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Sunday, August 17, 2008
Meg Whitman??? ... and other thoughts on the Rick Warren presidential forum
My initial impression of the Rick Warren "civil discussion" tonight featuring one hour each for Barack Obama and John McCain is that the forum, and particularly the questions, did seem tailor made for McCain, which isn't surprising because Warren, like most evangelical leaders, is a Republican. Still, I thought he was fair, for the most part (except when he failed to remind John McCain to stay off his stump speech,) and thoughtful, and his forum enlightening. So here's the scorecard:

1. Thanks for nothing, honey. When asked who the smartest people he knew were, and who he would turn to for advice as president, Barack mentioned his wife and grandmother as the wisest, then fired off an assortment of Republican and Democratic colleagues in the Senate like Dick Lugar and former Sen. Sam Nunn as people he would turn to for advice (interestingly, he did not include either Clinton...) John McCain coldly ignored poor Cindy altogether, not to mention his very old mother, and instead reeled off the strangest triad I've ever heeard: Gen. Petraeus (surprise, surprise) Democratic Congressman John Lewis ... a Clinton friend and flip-flop to Obama guy, and Meg Whitman, the CEO of Ebay. HUH???

Whitman is a McCain campaign co-chair, She's also a former Romney girl, which increases the possibility that he's being influenced in that veep direction. And I guess he thought he was being economically hip by mentioning an online company that was hot like, ten years ago. The John Lewis thing I can't even begin to explain. Maybe he got his Georgias confused... Score this one: Obama.
2. Talking points memo. I have to give this one to McCain, who will, as David Gergen noted on CNN tonight, be a tougher debater than the Obama Nation might have imagined. While I found him irritating (he's simply got to drop the "my friends" thing -- it's extremely creepy and weird...) pandering and repetitive (war, war, Gen. Petraeus, war, al-Qaida, Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam, can I tell you one more story about Vietnam, my friends...?) he did what any communications director wants to see: he fired off the talking points and repeated them over, and over and over again, no matter what he was asked. When asked about his greatest moral failing, he gave a clipped answer: "the failure of my first marriage," and then moved right back to his stump speech talking points. Asked about abortion, he begged to talk about the Supreme Court, so he could give his talking points. (and then mentioned he would not have nominated the four liberal justices, including David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Steven Breyer, all of whom he voted to confirm in the Senate, by the way ... he probably would have voted to confirm John Paul Stevens, too, but he wasn't in the Senate in 1975 ...) Asked about security vs. privacy, he threw in secret union ballots -- a right wing favorite topic -- straight out of left field ... McCain pandered on every answer to his audience of religious right voters, and was aggressive at promoting his ... you guessed it: talking points. McCain came off more blatantly political and Obama more thoughtful and authentic, but that may not matter to undecided voters, who want one of these candidates to force them to make up their minds. Score this one: McCain.

3. Too cool for school? Barack Obama was his usual cool, languid self, but his communications team has simply got to get him to shorten his answers. By being so thoughtful and nuanced, Obama missed the chance to take more questions, and he failed to get across clear, succinct messages. On the up-side, he actually had an intimate, real conversation with Rick Warren, whereas McCain simply hammered on the talking points and pandered to the audience, rarely addressing Warren directly. I think Obama hit paydirt with his Supreme Court answer by saying that the justice he would not have nominated would be unqualified Clarence Thomas (he righties are just seething over that one, and we love that!) But as Chuck Todd points out over at First Read:
Obama spent more time trying to impress Warren (or to put another away) not offend Warren while McCain seemingly ignored Warren and decided he was talking to folks watching on TV. The McCain way of handling this forum is usually the winning way. Obama may have had more authentic moments but McCain was impressively on message.
Score this one: McCain.

4. Land mine avoidance. McCain completely circumvented Rich Warren's attempts to get him to elaborate on issues that could split him from the right wing of his party. His six word answer to the "worst personal moral failing" question was one example, but he did that one better when he completely avoided the obvious answer to the question of what instance he could cite when he bucked his party at great political risk to himself. The obvious answers: campaign finance reform and immigration reform. McCain chose neither one, instead picking climate change, or something... Warren, who we should stipulate is not a reporter, didn't follow up. Score this one: McCain.

5. Maybe this would have been a good time for McCain to mention his wife? Asked by Warren what amount of income qualifies someone to be considered "rich," Barack gave a pretty good answer, joking that anybody who has sold 25 million books, as Warren has, qualifies. But then he got down to numbers, saying that if you make over $250,000 a year, "you're doing pretty well." McCain? He set the low bar for being considered rich at a cool $5 million. As Chris Kofinis said on Fox tonight, that was an opposition ad waiting to happen, and that ad should be made. Score this one: Obama.

6. Faith first. This was, after all, supposed to be a faith forum, and on that score, Obama won by a mile. He came off as much more humble, more conversant with the topic of faith, and more versed in Biblical scripture. He talked about man's need for humility in confronting evil, knowing that God is the only one capable of eliminating evil from the world, while McCain went into full eye bulge, vowing to "chase bin Laden to the gates of Hell" and using the church venue to attack "Islamic fascism." Obama said that marriage was a sacred union, where "God is in the mix," but his missed a chance to use the phrase, "I have been married to one woman for 15 years, and have vowed before God to remain with her for life," which his communications team MUST insert into his talking points. Still, compared with McCain's staccato answers on spiritual matters, Obama won by a mile. Score this one: Obama.

Final score: Obama - 3, McCain - 3. A good old fashioned draw, which unfortunately is pretty good news for John McCain.
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posted by JReid @ 12:15 AM  
Friday, June 06, 2008
Obama resonates with evangelicals
Barack Obama, for all the media's obsession with his pastor, enjoys a distinct advantage over John McCain this fall ... okay, he enjoys several of them (his age, vigor, excitement, ability to draw a crowd, fundraising, speaking ability and the fact that he's not super creepy and a lackey of the Bush administration like Johnny Mac...)

But the advantage I'm getting at here is that Barack Obama is a religious man (a Christian, righties, not a Muslim...) and that means he can speak the language of faith in a way that infrequent church-goer McCain cannot. And so...
In a new interview with Dan Gilgoff for BeliefNet's God-o-Meter, DeMoss explains the lack of religious enthusiasm for McCain and predicts a potential major shift to Obama.
You represent some of the nation's most powerful evangelicals. What do those leaders say about McCain?

This is one guy's perspective, but I am surprised by how little I've seen or read in conservative circles about McCain since February. I don't think I've gotten one email or letter or phone call from anybody in America in the last four months saying anything about this election or urging that we unite behind John McCain and put aside whatever differences we have. Back in the fall and winter, you'd get several things a day from conservatives saying, "The future of the Supreme Court is at stake. We have to stop Hillary Clinton. Get behind so and so--or don't' go with this guy." It's just very quiet. It could meant there's a real sense of apathy or it could mean they're' waiting for the general election to begin. But it's a surprise, given the way email networks work now.

Barack Obama is trying hard to win evangelical voters. Does that effort stand a chance?

If one third of white evangelicals voted for Bill Clinton the second time, at the height of Monica Lewinsky mess--that's a statistic I didn't believe at first but I double and triple checked it--I would not be surprised if that many or more voted for Barack Obama in this election. You're seeing some movement among evangelicals as the term [evangelical] has become more pejorative. There's a reaction among some evangelicals to swing out to the left in an effort to prove that evangelicals are really not that right wing. There's some concern that maybe Republicans haven't done that well. And there's this fascination with Barack Obama. So I will not be surprised if he gets one third of the evangelical vote. I wouldn't be surprised if it was 40-percent.
Amen.

Another issue is that younger Christians, including evangelicals, are beginning to embrace faith issues of the Book of Matthew variety -- issues that broaden the conversation beyond gay marriage and abortion. Those include environmentalism, peace, and caring for the poor. It's interesting that Republican voters and establishment types rejected the one GOP candidate who, like Obama, speaks the language of faith fluently, and whose pleasantnes and communication skills would have made him a fresh, compelling candidate for president: Mike Huckabee. And you know why they dissed the guy who probably could have given Barack a real run for his money? Tax cuts. Huck raised taxes in Arkansas once, and it was the kiss of death from the Club for Growth hard liners.

Give a man a fish, and you still can't stop him from being stupid.

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posted by JReid @ 10:15 PM  
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Obama, evangelical
CBN reporter David Brody analyzes Barack Obama's religious pitch, and how it could broaden his appeal among "faith voters."
Kentucky, he is making a direct appeal to Evangelicals with flyers that mention his conversion experience and they highlight a big old cross. Remember Mike Huckabee’s supposed subliminal cross in his Christmas campaign ad? Well, the Obama campaign ditches the subliminal and goes for the in your face cross. Look at the flyer here.

The Obama campaign has consistently believed that their candidate can compete for the “religious vote”. A lot has been made about how Obama hasn’t done as well with Catholics compared to Clinton. But let’s remember one thing: Obama has a story to tell about how Jesus came into his life. You can bet we will be hearing more details about it on the stump in the fall. (if Obama is the nominee)

Meanwhile, John McCain won’t be partaking in the “Evangelical speak” or handing out these types of flyers in the south which makes you wonder if Huckabee could help McCain shore up the Evangelical base and at the same time play to the Independent middle with his populist streak.

I know the conservative policy purists will say that Obama is liberal and therefore Evangelicals won’t buy his “Evangelical speak”. Not so fast. Remember, many people vote based on an emotional connection to a candidate or if they can relate to that person. Obama may need to work on this perception that he is “elite” but when he talks about Jesus and the Bible and the fact that he’s a sinner, it makes him more real and in the process, more electable too.
Brody also has a pic of the Obama flyer.

This comes at a time when young evangelicals are abandoning the Republican Party in droves, over issues ranging from the war to poverty and AIDS. Younger Christians, and some older ones, too, are rediscovering the Book of Matthew, and Jesus' admonition to feed the poor, clothe the naked, and take care of one another (I guess they missed the part about get thou riches and Caesar shall cut thy taxes...) These are prime Obama voters, and he is bringing them into the fold.

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posted by JReid @ 3:25 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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