With Barack Obama opening up a wider and wider lead, both in national polls as well as state polls (even crucial swing states), and John McCain literally sinking quicker than the Titanic, the question must be asked: what happened to John McCain?
An Associated Press article by Alan Fram and Trevor Tomson posted online today not only highlights, but reinforces this idea. Fram and Tomson point to an AP-Yahoo! poll conducted recently, whose results were released this morning. The poll stipulates that “[p]eople’s regard for [McCain] has deteriorated across-the-board since September, with McCain losing ground in how favorably he’s seen and in a long list of personal qualities voters seek in White House contenders.”
The poll indicates “[n]egative campaigning and a month of intense public focus on collapsing global economic and financial markets” have pushed McCain further and further away from contention. One respondent, Leeze Zick, an undecided Republican from Illinois, openly said of McCain: “he scare[s] me.”
The latest polls and what the respondents to these polls are saying portend something very interesting. It’s no longer really about McCain’s campaign, but about McCain himself. Anything, whether positive or negative that happens (and it’s mostly negative these days), is attributed to McCain himself, in a personal fashion, as opposed to his campaign, or his advisors.
So the question above truly fits. It’s not “what happened to John McCain’s campaign,” but “what happened to John McCain?”
I have a few ideas of my own. In this column, I’ll simply focus on the first problem, Sarah Palin. McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin, while at first wildly successful (okay, maybe just “invigorating” to his campaign as opposed to successful), has since turned around and bitten him squarely on the cheeks (which set, you can decide).
About a week after McCain tapped Palin (no, not that way, you rumor-mongering people!), I sent an email out to my closest circle of women friends (and some of their friends via the email tree) and asked for their reaction/response to Palin. I think what they said—way back then—has finally come to fruition. Effectively, the rest of America has caught up with these women.
See for yourselves:
Jackie: Am I more likely to vote for McCain since he added a token woman to the ticket–No. Palin is on the wrong side of every issue that matters to me. She doesn’t believe that global warming is real, even though it is occurring in her back yard. She is also persecuting polar bears! One of her current ambitions is to remove polar bears from the endangered species list. How could she be so ignorant? She believes that creationism should be taught in schools, quite scary since the world progresses because conclusions are based on evidence, not faith. I could never vote for a man—or woman—who has a pre-Darwinian mentality in 2008.
I understand some have compared Palin to Hillary Clinton. There is some merit in this. Palin is Hillary at 16, when Hillary was a Republican because her parents were, when she was pressured not to think for herself. Yes, Hillary too was a type of feminist for life, but she chose to become educated, where she learned that feminists are for choice, not dogmatically for life.
Theresa: This was a largely political move intended to grab the media spotlight and to pick up those Hillary votes. To me, it felt like an insult to Hillary supporters because Palin is so conservative on issues such as abortion and a woman’s right to choose. She is a woman, yes, but she stands for everything Hillary has fought against. It’s like they are saying, “Look! She has tits too! She’ll make you feel better.”
Okay. In some respects I think she “warms up” or “modernizes” the Republican ticket and matches the combination of Obama (youth vote, fresh take) and Biden (experience w/foreign policy). But once you get beyond the surface, the two don’t stack up. Palin as a VP pick raises all kinds of questions as to McCain’s motivations and political pandering. She is a reckless choice when you consider the possibility of her becoming commander in chief herself. She is so under qualified it is scary.
I’ve lived in Alaska (briefly) and I can tell you they do not have the issues the rest of the country faces. The state is abundant in natural resources and consists largely of wilderness with very small, isolated populations. Those populations are mostly Native American and White. That’s pretty much it. How is someone who has governed Alaska for less than two years supposed to take charge of the United States during this time of incredible uncertainty? Where’s her experience with foreign policy, terrorism, the economy, inner-city crime/poverty, health care?
She actually asked someone on camera what the VP does and what the average day asa VP would look like. We don’t need another clueless leader in the White House who has to learn on the job.
Karen: I was horrified and disgusted to learn of his choice—horrified because he chose a woman and someone might think that was a good thing and vote for them; disgusted because the woman is pro life, hunts moose, has won a beauty contest, has 5 kids, and that she appropriated Hillary’s 8 million cracks (Carol and I were 2 of them in June) in the ceiling metaphor. How dare she!
In other words, I hope this backfires on the bastards. Go, Obama and Biden!
Tiffany: first, note: there was never any chance in hell that I would have voted for McCain. If Hillary had received the nomination, I would have voted for her. I’m happy that Obama is the candidate, since I’ve long been a fan of his.
This move to make Palin the VP candidate actually makes me LESS inclined to vote for McSame, if that’s possible. She is, IMO, completely unqualified to be president, should he be elected and something happen to him. She was nominated simply for the fact that she has ovaries, which I find unacceptable in any circumstance, Rep. or Dem. At least Hillary would have made a credible president (even if she wasn’t my first choice).
The idea that McCain or his party would choose Palin as his running mate based solely on the idea that she would help siphon off Hillary supporters shows a couple things: A) it shows that the Republican party believes the American people to be incredibly stupid, that one woman in the White House is the same as another, and B) it shows that the Republican Party really has nothing substantial left to fight with.
It is probable that this move to make Palin the VP candidate WILL lure some Hillary supporters (those of the more rabid type who ARE stupid enough to believe that one woman will do just as well as another), but overall I think that people will see this as the desperate move that it is. Progressives and conservatives alike have said that this is McCain’s “white flag,” that he’s shot himself in both feet. Palin might appeal to the ultra pro-life conservatives, but anyone with any education and intelligence will realize that she’s not right for the job, and they’ll think even less of McCain as a result.
I know that some folks think this is a “bold gamble,” but seriously? Palin is even less well known than Obama was when he started his campaign. And I highly doubt that she’s got the same “oompah” to turn this election in favor of the Republicans.
Truth be told, I’m actually quite happy about this because I honestly think it’s going to backfire on McSame and the Republicans.
Leslie: His selection of Palin actually shows me how completely WRONG it would be to have him for a president. I should perhaps first state that I have been an Obama supporter for some time. I have never considered nor would I ever consider voting for McCain. Additionally, Palin’s stance on abortion and her beliefs about evolution (her staunch support of creationism over evolution) are enough to make me really fear what will happen if they take office. Finally, she doesn’t seem to be qualified AT ALL for this position nor for the position of president, and, considering McCain’s age, that’s something people should REALLY think about!
I think it’s really sad if ANY of Clinton’s supporters are 1) even considering voting for McCain and/or 2) considering voting for the Republican ticket just because a woman is now on it. True supporters of Clinton’s ideas should realize that McCain and Palin do NOT represent their ideas, positions, or even world view. I think people’s choice for president and/or vice president needs to extend beyond the gender or race of the candidate. I believe people need to really think about each candidate’s leadership skills, vision, and ability to inspire and motivate people. In my mind, Obama has strengths in all of these areas and is the candidate this country needs.
Sarah: It’s interesting that he chose Palin, and frankly, it’s much smarter than what the pundits said he would do, which was pick Romney or Pawlenty. Firstly, she’s a bit of unknown quantity in the American mainstream political scene, which helps him draw attention to himself and create a certain “buzz” around an unknown quantity. Secondly, she’s pro-life and he was having a hard time finding a Republican he really liked and wanted to run with who was pro-life. That should help him with the more social conservatives, who’ve been less than enthused. Thirdly, he’s showing himself to be the maverick that he so needs to be in order to separate himself from the legacy of Bush/Cheney.
Having said all that, his pick doesn’t make him more palpable to me as a candidate. I think he picked her to appeal to the disenfranchised women vote, but I don’t think Palin, on the issues, is representative of what’s important to the disenfranchised Hillary voter. As a woman who supports the right to terminating pregnancies (not necessarily the action itself, but the right in a democracy), I can’t see that the kind of women who supported Hillary will support Palin’s pro-life stance. She is not supportive of gay rights, either, which I think more fully alienates Hillary supporters, many of whom, are gay and lesbian or supporters of gay marriage. She is a woman, but not all that in the mix as far as typical “women’s issues” go, which I think won’t go a long way in appeasing Hillary’s voters to switch to McCain.
Khrystine: I was shocked when I read about it, but understand the strategy that might have been used for choosing her. I mean she sounds very conservative, perhaps to satisfy some Republicans, and at the same time, she is from a working class background, which should make the Democrats take a browse. This doesn’t make me want to vote for McCain though.
It actually makes me run the other way, because I see her more as a trophy woman VP. I do not see her as an “open to discussion” type of person and more of a “do it my way” type. I was in the middle about the vote, but not anymore.
Aileen: I certainly think she was a savvy choice for McCain to make—one that will appease the religious, Christian right unlike Romney or Guiliani, and probably one that will sway at least a few disgruntled Hillary supporters. But for this voter, who honestly wished for some sort of Obama/Clinton ticket, she in no way mitigates the fact that a presidency under McCain would be unmitigated disaster. I don’t understand how many women voters, as disappointed as they might be in Hillary’s loss, would go for a ticket that is totally anti-choice. With this ticket, women’s rights will face serious erosion. I don’t see how her experience as governor of Alaska, (no offense to Alaska) makes her any more “experienced” than Obama’s work in the Senate and in the big city of Chicago.
Does this make McCain more palatable? It’s like flavoring your cyanide with cinnamon.
So there you go. Responses from women who considered Hillary, who considered Obama, and who considered McCain prior to the Palin pick. I think the rest of the country just finally caught a whiff of the same stink that these women smelled way in the beginning.
And let’s be honest here. Whether or not we individually liked/supported Palin initially, those interviews she gave with the “moose in headlights” look, and those many, many sentences to nowhere was pretty much like digging her own grave.
Part II of what happened to McCain coming shortly.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association