?), there is a damning article about Senator McCain's choice for VP appearing today in the on-line commentary of none other than David Frum, the head speechwriter in the first term of the George W. Bush Administration. Among his many Palin-dampening pleas:
"I am not denying that Sarah Palin may have great skills. She may well. I am insisting that neither you, nor I, nor John McCain has any valid reason to believe that she does. This is not an argument about the attributes she lacks. It's an argument about the information we lack. I am pleading with my fellow conservatives: Please demand more and better knowledge before you commit yourselves to a political leader. That's all."
...That's probably enough, Mr. Frum, dont'cha think? Well, apparently not: It happens that, at essentially the same moment as he was questioning our ability to pass an informed judgment on Governor Palin as a potential (Vice-) President, Mr. Frum was also pubishing a column in the New York Times, lamenting the inexorable tide of Democratic advantage in party identification and new registrees. At this point it's not obvious what Frum's motives are, viewed in toto like this, but it would seem he's either frustrated with the ineptitude of the McCain candidacy, frustrated with his own foot-soldiers' lack of urgency to keep the boogeyman Obama out of the Oval Office, or both. Probably, it's both, to which we are left to wonder, how could any of this be helping the cause of his own ticket?
Across the aisle, the Obama camp has stiffened its reaction to the whole "change" mantra that the Republican slate so cynically and so calculatingly presumed to wrest away from the Democrats at their preposterous little hate-in last week--notably by pointing out that McCain's team consists of no fewer than twenty-seven paid professional lobbyists working at the very heart of his campaign. It seems unlikely that even a credulous American public will fail to grasp the emptiness of a promise to chase lobbyists from Washington from a man who's stacked his own deck with them. Particularly when that man's opponent is unafraid to call attention to it.
Obama also took yesterday as his first opportunity to hit back at Palin's ridiculous claim to the mantle of a reformer, pointing out for the first time in his own campaign remarks that Palin cannot possibly presume to have opposed earmarks, after working so tirelessly and so shamelessly to secure them for her hometown and later for her state. "You can't just make stuff up," said Obama, in language that could hardly be improved upon with soaring rhetoric and a team of speechwriters.
It was a common-touch argument, delivered with a common-touch, and it works precisely because it gets at the heart of what undecided voters want to believe about Republicans in the first place--something the Republicans always seem so much better at (viz, calling John Kerry an opportunist who will say whatever is popular at the moment). Speaking only for himself, it does the Key Grip's heart a lot of good to see a Democrat who is unafraid to use the same, elbows-out technique of speaking to the middle about their own deep-seated suspicions about the other guy. It's always been effective; now its going to be effective in favor of the good guys, for a change.
Another heart-warmingly unusual aspect of this year's election cycle is the sudden reversal of political identification among members of the military. Whereas the men and women in uniform could in the past always be counted upon to reliably (not to say unfathomably) cast their votes for the Chicken-Hawks whose campaign platforms consisted largely of having those same servicemen slaughtered wholesale in the farthest corners of the globe for no apparent reason, this time around the armed forces seem to have awoken to the personal contradiction of such a stance, and are now breaking for Senator Obama by a positively stupefying six-to-one margin.
Surely many of those servicemen will be forcibly disenfranchised by their commanding officers in the field, owing to a little-publicized and horrific change in recent law, that allows them to cast their vote by e-mail (or, more likely, allows someone else to cast it for them), but, just as surely, the CO's will not succeed in disenfranchising them all--which on net is sure to provide an enormous updraft for Senator Obama. Even a few votes that manage to sneak through such an anti-democratic screen could make the difference in Virginia and/or Florida, both of them juicy electoral prizes with strong military contingents, both of them in play, and both of them states without which McCain simply cannot win the White House.
And finally there is the touching news that Robert Novak will wax sentimental and gracious in his forthcoming book, written as he spins out the last of his tumor-shortened days on this coil. For those who can't bear the idea of crossing the palm of one of the original hate-and-switch bullies, even now that we are assured of being rid of him in a few short months, you will perhaps forgive the publication of a handy condensed version of the entire book, here:
"Ladies and gentlemen, now that it has become abundantly clear that I will be going to hell in the very near future, I've decided the time is right to start being nice to everybody.
Stay tuned--the Palin-affair story will hit the Monday news cycle like a category-four hurricane, and we may all expect a significant round of new state-level polling to be released in the next twelve to twenty-four hours, too. If McCain is not polling over 270 by Wednesday, his situation will begin to drift from grim to bleak--as potential donors begin abandoning the sinking ship to save their pennies for another fight. In other words, this could well be the weak that seals the deal on the 2008 Presidential election.
("The Key Grip")