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A blog that takes a look at West Chester area government, politics, and community events.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The McCain Poll

I got a chance to interview Sen. Lieberman yesterday. The first thing I asked the Democrat turned Independent was whether it he found it disorienting to be hoping, for the first time in his life, to see the Republican presidential nominee gain in the polls. 

"Well, I don't think of it as the Republican poll," he responded. "I think of it as the McCain poll."

Good answer. The McCain campaign has been sending Lieberman into swing regions to convince Independents and Democrats that it's OK to vote for McCain. His role is to say that, despite what voters have been hearing, McCain is not a partisan nut. He will listen to both sides and try to come up with a practical solution.

This despite the fact that the McCain campaign has been trying hard this year to convince right-wing Republicans that, at heart, their presidential nominee is a budget and national security hawk who despises the current Democratic legislature and supports the social conservative agenda.

This despite the fact that the Obama campaign and the media have latched onto and reinforced McCain's new, far-right version of himself.

Does anyone remember the maverick of the early Bush administration? The guy who opposed the Bush tax cuts and fought for legislation aimed at combating climate change? We try to, but after this 24/7 rebranding campaign, it's difficult. 

An example - I am an Independent, but I have three close friends who are extremely partisan Democrats. They believe that Republicans can do no right (conveniently enough, they don't know any Republicans, so they never have to question this prejudice). In 2006, all of them said that McCain was a cool guy. Although he is a Republican, they said, they would consider voting for him over Hillary (who, at the time, we believed would be the Democratic nominee).

What do my friends say about McCain now?

He's a right-wing nutjob. He'll kill the economy. He's worse than W. Everything he does is evil. etc.

My very unscientific public opinion poll shows that McCain has squandered all the street cred he used to have with Philadelphia liberals. 

Enter Lieberman, a guy whose liberal street cred has been hurt both by his refusal to bow out of the 2006 senatorial election after his primary election defeat to Ned Lamont and by his decision to support McCain. Will the Connecticut Senator be able to convince Independents and Democrats that McCain is still the maverick they once admired?

"When it comes to domestic policy, John is practical," Lieberman told me. "He's interested in finding solutions that work. On foreign policy, John is more idealistic. He has this American Warrior persona - he wants to spread freedom. But in the end, he's interested in coming up with practical solutions."

Lieberman and I spoke at the Penn State Great Valley Campus. He had just finished a "roundtable discussion" with local biotech professionals. The McCain campaign sent him there, he said, to "clear up misconceptions created by the Obama campaign about John's position on stem cell research and on other policies that affect the life sciences industry."

I asked Lieberman what other groups the McCain campaign had asked him to target.

"This event is a bit unusual," he said. "They've never asked me to target a specific group before. Usually I give the same speech at every event."

That speech, he said, was meant to highlight McCain's experience and bipartisan record.

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