Same old Democrats

Posted 9/11/2008 01:04:00 PM

By Jim Scarantino

Democrats seemed stunned, at least temporarily, that they are not waltzing into the White House. With approvals for the Bush presidency at an all time low, unemployment above 6 percent, gasoline stuck around $3.50 a gallon, troops still fighting an unpopular war and consumer confidence shaky, the Democratic ticket should be the ticket to four years of power.

But the race for the White House is neck-and-neck only two months from Election Day. Those are the most optimistic polls for Democrats. Tracking polls show huge swings in key constituencies from Obama-Biden to McCain-Palin. Democrats valiantly point to a dwindling number of favorable polls in individual swing states for a few rays of hope. But Obama is also quitting his efforts in many of the red states he had hoped to turn blue in 2008.

Democrats look to blame everyone but themselves. What they may not realize is that the White House may again slip through their hands because they have disappointed voters by being the same Democratic Party that lost in 2000 and 2004.

Perhaps the worst thing that has happened to Obama has been winning the Democratic Party nomination and inheriting its dysfunctions. He is no longer campaigning as an insurgent, an outsider, a challenger to the Democratic status quo. The Democratic Party is now Obama, and Obama is the Democratic Party. The man who channeled Abraham Lincoln in his announcement speech in Springfield, Ill. has not survived the transformation.

As the party’s nominee, Obama has become captive to the interest groups and factions that have run the Democratic Party for the past 30 years. Many of the doozies that have cost him credibility and strategic constituencies, like his initial senseless opposition to offshore drilling, were the product of his indenture to pressure groups that control the party’s election machinery and money.

Obama the guerilla fighter displayed clear thinking and accurate instincts. Obama the party leader has so far looked like a general who can’t give the right orders because he can’t see through the smoke of battle.

The Biden flub

His selection of Joe Biden as his running mate looks very much like the flub committed by Al Gore in choosing Joe Lieberman. In making his pick for vice president, Gore’s campaign knew it had to win Florida to secure the critical number of Electoral College votes. Instead of taking the direct route to victory by choosing Bob Graham, a highly popular senator and former Florida governor, the Gore campaign thought way too much. It saw a large Jewish population in Florida, thought a Jewish politician on the presidential ticket would electrify Jewish voters, and picked a dour, uninspiring, disloyal but Jewish politician from Connecticut. That man has endorsed John McCain in this election.

Obama’s Electoral College math requires winning Virginia or Indiana or turning some other red states blue. Choosing the popular Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia would have solved several of those problems. He is Catholic, a big help in many swing states. But Kaine is pro-life, and the pro-choice wing of the Democratic Party wouldn’t stand for it. Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana was submarined by the Democratic netroots. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas would have brought a woman from a red state to the ticket. But the Clinton faction would accept no woman but their fallen heroine.

And instead of harnessing the excitement of Hillary Clinton’s 18 million voters by honoring her with the VP slot, Obama has out-thought himself from making the right choice.

Thinking he needed to fill the gap in his experience and foreign policy credentials without being outshined by his running mate, Obama picked Biden, an elderly senator from a tiny, solidly Democratic state. The Obama camp additionally reasoned that Biden’s Catholic background and roots in Scranton, Penn. would help with that state and other Midwestern swing states.

But hitching up with Biden, a D.C. insider for more than three decades, cost Obama his outsider image. And so far the Biden choice is failing to attract Catholic voters. The archbishop of Denver suggested that pro-choice Biden not take communion in his diocese during the Democratic convention. The Conference of Catholic Bishops has rebuked Biden for his support for abortion rights. Catholic women are flocking to the McCain-Palin ticket, accounting for much of the turnaround in national polls. Many of those women switching to McCain-Palin are in the very states where the Biden choice was supposed to help.

GOP chooses wisely

McCain hasn’t been hampered nearly as much by internal Republican politics. He was not the party establishment’s first pick. But he was the only GOP candidate who stood a chance of winning this year. He has used his freedom of movement to maximum advantage, both in softening the platform to avoid extreme, vote-losing statements of principle and in going completely outside the party establishment to pick Palin.

The GOP also gives McCain another advantage: It will be patient on ideology and policy in order to win. Unfortunately for Obama, much of the Democrat establishment now tangled around his legs prefers to cling bitterly to its familiar, old guns and irrelevant liberal religion even if it means losing another presidential election.

Scarantino, who was co-chair of McCain's 2000 presidential campaign in New Mexico, has been recognized as one of the country’s best political columnists by the American Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. His work has been published in more than 50 newspapers. You can contact him at

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At 3:42 PM, September 11, 2008, Blogger The San Agustin Kid said...

Let's see ... Scarantino supported the loser of the 2000 presidential election and that gives him WHAT credibility exactly?

Flack for McCain once, shame on you!
Flack for McCain twice, and ... what's your name again?


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