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PW logo Quote of the Day Republicans Unifed at Convention
Many Republicans Happy Bush Canceled Speech Wolfson Sold on Obama
Quote of the Day McCain Attracts Biggest Crowd Yet

News from the Votemaster

Republican National Convention Opening Delayed

The Republican party was to start meeting today in St. Paul, MN to nominate John McCain and Sarah Palin for President and Vice President, respectively. However, the opening night of the convention has been completely canceled due to hurricane Gustav. The decision to postpone the convention opening was made by John McCain who said yesterday: "I pledge that tomorrow night, and if necessary throughout our convention... to act as Americans, not Republicans." A very high-minded statement for which the senator is to be congratulated. As if partisanship was an odd thing to have at a political convention. If he thinks so, he must have missed Barack Obama's speech last week because Obama spent most of it attacking President Bush, the Republican Party, and McCain himself.

There are real two reasons the opening was postponed, both unspoken. First is this photo:


It was taken on McCain's 69th birthday, Aug. 29, 2005, the day hurricane Katrina wiped out New Orleans. Strangely, it is still on the White House Website (click it to go there). Having the Republicans whooping it up and yelling how inexperienced Obama is while hurricane Gustav is wreaking havoc on the Gulf Coast would remind the voters of how little McCain and Bush did to help the people there and how inexperience is definitely bipartisan.

The second reason for scrapping tonight's show also relates to Bush. He was scheduled to speak tonight and then take the red-eye special out of Minnesota. McCain fully understands that the more the Democrats can associate him with Bush, the more the independents are going to believe that McCain I = Bush III. But he couldn't very well tell a sitting President who half his party still adores to go cut some brush on his Texas ranch for fear of alienating Bush's supporters. The hurricane gets McCain conveniently off the hook (as was suggested here yesterday). CQ Politics agrees with this take.

Making Hay out of Hurricanes

John McCain has to get some credit for thinking on his feet. He may yet be able to convert the loss of TV time due to Gustav to a plus. He is toying with the idea of having the entire convention be a kind of memorial to the people lost in hurricane Katrina, to show that he cares. He can then blast Bush for his incompetence three years ago. That approach allows him to put distance between himself and Bush without actually attacking Bush's ideology. In effect, he is saying: "I agree with Bush on the basics, especially compassionate conservatism, I would just be a whole lot better at carrying it out." The beauty of this is that for many people it would enhance his "maverick" status but would not offend the party regulars. It is a clever idea and might work. He is also considering giving his acceptance speech from the Gulf Coast to show that he, unlike Bush, cares about people. More here.

Geography and Politics

The locations of the party conventions are chosen extremely carefully. Two factors are paramount. First, the city has to have the facilites to handle tens of thousands of delegates, alternates, supporters, reporters, TV crews, bloggers, and hangers-on. Much as the Republicans would like to win New Hampshire, they couldn't hold their convention in Concord, NH. It is just not big enough, doesn't have enough hotel rooms, and is too hard to get to. The other factor is political: holding a convention in a particular state sends the message that the party cares about that state and region. The Democrats met in Denver for a very good reason: Colorado is trending blue and they will pull out all stops to win its 9 electoral votes. Half of the 84,000 tickets to Obama's acceptance speech were reserved for Colorado residents. Each of those probably has at least 4-5 family members including spouses, adult children, parents, etc. who can vote in Colorado. That could add up to 200,000 Colorado voters with a very direct connection to Obama.

The Republicans chose St. Paul also for a very good reason, too. It is a clean, modern, All-American city with a reputation for good and efficient government--exactly the image the GOP wants to project. Furthermore, the Democrats carried Minnesota by just 2 points in 2000 and 3 points in 2004. It looked ripe for the picking. As a bonus, the Twin Cities media market extends into Wisconsin, which the Democrats won in 2000 and 2004 by barely 1 point. And it also extends into northern Iowa, which Bush won by 1 point in 2004 and lost by 1 point in 2000. Together the three states are worth 27 electoral votes, the same as Florida and more than Ohio. By putting the convention there and getting saturation TV coverage locally, the Republicans hoped the buzz would help them pick up all three states. The decision to go to St. Paul was made several years ago. The map has changed since then. At this point, all three of them are longshots, but at the time it was a very good idea.

The Republican Party Plank on Abortion

With Sarah Palin's strong position on abortion being one of the reasons she was selected as the Vice Presidential nominee, Michael Kinsley wrote a column in which he says he would love to ask her whether she really supports the expected plank in the Republican platform that will read: "We endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children." Legislation that gave fetuses the full legal rights of people already born has some consequences. For example, hiring a person for the sole purpose of committing murder is a felony in all states and carries the death penalty in some of them. If a fetus has the full rights anyone else has, then a woman hiring someone, say, a doctor, to murder it should certainly go to prison and in states with the death penalty should be executed. Kinsley wants to know if Palin believes that pregnant teenagers who get an abortion should be executed for conspiracy to commit murder. So far, nobody has asked Palin that, but it would be interesting to hear her answer.

Update on Troopergate

Speaking of Palin, if you haven't been following Troopergate, check out this excellent summary from Josh Marshall at TPM. In a nutshell, there have been allegations that Palin used her position as governor to try to fire her state trooper ex-brother-in-law, Mike Wooten, who was in a bitter child custody battle with her sister. When the Commissioner of Public Safety, Walt Monegan, refused to fire Wooten, Palin fired him. Initially Palin denied having any of her staff try to pressure the Dept. to fire Wooten, but then a police recording surfaced in which one of her staff was clearly putting on pressure to get Wooten fired, so she backtracked and said yes there was pressure but she didn't know her staff was doing this. The full recording is available here. The first few minutes are about a different topic, not relevant to this discussion. Here is an edited version in which the irrelevant material has been deleted. This is indicated by a bleep sound 42 seconds into the call. Nothing else has been changed.

Today's Polls

The only poll today is a CNN national poll that puts Obama at 46%, McCain at 44%, Nader at 4% and Barr at 2%. Don't you believe it. Nader got 2.7% of the vote in 2000 and 0.4% of the vote in 2004. Do you believe Nader will do 10 times better this year than in 2004, presumably because so many Democrats can't stand Obama? Even the PUMA voters aren't going to be voting for Nader in droves. Third party candidates always do well in early polls because voters who really like, say, Nader, want to help him by telling the pollsters they are going to vote for him. But when push comes to shove, they don't do it. Nader will be lucky to beat his 0.4% of last time. Barr is a different story. Many libertarian Republicans are genuinely unhappy with the direction their party has taken under Bush. He might get 1-2% nationally but probably won't have much effect.

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