Thursday, September 4, 2008

John McCain

So I just finished watching John McCain's speech and I have to say that I think overall he did a good job. While he is clearly not as strong a speaker as Obama, I felt that his speech struck the correct balance between civility, attacks, personal story, and base energizing. And to his credit he even handled a protester acting up inside the convention hall about five minutes into the speech well. In addition, so far, no matter how many times I hear McCain's war stories they never cease to amaze me. That doesn't mean he should be president, but you can't deny that his personal story isn't powerful. 

As for the actual content of the speech, I was not very impressed from a substance point of view. McCain pulled out the regular republican tricks of democrats will raise taxes, enlarge government, and take away all your choices. Just to note, the size of the federal government has increased since WWII at essentially the same rate under both democrat and republican administrations. Republicans may claim to like smaller government in the abstract, but the data shows they have increased the size of the Federal government just as much as the democrats when they are in power. 

There were two aspects in McCain's speech tonight that I think were fairly telling of McCain's fall campaign strategy for winning the middle. The first is to run against a "do nothing Washington" that must be changed. Obama is running on essentially the same idea, but the difference is Obama hasn't been in Washington for over 20 years. I am not sure how McCain is going to pull off running against the Washington establishment, when he a fixture of it. I can almost already seem the Obama campaign's response to this approach by McCain: The ad fades to a somewhat odd picture of McCain in black and white and the announcer says "he says he wants to change Washington, but what has he been doing the last 20 years". I know his overarching theme is he is a maverick, but I am not sure he can pull off running against a system he has been a part of for more than two decades. 

The second aspect was that there was very little mention about the economy. McCain did talk about some tax cuts and that he feels our pain, but there were no new ideas. In fact, almost all of his remarks tonight about the economy sounded like democratic platforms from 1992 (job retraining for the new economy and better unemployment insurance). I don't know if McCain just took a pass tonight, but eventually he is going to have to put some real ideas about turning around the economy out their if he wants to win the middle. 

Overall though, McCain made a solid speech tonight. I think he is showing that he can be a very strong candidate and any democrats that expected this election to be a cakewalk should take note.

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