And Now, the End Is Near; Time to Face the Final Curtain
By Chuck Muth
With the selection of Delaware Sen. Joe Biden as the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee this weekend, the 2008 presidential campaign, which actually began way back on November 3, 2004, is coming down the stretch. The Democrats will hold their national pep rally this week. Republican presidential nominee John McCain will announce his running mate in a couple days. And then the Republicans will hold their national pep rally the following week. From there, it’ll be a two-month sprint to the finish line on November 4.
The day after which the 2012 presidential campaign will immediately begin. Lord help us.
But back to Biden and the timing of his announcement. As columnist and media strategist Cheri Jacobus noted yesterday, “In politics, when you want to bury bad news, you make sure it hits late Friday and Saturday. So why did Barack Obama hold off on his announcement of Joe Biden as his veep pick until the slowest possible news cycle?”
Jacobus explains that “By waiting until the weekend, Barack Obama was able to skirt any and all scrutiny, public vetting or criticism by Rush Limbaugh and the rest of conservative talk radio and cable television. In other words, he wanted no ‘bad news’ and was confident he would get ample positive coverage from the mainstream media.” Indeed Jacobus notes, “The media is putty in the hands of Barack Obama.”
Fortunately, the world no longer has to wait for the likes of Katie Couric to get the lowdown and skinny on fast-breaking news. Bloggers were all over the Biden announcement like white on rice. Minutes after the decision was reported, conservatives had anti-Biden talking points streaking across the Internet. Bless Al Gore for inventing it.
In any event, in less than two weeks the Republican and Democrat tickets will be set and the taxpayer-subsidized conventions a memory. At which point the generally disengaged portion of the general public – distracted by summer vacations, the Olympics and washing their socks – will slowly begin to actively follow the campaigns. Interest will pick up as the much-anticipated debates take place, where television viewers across the country will watch them in much the same fashion as a NASCAR race – hoping to witness a firey crash-and-burn by one or both of the candidates.
Politics ain’t all that far from blood sport.
All of which will be the more visible and talked-about parts of the campaign. It’s two sub-plots, however, which may prove to be the more interesting over the next two months.
There are two schools of thought here. One is that Americans have generally moved beyond considering race as a factor in voting. Or that many white Americans, still racked with underserved and misplaced guilt over slavery, will vote for Barack Obama in a senseless effort to give themselves a clear conscience on the race issue. “I voted for a black man for president, therefore, by definition, I can no longer be considered a racist” they’ll talk themselves into believing. Under this scenario, race will either be a non-factor or a benefit to Obama.
The second theory is that there is still a considerable amount of racism in a significant portion of the electorate which simply will not vote for a black man for president. That segment of the population won’t say so in public, for fear of being brow-beaten over being a racist; however, in the privacy of the voting booth, they’ll vote for the old, white wrinkly guy. Some actually believe this latent, underground racism could turn conventional wisdom on its ear and result in a landslide victory for McCain.
Obvioulsy, we’re in uncharterd waters here. No one knows for sure. So how this unfolds on the campaign trail and on election day will be fascinating to watch.
Much more has been made of the fact that John McCain is still regarded suspiciously by his conservative base in the GOP, though polling seems to indicate that, slowly but surely, that base is coming home and rallying around the Republican standard bearer. It’s not so much enthusiasm for the candidate himself, however, as it is sheer terror over the prospect of Obama negotiating with terrorists. Jimmy Carter II.
But Obama still has problems of his own. No matter how hard the mainstream media tries to ignore it or gloss it over, a significant number of Hillary Clinton supporters are threatening to either sit this one out in November, or even vote for McCain. You won’t hear much about that on CNN or NBC, but just tune into liberal talk radio and listen to the anguish of many callers on the Left. And they will not be happy that Biden, rather Bill’s wife, is their #2.
Of course, both candidates will do their best to unify their supporters at the national pep rallies, but something tells me that many on both the Left and the Right will remain unconvinced. Such voters on the Left will have Ralph Nader and the Green Party as alternatives, while voters on the Right will have the Libertarian Party and the Constitution Party. The extent of base voter support drifting off to these third parties could be decisive in a handful of key swing states.
This debate on the Right will be thoroughly fleshed out in Las Vegas at the 2008 Conservative Leadership Confence (www.ConservativeLeadershipConference.com) on September 18-21, where John McCain or a campaign surrogate, along with the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate Bob Barr (confirmed) and the Constitutional Party’s Chuck Baldwin (confirmed) – along with conservative leaders from all wings of the movement – will make their cases for conservative/libertarian votes in November.
Be there or be square.
Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a non-profit public policy advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Citizen Outreach. He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.