Would Lieberman Have Been Better As McCain's VP Pick?

Yesterday I attended a conference co-sponsored by Politico that featured panels chock full of advisors and consultants from both campaigns as well as several journalists to sort of deconstruct the election. One of the more interesting topics that came up time and again was whether Joe Lieberman would have been a better choice for McCain's VP -- better meaning more likely to have helped McCain win than Sarah Palin did.

The most interesting thing about the debate over this question was the difference in opinion that existed between the Obama camp and the McCain camp. In general, both sides agreed on what the turning points of the election were and what factors led to Obama's victory. But on this point, the McCain folks were intractable: Sarah Palin was the best choice for them at the time.

Was this simple spin -- the refusal to concede what is in retrospect conventional wisdom, that Palin was a disaster for McCain, or was it a sincere analysis of the strategy at the time? I think a little bit of both.

Here's pretty much how the argument went:

Steve Hildebrand, Obama's Deputy Campaign Manager: If McCain had chosen Lieberman or another Democrat, it would have taken away Barack's "post partisan" thing and would have reinforced McCain's maverick thing.

Adam Mendolsohn, GOP consultant: In mid to late August the race was so close, they needed to pick someone who would not collapse the Republican base.

Hildebrand: In the general election you need to forget about your base, they'll be with you, you need to go after moderates and independents.

Mendolsohn: I don't think it's as easy to say the base would have been there. There was a lot of discussion with folks who understand the base and how the convention works and what a Lieberman pick would mean and they were very concerned. They were saying "this will be a huge disaster." In 1992,a large part of the base stayed home. Sarah Palin was a strong solid logical pick for the base.

Mike DuHaime, McCain Political Director: Our hope with Governor Palin going forward was that there would be a connection to moderate women and independents and there was after the convention. She did appeal to working women as well as the base. Ultimately that did not carry all the way through election day but it was not initially just a base pick.

The McCain side insisted that no one else would have given them the bump they received out of the convention and the fundraising spike, without which they would not have been competitive. This financial advantage that Obama had was particularly problematic for them in the immediate aftermath of the Palin announcement when it became evident that "Obama could do 5 things at once, we could do 1" and they allowed Obama to portray Palin as an extreme right winger.

The McCain team were clearly going out of their way to defend the choice and not throw Palin or McCain under the bus and that's fine. I actually think their reasoning versus a Lieberman pick is sound. Lieberman would have been a disaster for them for different reasons. But what they laughably failed to acknowledge on that stage yesterday was just how devastating the pick itself was to McCain's viability. Once it became evident just how unprepared Palin was for top office, as Mike Allen said during a later panel yesterday, the Palin choice helped make John McCain the risky one, which gets to the heart of why McCain lost on Nov. 4th. As Obama pollster David Binder put it, ultimately:

The risk of the unknown with Obama was less than the risk of the known with McCain.

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Progressive Democrat Newsletter Issue 190

I have now been doing this newsletter for almost 4 years! When I look back at the first issues, I am amazed at how primitive they were. My readership was only about a dozen Brooklyn activists. Readership has sure grown and now is national. And I am getting frequent emails from people in places like Georgia and North Carolina asking for help on various issue that concern them. Thanks to all my readers!

This issue I take a look back at that first issue. I also focus on marriage equality and the ongoing Georgia Senate race. I have dropped a few states I was focusing on because of a lack of consistent readership. I had planned to drop a few more, but if the readers are there, I will stick with it.

Here is this week's newsletter:

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They Just Don't Get It

"In record numbers, Americans voted on Tuesday for a skillful presidential nominee promising change, but "change" should not be confused with a license to raise taxes, drive up wasteful government spending, weaken our security, or give more power to Washington, Big Labor bosses and the trial bar. Americans did not vote for higher taxes to fund a redistribution of wealth; drastic cuts in funding for our troops; the end of secret ballots for workers participating in union elections; more costly obstacles to American energy production; or the imposition of government-run health care on employers and working families." - John Boehner Washington Post

    Did this guy see the same campaign and election that I saw? In the campaign that I saw President-elect Barack Obama laid out in no uncertain terms what his agenda was and what he wanted to accomplish. There were no hidden innuendos or code words; he stated as a matter of fact what he felt the government's role was and how he planned to implement that role. And despite Mr. Boehner's claims to the contrary, the majority of the American public voted to accept this candidate and his agenda. We have seen for the last two election cycles the electorate's repudiation of the Republican ideas and their tactics and yet they continue to believe that nothing has changed. Many of them feel that the reason they lost was because they weren't right of center enough. If this continues this Party will be replaced by another one and they will become strictly a regional and rural Party.

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Progressive Democrat Newletter Issue 189

Well, we won. Big time.

Obama even won Virginia (which didn't surprise me at all), North Carolina (which I am not TOO surprised at) and Indiana (which DID surprise me). Obama even won one of Nebraska's electoral votes (which get split). Missouri seems to have barely gone McCain. I was convinced Florida would be stolen again, but the Republican Governor of Florida, though a typical Republican otherwise, seems dedicated to fair elections. And Obama wound up getting almost 53% of the vote.

If you are like me and you grew up hearing the refrain, "America isn't ready for a black President," you now will never hear that again. America isn't just ready for one, it OVERWHELMINGLY is ready.

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McCain (and maybe Palin) to Campaign for Saxby Shameless

The Georgia online political newsletter, Capitol Impact, is reporting today that John McCain and possibly Sarah Palin are coming to Georgia on behalf of their good friend Saxby Shameless who was forced into a run-off by Democrat Jim Martin.

Chambliss said Friday the GOP presidential nominee and possibly Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will campaign for him in the runoff election with Democrat Jim Martin; Martin has asked president-elect Barack Obama to make a campaign appearance as well but has received no confirmation yet; runoff election will be held Dec. 2 because Chambliss did not get 50 percent plus one vote in the general election

Source:  Capitol Impact, McCain is coming to Georgia, November 7, 2008

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