Sarah Palin Already Losing the 2012 GOP Primary

Along with the superb numbers for Obama (a 53 to 40 lead) in the latest Newsweek poll, we find more bad news for John McCain's VP nominee:

Sarah Palin continues to be a major drag on the McCain ticket. For the first time since McCain picked Palin as his running mate, more voters, 46 percent, have an unfavorable opinion of the Alaska governor, than have a favorable opinion, 44 percent. Nearly a third of voters, 31 percent, say that McCain's choice of Palin makes them less likely to vote for him, while 19 percent say the Palin pick makes them more likely to choose McCain (49 percent say it makes no difference). Perhaps most concerning for the McCain campaign is that 34 percent of independents say the Palin pick makes them less likely to support McCain, compared to 45 percent of Democrats and 9 percent of Republicans.

Of course, that's nearly conventional wisdom by now - Palin is making McCain bleed independents and helping give Obama an edge as we enter the final stretch. But buried near the end of the poll is this fascinating question, asked only of Republicans and Republican leaning voters...

If John McCain is not elected president, which one of the following three possible candidates would you be most likely to support for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012?

The topline results are an amazing repudiation of the McCain/ Palin ticket:

Mitt Romney 35%
Mike Huckabee 26%
Sarah Palin 20%
Other Candidate 10%
Don't Know 9%

Among "traditional" Republicans, it's:

Mitt Romney 42%
Mike Huckabee 23%
Sarah Palin 19%
Other Candidate 9%
Don't Know 7%

Even among "social conservative" Republicans, Sarah still trails Mittens and Huckabee:

Mitt Romney 30%
Mike Huckabee 31%
Sarah Palin 23%
Other Candidate 8%
Don't Know 8%

Now, it's always been assumed that even if Palin had lost moderate and swing voters, she still had the support of the base. And by a 38-9 margin, Republicans say Palin makes it more likely that they will support McCain. But it may be that many Republicans LIKE Palin, but that that doesn't translate into a desire to see her as the presidential nominee in her own race. Quite frankly, it may be that many Republicans see the writing on the wall as much as everyone else and simple believe Palin is not the most qualified candidate. It's also not great news for Giuliani, who apparently is already in the early stages of launching his 2012 effort.

So, while this election is clearly not over, and obviously a lot can happen in 4 years, we're left with an interesting take away - at the moment, Republicans clearly prefer McCain's primary rival, Romney, over his chosen successor, Palin, for 2012.

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Pennsylvania - Is McCain Crazy, Or Are The Polls Wrong?

What to make of Pennsylvania's status as a top tier battleground state? According to RealClearPolitics, Obama has a 13.8 lead in that state, far greater than his lead in NJ or OR, both of which are assumed to be safe states for the Democrats, and haven't warranted a visit from either candidate.

Politico is featuring a story today on McCain's continuing attempts to win the state, calling it a "risky play:"

Pennsylvania hasn't voted Republican for president since 1988. Democrats have increased their registration numbers here by more than a half-million over the past year, and Barack Obama has a double-digit lead in the polls.

Yet John McCain's campaign continues to signal that it intends to contest the state and its 21 electoral votes to the end. It is a high-risk, high-return endeavor: Pennsylvania represents a costly gambit, one that siphons resources from must-win states such as Ohio and Florida, but a win here would enable McCain to lose a few other states that George W. Bush carried and still capture the White House.

Of course, McCain could be making a "Hail Mary" attempt to carry the state in the hope of pulling off a miracle as his chances sink across the board. But if that was the case, wouldn't the Obama campaign just ignore him and focus on making inroads elsewhere?

Instead, Obama was in PA just yesterday, with four separate rallies in just two hours.

And Biden, whose Scranton roots were part of the reason for his pick, has made several visits to the state, including a rally tomorrow with both of the Clintons:

Biden will stump in Scranton Sunday with Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, a schedule that will bring Biden's total days campaigning in the state to five -- the same as Palin.

In other words, Obama's team is taking McCain's efforts to contest PA seriously, UNLIKE IN IOWA, where they don't seem to be.

And here's Rendell at the rally yesterday, making them sound like the underdog here:

At one rally, in a North Philadelphia neighborhood near Temple University, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, the popular former Philadelphia mayor who backed Clinton in the primary, warned the crowd of 20,000 that Obama would need a massive turnout in Philadelphia to carry the state.

"In the primary, only 53 percent of registered voters in Philadelphia turned out," Rendell said. "Ladies and gentlemen, 24 days from today, 53 percent will not cut it. It will not cut it. If we want to make sure Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States, we need to turn out at least 75 percent."

In 2004, Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry crushed President Bush in the city by more than 400,000 votes on his way to winning the state by about 144,000 votes. Since then, Democrats have increased their voter registration edge substantially in the city.

Rendell told reporters after a rally in city's Germantown section that his goal is for Obama to drive a historic turnout in Philadelphia and then to meet or exceed Kerry's showing in Pittsburgh and the rest of the state. Rendell predicted the best opportunities for improvement are in south central Pennsylvania, which is becoming less conservative as it absorbs population from Philadelphia, and traditionally Democratic northeastern Pennsylvania.

So what's the deal with the polling here? Clearly, both campaign's internals must show a closer race than 13 points, but how much closer? And, if that's true, why are the polls so far off?

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Rick Davis Was Right: It's Not About Issues

Last week McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, took some heat for suggesting that the campaign was not about issues, it was about personalities. In the context of the campaign, Davis' statement came off as callous and cynical, and was quickly pounced on by the Dems. But, after watching things play out since then, I think it's time to acknowledge that in part, he's right. It's not that the issues are irrelevant. It's that, played correctly, broad themes and strong personalities can overpower the issues in the minds of voters.

The irony is that the Obama campaign should be the first to recognize the truth in what Davis said. Obama didn't beat Hillary in the primaries because he had a better ten point plan then her. In fact, completely to the contrary, his upset win proved the point that meta themes beat microtargeting, and that people will ignore their preferences on issues (for instance, universal health care), if they are inspired by and trust your leadership.

Unfotunately, the campaign's ads lately just scream "generic Dem politician." There's nothing about them that is unique to Barack Obama. They have done a nice job tying McCain to four more years of Bush, but McCain may have partly wriggled out of that trap with the selection of Sarah Palin.

The campaign needs to take advantage of Obama's strengths as a leader and as a change agent. Fortunately, there's an easy answer for that - just let the man speak!

It's time for Obama to pivot back to his strength and run ads that show him in his element - giving speeches to thousands of people, speeches that appeal to our patriotism, similar in tone to the 2004 convention speech. Most importantly, he needs to do in his ads what he did so effectively in speech after speech during the primary - tie his own campaign to the advances in freedom throughout American history and urge voters to move us forward as a nation. In doing, so, he will make McCain and Palin look like second tier imitators.

These ads should be positive, but they can't look like the "Hands" ad Obama ran during the Olympics. In other words, they can't be focus grouped to death. They need to feature Obama speaking most of the time, and let him drive his points home himself.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the focus on McCain=Bush, or on the economy, was the wrong one. But in the final stretch of the campaign it's time for the campaign to go back to basics and run a strong, uplifting campaign. And if he does that, Obama will win.

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Palin's Lawyer Tries To Quash Troopergate Investigation

Yesterday the news broke that Sarah Palin had hired a lawyer recently to help her handle the abuse of power investigation into what is now called Troopergate.

Palin hired a lawyer three weeks ago to act on her behalf as state legislators investigate whether she may have abused her power in firing the state public safety commisioner for refusing to fire her ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper, CNN confirmed.

Well, the Anchorage Daily News just released a detailed story on what her new lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, has been up to.

It turns out that Van Flein was actually hired by the State, and specifically because Attorney General Talis Colberg has a conflict of interest from being involved in the case himself. Van Flein has been working on the case for about a week - since August 21, according to the paper.

First, Van Flein tried to get the case moved out of the Legislature to the Personnel Board.

Van Flein said the investigation should be handled by the state Personnel Board, not the Legislature, because it's "statutorily mandated" to handle ethics cases. The three-member Personnel Board is appointed by the governor.

In other words, take the investigation out of the jurisdiction of people who might not follow Palin's agenda, and make it a whitewash under the guidance of three people that she appointed.

Then, even more incredibly:

In a letter to Branchflower, Van Flein also asked for all witness statements, documents and other materials collected in the course of the investigation.

To which Hollis French, project director for the legislative investigation, responded:

"I think you will agree that it would be highly unusual for an investigator to share information with one of the targets of the investigation," French wrote. "I am unaware of any precedent for such an arrangement."

   The back-and-forth quickly escalated.

   "Our concern is that Hollis French turns into Ken Starr and uses public money to pursue a political vendetta rather than truly pursue an honest inquiry into an alleged ethics issue," Van Flein said in an interview.

   "How does he explain the unanimous vote (to pursue the investigation) by the Republican-dominated Legislative Council?" French shot back.

   Later in the day, French added, "It's too bad the governor has stooped to hiring a name-calling lawyer. That doesn't seem very open and transparent does it?"

In addition, Palin hasn't agreed to meet with the panel yet and is dragging her feet:

Branchflower hasn't been able to set up an interview with Palin. French said the state will fly Branchflower to wherever Palin is on the campaign trail if needed.

   "Clearly the governor's new political role will make it more challenging for her to make time for this investigation," French wrote. But Palin needs to be interviewed sometime in September, he said.

   Van Flein said the investigation is "bad timing" in the middle of a presidential campaign. He said he couldn't guarantee her availability this month.

   If witnesses aren't available, French wrote, he'll ask the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, to issue subpoenas.

It really looks like, far from being unconcerned about the investigation, Palin is taking every possible step to nip this thing in the bud. Not exactly the actions of an ethical "reform" politician with nothing to hide.

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What If Kerry Had Picked Obama As VP in 2004?

If Sarah Palin is a dud, will conservatives lose one of their rising stars?

Conservative writer Ross Douthat publishes a reader comment that is quite insightful - what if John Kerry had picked Barack Obama as his vice presidential running mate in 2004?

By early summer 2004, Obama had just barely appeared on the national radar, but had already impressed Democratic activists and people in high places with his political skills. Put aside the feasibility of such a pick for a second (even though John McCain's is nearly as insane). Imagine Kerry, frustrated with his other options, makes a rash decision to tap the up and coming Senator as his running mate. A feeding frenzy in the press ensues. The Democratic base, and African Americans in particular, are thrilled about this young, charismatic African American politician plucked out of nowhere.

But would Obama have survived? In the pressure cooker of a fall presidential campaign, all of the vetting would have occured in a compressed time period. Rezko, Reverend Wright, and any controversial votes in Obama's record would have all surfaced, and been given breathless attention in the media, all in the space of just two months. In addition, Obama would have had to learn to cope with the pressures of a presidential campaign, vastly increased his knowledge of foreign policy, convinced the country he was ready to be president AND survived a debate against Dick Cheney, all while avoiding gaffes in the media.

It sounds like a crazy scenario, but that's close to the situation facing John McCain and Sarah Palin today. And you can almost bet that if it had happened, it's highly unlikely that Obama would be running for President today - because his credibility would have been severely damaged by being thrust into the spotlight too soon.

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What's That About Experience, Again?

Where Barack Obama worked a year and a half ago:

Where Sarah Palin worked a year and a half ago:

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What's That About Experience, Again?

Where Barack Obama worked in 2006:

Where Sarah Palin worked in 2006:

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More Evidence of a Hasty Pick: Still No Palin Bio On McCain's Site

OK, maybe this Sarah Palin thing is getting overdone, but...I thought I'd point out one more thing that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere. I was fascinated by the ABC News report that Palin was a last-minute choice for McCain, and that she may have not gotten a real look until this week, when it became clear that McCain could not pick Lieberman. That info also fit with reports that Rove had pushed hard to prevent McCain from picking Lieberman, and the fact that Robert Novak had emerged from retirement to urge against it.

Now, another piece of evidence that Palin was a hasty, last-minute pick - there's still no actual bio for her up on John McCain's site! When Obama announced his choice of Joe Biden, the campaign was ready to go with a full bio detailing Joe's life story and many accomplishments, as you'd expect from a national presidential campaign.

So what about John McCain? The "Meet Sarah Palin" page on his site currently consists of...the text of her speech from yesterday's Ohio rally, and that's it. No real biographical information, no list of accomplishments, beyond what's there in the speech. You would think at the least they would provide a list of basic facts about the Governor, seeing as how she's a complete unknown on the national stage and all.

It might seem like a minor thing, but knowing how modern campaigns run, I think it's quite revealing. Apparently the Palin bio is still a work in progress.

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Polling Confirms: Palin's Experience A Real Weakness

The first polling confirms Palin's lack of experience is a real weakness.

By a 29/44 margin, voters do not believe that she is ready to be President...

Most interestingly...

by a 23-point margin, women do not think Palin is ready to be President, whereas Palin lost this question among men by a considerably smaller 6-point margin.

A Gallup/ USA Today poll confirms the finding:

There is  wide uncertainty about whether she's qualified to be president. In the poll, taken Friday, 39% say she is ready to serve as president if needed, 33% say she isn't and 29% have no opinion.

That's the lowest vote of confidence in a running mate since the elder George Bush chose then-Indiana senator Dan Quayle to join his ticket in 1988. In comparison, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden was seen as qualified by 57%-18% after Democrat Barack Obama chose him as a running mate last week.....

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ABC: McCain Decided On Palin THURSDAY NIGHT, Wanted Lieberman

ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg has a fascinating piece up on McCain's decision making process in choosing Sarah Palin to be his running mate.

Apparently Palin was a last-minute pick, was only vetted this week, and was only chosen by McCain once it became clear that his desired pick, Lieberman, wasn't feasible.

It wasn't until Sunday night that John McCain, after meeting with his four top advisers, finally decided he could not tap independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to be his running mate. One adviser, tasked with taking the temperature of the conservative base, had strongly made the case to McCain that it would be a disaster for the party and that the base would revolt. McCain concluded he could not go that route.

The next day, McCain studied the three men at the top of his shortlist: Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. All had different strengths and negatives, but McCain was not satisfied. None of them had what McCain believed he needed to do -- and would have done -- with Lieberman.

The campaign secretly flew Palin into Dayton last night. She and McCain met privately for a couple of hours. McCain concluded she would "shake up the system" and was "a maverick," qualities he believed Lieberman would have brought to the ticket. But she also would appeal to conservatives -- which Lieberman most certainly would not have done.

After their meeting, McCain concluded he was comfortable with his choice. He notified Pawlenty this morning that he was going in a different direction.

I had been wondering in the back of my mind if the success of the Dem Convention - and Obama's bump in the polls - had led McCain to panic. Now we have confirmation that he did indeed make the decision to pick Palin while all of this was going on - and made the final call during or after Obama's acceptance speech.

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