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August 17, 2008
Who Was That? Mac Goes Right at Saddleback!
Months ago a Frank Luntz focus group charted independent voter's responses to some of John McCain's comments. As a shocker to Luntz, some Fox News analysts and likely the McCain camapaign, the responses went off the charts positive in direct proportion to how hard core conservative Mac's answers were.
Conservative principles explained with conviction have far more power to sway the "undecided" than the pundit favored strategy of slinking towards a middle ground "don't offend anyone" type of answer. Ronald Reagan showed this to the world in the 70's and 80's. Talk radio has demonstrated this daily since the 80's. This Luntz focus group demonstrated it yet again that evening.
The problem is, nobody paid particular attention to it. Certainly not Senator McCain nor his campaign manager, Steve Schmidt. It is not a belief helf by folks like Dick Morris or Fred Barnes or many of the so-called conservative punditstocracy in Washington.
Well, perhaps because it was in a church, or perhaps because the campaign has recoiled from the vicous outcry over the chance that Joe Lieberman might be the Veep pick, but for whatever reason, Big Mac shed most of his Maverick stripes last night at the Saddleback Civil Forum. He sounded almost Reaganesque, including strong elements of a movement conservative in many answers. He even poked fun at the Governator, and the result was a decisively clear win over Obama in the first head to head competition. It was the most conservative moment in the campaign since Mitt Romney's exit speech at the C-PAC convention.
Even Pat Buchanan, who has shed most of his movement conservative credentials over the years (to keep his gig at MSNBC?), stated,
And Buchanan was right as McCain snapped off one classic Reagan type principle after another, in constrast to Obama, who was "tortured and almost tentative" according to Buchanan and who added that he "seemed like a college sophore who had not studied and was facing his orals."
On the same panel was Michelle Bernard, who gushed,
Now this is interesting, since the pundits have been telling us since, oh, about 1995, that seeing things in black and white is a problem. We've been told that this is why the Bush approval ratings are in the mid twenties. We've been told that this is why "the Republican brand is in trouble."
Movement conservatives have never bought into this, and thus the problem most conservatives have with the McCain nomination to begin with. But at Saddleback Church, with questions posed by a preacher who has bought into way too many of the "can't we all just get along" thought processes, Mac rolled to victory by stamping out most of the grey that had obstensibly carried him to this position to begin with.
"Clarity and certitude" stated Buchanan "was what you got from McCain tonight. It was clear . It was brief. Meanwhile, Obama was working around a couple sides of all the issues. John McCain won this night hands down."
And even anchor David Schuster, no conservative he, joined in the chorus with Bernard and Buchanan by stating "the contrast was clear" and agreeing it was Mac's evening. (we are not sure where Schuster will work next.)
Which makes the night both fascinating and agonizing simultaneously. The problem with this weekend's performance is that McCain will be out saying something to somebody on Monday, .and you have to cringe in case Steve Schmidt and other advisors tell him he now has to swing back to the center to balance the Saddleback performance. There is no guarantee that he will remain as on message as he was Saturday evening.
There is no guarantee that the sycophantic Lindsay Graham, who was in attendance, paid any attention when McCain stated emphatically that he was wrong on "offshore drilling" and that "we gotta drill now and we gotta drill here. I know there are some folks here in ‘KAHLI-fornya' who disagree with that position...but this is a national security issue." I think that means no compromise with the libs, in case Graham is confused.
And I wonder if McCain will now support the Bush administrations efforts on terror, since Mac admitted that his core belief on the way to fight evil is simply to "Defeat it." He didn't stop there, he added, "If I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get Osama Bin Laden and bring him to justice...." One can only wonder if the path to the gates of hell might well go by the water boarding room in the near future...a step Mac was not able to make in months past, angering many conservatives.
But for Saturday evening, Big Mac was on a Rush-esque roll. When asked which Supreme Court Justices he would not appoint, he quickly snapped "with all due respect, Justice Ginsberg, Justice Breyer, Justice Souter, Justice Stevens." McCain added that he would appoint jurists with a "proven record of strictly adhering to the Constituion...and not legislating from the bench. Some of the worst damage has been done by legislating from the bench." Which is true, but one has to ask about the damage McCain and Graham caused on this very issue with the "Gang of 14" shenanigans.
He went on with the judge issue, stating that life begins "at conception" in stark contrast to Obama, who mumbled the famous "above my pay grade" answer. In an attempt to appear overly spiritual, Obama simply appeared overly liberal.
He even stopped Pastor Rick Warren from going off on a touchy feely tangent on education and teacher pay by instantly saying merit pay is a "yes" and that bad teachers should "find another line of work." He went on to give a great dissertation on the merits of school choice, homeschooling and hammered that home choice and competition (repeatedly) are the guiding principles to education reform.
He sounded like the Gipper's economic team on taxes, even mentioning that increasing taxes will not increase revenues. He tied taxes and other economic issues together with healthcare, and in obvious contrast with Obama (and much of McCain's career) stressed opportunity over government solutions. He seemd to pick up conservative momentum as he rolled through the questions on education, taxes and healthcare. He also picked up his energy. It's as if he found his voice, and hold onto your shirt...it is a conservative voice.
I wonder how Dick Morris, who insists that the Democrats own taxes, education and healthcare as issues, will react?. But more importantly, I wonder how the McCain Campaign will react to this. I haven't seen McCain have this much fun since the last time he submarined a conservative in front of the cameras.
He finished the evening by quoting Reagan and the "shining city on a hill" speech as it applied to the Russian-Georgian conflict and touching on the evils of the Russian re-emergence. He tied energy independence and the Georgian conflict together and mentioned that this is a big problem for Europe. I mean, quite simply, for one evening at least...McCain GOT IT.
In the end, McCain stated that "our nation was founded on Judeo Christian principles." He added that while we "have our flaws....we remain the most unusual experiment in history."
To which I say..."Amen and pass the plate!" And Saturday night remains the most unusual McCain Campaign experiment in history too. I hope he and his staff have the courage to analyze the results properly. The election could well ride on it.