The alternate title for this post is "the dream [ticket] has died." Like most of you, I watched TV last night for the three speeches by Sens. McCain, Clinton, and Obama. And out of those speeches I came away with three very distinct impressions: 1) Obama's speech was pretty good, but the bar is so high for him now [thanks to his 'Yes we can' speech in NH and his 'a more perfect union' speech in philly] that it seemed middling...except when you compared it to the other two speeches last night.
2) If Hillary Clinton honestly wanted or was seeking the VP slot on Obama's ticket, after that speech, there is zero chance of Obama picking her now. This was her chance to thank her supporters, talk about her causes, and rally them behind Obama. Instead, she pretended she won the popular vote (for someone who says count every vote, but then excludes MI voters who cast ballots intending to support Obama, as well as Caucusgoers in states were they only have estimates of how many people showed up, it's pretty hypocritical), used the phrase "stay the course," a Bushism none too popular with Democrats, allowed her supporters to chant "Denver! Denver!" repeatedly without calming them down, a phony "tell me what you think" to justify staying in the race and taking people's money, implied the Obama only cared about health care to run for president ("I haven't been working on this for the past 16 months, I have been working on this for 35 years!"), and implied that Obama doesn't care about her "18 million" voters. This tactlessness and selfishness was all the more evident after Obama went on for several minutes praising her, while she said maybe two or three sentences about him. The Clinton bunker was a bizzaro world were she had won and he had lost. And it was painful to watch.
3) I honestly don't see how John McCain is going to be elected. Nor did the cable news commenters, including Fox News. Karl Rove et al were discussing how terrible he speech was before either Democratic Senator went on. First the optics of the speech. He spoke from a suburb of New Orleans, a city he helped destroy by celebrating his birthday with George Bush in Arizona and San Diego instead of telling Bush to get working on saving Katrina victims. Did he speak there to distance himself from Bush? Maybe, but Karl Rove thought the most likely reason was that McCain was in the area raising money. This shows disorganization and lack of message discipline. Moreover, I doubt the two fundaisers Rove mentioned raised even a million dollars net. Obama sent one email out just before he gave his speech, which I predict raised at least 3 Million.
Back to the messaging problem and optics. He stood behind a green background that was a harsh contrast from his suit colors. I couldn't tell if the green with gold writing was supposed to be an alusion to the military or to the environment. Commenters were similarly confused. The slogan behind him said "A Leader We Can Believe In" Obama's slogan for the entire campaign has been "Change We Can Believe in" when you enter in McCain's latest slogan into google and hit search, you get Obama campaign webpages.
The content of the speech was essentially defensive: I am not like Bush, stop calling me names. He used the word 'change' over 30 times, trying to say he was the agent of change and Obama represented the past. That's right a 71 year old white dude who has been in Congress for 3 decades from the same party as the sitting president is change, while a 40-something year old black guy who has been a senator for four years is the status quo. When you fight using the other guy's messaging, you are behind.
The delivery, as usual, was terrible. He stumbled along, clearly reading from a teleprompter and sounding like he barely believed any of it. His crowd was tiny and he got the biggest cheer when he defended Bush's policies. McCain's forte is the town hall meeting, and is much better off the cuff (although he has been prone to saying things like 100 years in Iraq "would be fine by me") than delivering some lines, but the trouble is, presidential candidates are mostly seen by voters when they give speeches (convention speeches, rally speeches, etc.), not town hall meetings.
So he didn't give a great speech so what? The very fact that he had to give his speech on the same day as Obama and Clinton's speeches shows he is being otherwise ignored. He has has had months all to himself to raise money, organize staff and field operations, organize the convention, etc. Instead, he has had to fly around to big dinners (eating up valuable time and money), had to fire half a dozen senior staff members for ties to lobbying for foreign governments (against his reform message), and fire his handpicked convention guy (again lobbyist for Myanmar's Junta)
More importantly, look at the electoral college map and what states will be hotly contested. Virginia, Missouri, Ohio, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, two congressional districts in Nebraska, Iowa, New Hampshire. All but the last one went for Kerry in 2004. If McCain loses any of the first 4, he has lost the election. Obama can lose the first four and still win the White House, especially if he puts the Carolinas and Georgia in play [thanks Bob Barr].
Now McCain supporters will claim he has a shot at Pennslyvannia, Michigan, Oregon, and New Jersey. Democrats would love McCain to waste his time and money in New Jersey, just has Republicans would love Obama to spend millions and days in Texas. The other three have been close but gone Democratic the last four presidental elections. And the demographics aren't getting any more favorable to the GOP here. All have Democratic governors, 2 or 1 Democratic senators (PA and OR have 1, but Arlen Spector won't be running for reelection in 2010 and Gordon Smith is in for the fight of his ife this year), and after November majority Democratic House members, as well as legislatures controlled by Democrats. I just don't see those states flipping.
The voters are just as angry with Washington as they were in 2006, if not more so. They wanted change on the war, corruption, accountability, and Bush's policies. But Republicans in Congress--including John McCain--blocked most of those proposals. Poll after poll, recruitment after recruitment shows that Democrats will pick up large numbers of seats in both chambers of congress. Democrats will have, for the first time as far as I can tell, money advantages over Republicans in races for the House, Senate, and the White House. Obama's message of change is resonnating, and McCain can't plausibly sell his brand under Obama's label when the real deal is available.