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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

John McCain lost control of the Republican Party this week and Democrats should make sure the voters know it.

There is usually a division of labor between the “positive” Presidential candidate and the “attack dog” Vice-President and other surrogates in a political convention – but this was downright ridiculous.
As today’s New York Times editorial says “Rather than remaking George W. Bush’s Republican Party in his own image, Mr. McCain allowed the practitioners of the politics of fear and division to run the show…he has decided he can have it both ways. He can talk loftily bipartisanship and allow his team to savage his opponents.”
In fact, the contrast between Wednesday night and Thursday night was so stark that the only real question is now whether McCain could actually still control the Republican Party even if he wanted to. Is it really his Party or Sarah Palin’s?
Democrats should quickly and energetically press this question – specifically in speaking to moderate and undecided voters. Is the real Republican Party “nice-guy” John McCain or conservative culture warrior Sarah Palin?
To get the ball started, here are a few ways this challenge can be presented in brief, sound-bite fashion.

“The McCain – Palin ticket offers a ‘Choice, not an Echo’ – and that’s just between the two of them”.
“Maybe McCain should demand a special debate – with Sarah Palin.”
“It sounds to me like John McCain disagrees with Sarah Palin more than he does with Barack Obama”
“Voting Republican will be hard this November – you’ll never know which Republican Party you’re voting for – John McCain’s or Sarah Palin’s.”
Refresh my memory, did McCain pick Palin or did Palin pick McCain?
“The most decent things McCain said on Thursday night would have gotten more applause in Denver then they did in St. Paul…….. and some of the worst things the Republicans said on Wednesday night could have been directly applied to some of the most decent things McCain said on Thursday night.”
“When McCain promised to attack corruption, the audience wasn’t sure whether to cheer or boo…and when McCain praised bi-partisanship the audience knew exactly whether they wanted to cheer or boo, but they also remembered that they were on TV.”
“Why is the Republican Party like The Incredible Hulk? — because you don’t want to see it when it’s angry.”

5 comments on “John McCain lost control of the Republican Party this week and Democrats should make sure the voters know it.

  1. BarryOR on

    I’m not sure that “most people” are that extreme. For sure, those that are appear pretty scary and I don’t think any amount of persuasion is going to change them. However the people in the mountain states or the Midwest that voted Republican in the last two elections (or longer-really since 1994) are beginning to redirect their dissatisfaction with the status quo. Eight years of Bush didn’t help them much.
    The question is will they be pulled further to the right by McCain/Palin or will they return to the more moderate stance they have historically had. Someone has to connect with them like the Governor of Montana did.

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  2. ThinkingGuy on

    The problem is, don’t you think, that compared with most voters, she is not that extreme? Since her speech, Obama’s lead has been destroyed…with ONE speech! and she will give hundreds more in the next 60 days.
    We need less extreme people voting, but folks, it’s time to face facts..most people like the right wing extremism of the nominees.

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  3. BarryOR on

    I agree that it needs to be driven home that Palin’s views are extreme and are particularly extreme on issues that are important to women. Here is something that could be polished up and drive the point home.
    “Didn’t Sarah Palin and her family look great at the RNC, especially so as she delivered her speech on Wednesday? But she really didn’t say much about issues, in particular issues that are important to women. One has to look toward John McCain to see what his ticket really thinks about issues essential to women. When asked what he thought about pro-choice, his response was that he “favored a constitutional amendment” making abortions illegal in the United States. One has to assume that he wouldn’t have picked Sarah Palin as his running mate, if she didn’t feel the same way. Look at what John McCain has said. That’s what you can expect if McCain/Palin are elected.”

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  4. policyguy on

    Pushing back on mockery
    This mockery worked very well against Kerry-Edwards in 2004, who never used it effectively against Bush and Cheney. Reagan used it against Carter successfully too.
    I think the Dems have to hit back – not necessarily Obama or his campaign, but ads need to do some of this, and surrogates too. It is hard and dicey to push back with mockery, because of McCain’s vet/POW status, and because it could be seen as sexism against Palin.
    On Gov. Palin
    (1) Don’t mention Palin’s name without the adjective “extremist”. She is farther right than George Bush and Dick Cheney. She’s a Dick Cheney masquerading in lipstick and heels. She may be a better shot with a gun, but her policies are more off the mark. ‘Extremist’ captures her accurately and avoids patronizing her. Look at her positions on abortion, humans having no affect on global warming, & stem-cell research.
    (2) At best, Palin is the biggest flipflopper in the race. At worst she has misrepresented herself. Examples: Bridge to nowhere, Chomping at the trough of congressional pork, troopergate.
    (3) Oh, and the sum total of Palin’s international experience before she applied for a passport in 2006 is she’d been to Canada. (She subsequently visited US troops in three countries, Iraq, Kuwait and Germany). That’s worse than George Bush, and look where he got us on foreign policy.
    On Sen. McCain
    (4) Can we mock McCain and Palin both as blind agents of big oil? They don’t need to deal with lobbyists – they are the lobbyists for big oil! The new McCain-Palin ticket is like the Exxon-Mobil merger. Americans will be paying for the hundreds of millions that will go into the pockets of oil companies and their executives – just like Cheney and Bush. Are we going to let this country, and its decisions about foreign policy, have 4 more years of being driven by the handservants of oil companies? That’s worked great for the public/
    (5) ‘Country First’?!?!? What about rich people’s pockets first?! That’s what this last 8 years have brought. We have numbers on this!!! McCain and his Bush economic policies (not to mention countless homes) promise the continuation of this.
    (6) How abot mocking McCain for ‘not getting’ that his economic policies are the same as Bush’s? Does he not get the very phrase he used to describe his education policy (‘civil rights issue of our time’ – Bush in 2002; ‘civil rights issue of this century’ – McCain on Sept 4) was used by GW Bush early in his presidency? Have his advisers not pointed this out?
    (7) Republicans have been poor stewards of the lives of American troops. Where is the outrage over the most important cost to America of this bungled war in Iraq? It is McCain and his party who pushed it. Surely we can name three or five servicemen/women who died due to the failure to fund adequate armor for Humvees? Yes we know and remember the victims of 9/11. But Afghanistan is where we should have pressed our military power, not the distraction in Iraq.

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  5. Kuyper on

    You can’t lose what you never had, and McCain never really had complete control of the Republican Party. His recognition of this political fact is evident in his acquiescence to the Christianist veto of his preferred running mates — Ridge and Lieberman — and his acceptance of the religious right’s candidate.

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