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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

McCain’s Character Flaws Fair Game

Dry wit Sarah Vowell’s cultural commentary is always worth a read. But on Saturday she hit on a couple of political messaging angles Dem ad-makers should think about. Here’s a clip from Vowell’s op-ed in the New York Times:

During a gubernatorial debate in 2006, Governor Palin claimed that if her daughter, then 16, were impregnated as the result of being raped, Ms. Palin would hope that the girl would “choose life,” which is a polite way of saying she would expect a tenth-grader to give birth to her rapist’s baby.
Here’s a not-so-polite fact about the United States: According to Amnesty International, a woman is raped here every six minutes.
Like his running mate, Senator McCain has been a true-blue opponent of abortion rights during his political career. Unlike his running mate, he supports the right to terminate a pregnancy in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother. So does President Bush. During a Republican primary debate in 2000, Senator McCain denounced Mr. Bush for being in favor of the exception but not having the guts to push for putting it in writing in the official Republican Party platform that year.
This year, Senator McCain himself didn’t bother to stand up to the right wing of his party to insist that the rape and incest exception be written into the Republican Party platform. Just as he failed to stand up to the right wing of his party in choosing his running mate. His first choice was reported to be Senator Joseph Lieberman, a man who stood up to the Democratic Party to the extent that he isn’t even a Democrat anymore.

Some promising memes brewing here. First. McCain dumps his ‘principles’ whenever he smells an opportunity for more power (see Vega’s Aug. 6 post at TDS for more on this angle). Second, he backs down from political bullies. Third, If anything should happen to 72-76 year-old McCain during his term, President Palin — it’s difficult to even think the words — will appoint Supreme Court justices who favor her extremist positions on outlawing abortions, and perhaps her troubling ideas about book-banning.
As our recent staff post reported, healthy majorities of single women of all races are already tilting toward Obama. Some well-targeted ads (women watch more TV and surf more net than men) could help awaken more single women to the disturbing prospect of the McCain-Palin policies on abortion, and just might cut a little slice out of McCain’s big lead lead among white married women.
And Dems concerned about how the Catholic vote factors into the Palin effect, and anyone struggling with abortion as a personal and political issue, may find helpful our veep nominee’s comments on Meet the Press. As Biden explained,

It’s a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I’m prepared to accept the teachings of my church. But let me tell you. There are an awful lot of people of great confessional faiths–Protestants, Jews, Muslims and others–who have a different view. They believe in God as strongly as I do. They’re intensely as religious as I am religious. They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views as to when life–I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society.

The entire transcript and netcast of Biden’s Sunday appearance on MTP are highly recommended for illuminating the stark contrast in the gravitas of the Dem and GOP veep nominees — and, more importantly, for what it says about the presidential nominees who selected them.

3 comments on “McCain’s Character Flaws Fair Game

  1. cvh1789 on

    What about taking this leaf from the Republican playback? At the 2004 convention, confident in his war record, John Kerry presented himself with a salute, saying he was “reporting for duty.” The Republicans attacked him on this, his strong suit! And sadly, it worked.
    So what about attacking McCain’s boast about honor and country? He was one of the Keating Five. How many voters know that, and what it cost the country? He’s flip-flopped from all his maverick positions back to Republican orthodoxy. How about some clips showing those shifts?
    What about attacking the Maverick ad more sarcastically, with a few clips from the old Maverick TV show? A gunslinger comes into a saloon, sits down to play cards, then morphs into McCain socializing with lobbyists.

  2. ThinkingGuy on

    Ok, stick to the message? The Republicans have no message to stick to save one…”the other guy is a scary bad SOB that will raise you taxes”.
    And you know what? They are WINNING!
    If we have to steer off the message in order to draw nasty blood from the other side, so be it. Palin has NO compelling story. She has a rather pedestrian story. But as long as we keep calling is something that it is not, instead of calling her out as a prouncing, two faced beauty queen who hates Jews and wants to shove her religion into the throats of every man woman and child (via public school indoctrination of her biggots Christian views) we are not going to get anywhere.
    Message? What message? Gut this pig and the lying coward that selected her. That’s our only shot. Our message has gotten us to fall behind when the wind ofhistory was so far at our backs, you could almost fly on it.
    We, the Democrats, are blowing this thing, as we always do…and it’s because we will not fight ugly.

  3. Brian Gaerity on

    “Some well-targeted ads (women watch more TV and surf more net than men) could help awaken more single women to the disturbing prospect of the McCain-Palin policies on abortion, and just might cut a little slice out of McCain’s big lead lead among white married women.”
    I’m skeptical. Absolutely worth doing, but I don’t think it will generate significantly more movement than what we’ve already seen in the (excellent) poll you posted about earlier. Based on that poll and anecdotal evidence published in the media, white married women are moving to McCain/Palin because they 1) are lukewarm toward Obama, and 2) strongly identify with Palin’s role as successful working mother. Those feeling won’t change much over the next 60 days.
    My guess is that Palin’s highly compelling story, tremendous poise and down-to-earth persona will ultimately trump concerns about abortion rights. I say this because my reading of the data tells me that most married women, especially mothers, are very conflicted about abortion. Also, because there are so few role models, Palin stands out as one to embrace, particularly for those who weren’t terribly enamored of Hillary Clinton.
    I think it’s absolutely necessary to highlight Palin’s extreme views on abortion, if for no other reason than to ensure no one mistakes moderate talk for actual policy positions, like the woman in the McCain ad who thought he was pro-choice. More importantly, I think Palin’s views on abortion will motivate Obama supporters and pro-choice voters to actually vote. THAT would be worthwhile.
    A larger point is that the Obama campaign can’t afford to panic, go off-message or focus on issues that won’t result in voter motivation. Stick to the message, and keep hammering home that no matter how likable McCain and Palin are (or appear to be) as people, their positions are wrong for America. They are Bush Republicans in reformers’ clothes, with empty promises of “change.” If we want real change, change that isn’t based on the false premise that “we’re the ‘good’ Republicans,” then Obama/Biden is the only choice.


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