What McCain Should Do Next
By KARL ROVE
Notwithstanding the hype about Barack Obama, here is where the presidential race stands: John McCain was within an average of 1.9% of his Democratic opponent in last week's daily Gallup tracking poll. It shouldn't be this close. Sen. Obama should be way ahead. It's not that Sen. McCain has made up a lot of ground. Pollster.com shows that the Republican steadily declined from March through June as the Democratic contest dominated the news. Mr. McCain stabilized in July, and then ticked up slightly. But the most important political fact of July is that Mr. Obama has lost altitude. Gallup now projects that 23% of this year's electorate will be swing voters, more than twice the share in 2004.
It seems that each candidate is underperforming with his base. Mr. Obama's problem is that only 74% of Democrats in the latest Fox Poll support him, while Mr. McCain gets 86% of Republicans. But Mr. McCain's support lacks the same intensity Mr. Obama receives. The latest Pew poll found that 24% of voters "strongly" support Mr. Obama, compared to 17% for Mr. McCain.
Old doubts about Mr. Obama remain. In a late June Washington Post poll, 46% said Mr. Obama lacked the experience to do the job, the same number as in March, before he spent $119 million to run ads extolling himself. In February 2000, 59% said George W. Bush, then governor of Texas, had the experience to be president. That number grew as the campaign wore on. Now Mr. Obama faces new doubts over perceptions that he's arrogant, self-centered and calculating.
So what should Mr. McCain do? He's rightly raising questions about Mr. Obama's fitness to be president, starting with his failure to admit that the surge in Iraq worked. Mr. McCain should stay at it, though he'll need help to make the case.
Mr. McCain was correct to seize on Mr. Obama's insinuations that the GOP would mount racist attacks against him. Now Mr. McCain needs to find ways to describe an Obama who is running on empty rhetoric. He needs to do to Mr. Obama what Walter Mondale did to Gary "Where's the Beef?" Hart in the 1984 Democratic primaries. Given Mr. Obama's thin r‚sum‚ and accomplishments, this can be done, with a sustained effort.
But to win, Mr. McCain must also make a compelling case for electing John McCain. Voters trust him on terrorism and Iraq and they see him as a patriot who puts country first. But they want to know for what purpose?
In the coming weeks, he needs to lay out a bold domestic reform program. He gave a taste on energy, but with a few missteps. He should appear in front of manufacturing plants where jobs depend on affordable energy, small businesses affected by fuel prices, and farms hurt by skyrocketing fertilizer costs -- and not in front of oil rigs. He needs to describe the consequences of specific domestic policy decisions. He must explain how his proposals on energy, health care, jobs and education will make a difference for ordinary families.
Mr. McCain also needs to elevate his arguments. It's not only that he opposes tax increases and Mr. Obama favors them. Mr. McCain must also make the principled case that there should be a limit to what government can take from its citizens. This argument will appeal to a large majority of voters. The top income tax rate is 35% and, according to the Tax Foundation, 89% of Americans believe that government should take no more than 30% from anyone's paycheck.
Mr. McCain should also talk about issues that increase Republican enthusiasm and win over independents, such as earmarks and judicial activism. And he should not shy away from appeals for bipartisanship. He's done it -- and talking about it undermines Mr. Obama, who hasn't. It also explains who Mr. McCain is. Mr. McCain should welcome opportunities to go against the grain. Defending free trade in manufacturing states is gutsy and feeds his maverick, straight-talk image. He will be pleasantly surprised to find out how many people in Ohio and elsewhere understand that their state's prosperity depends on knocking down trade barriers.
Then there's character. Mr. McCain is the most private person to run for president since Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s. He needs to share (or allow others to share) more about him, especially his faith. The McCain and Obama campaigns are mirror opposites. Mr. McCain offers little biography, while Mr. Obama is nothing but.
The Republican Party's convention next month is Mr. McCain's biggest chance to improve his posture. The best minds in his campaign should be carefully working on its script. Everyone knows conventions are show, but voters want to see if a candidate can put on a good one that rings true.
Mr. Obama has the easier path to victory: reassure a restive electorate that he's up to the job. Mr. McCain must both educate voters to his opponent's weaknesses and persuade them that he has a vision for the coming four years. This will require a disciplined, focused effort. Mr. McCain has gotten this far fighting an unscripted guerrilla campaign. But it won't get him all the way to the White House.
Gutsy little Georgia: "Georgia claimed today to have downed two Russian warplanes over its territory after the former Soviet neighbours came into direct conflict over the breakaway province of South Ossetia. Tbilisi mobilised its army reserves and launched a major military offensive overnight to regain control over the province, raising fears of an all-out war that could draw in Russia. Moscow backs the separatists, most of whom are Russian citizens, and has its own "peackeepers" in South Ossetia. Fighting raged around the city of Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital, as Georgian troops backed by tanks and warplanes pounded separatist forces today."
From Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's Nobel Literature Prize lecture in 1970: "The spirit of Munich has by no means retreated into the past; it was not merely a brief episode. I even venture to say that the spirit of Munich prevails in the 20th century. The timid civilized world has found nothing with which to oppose the onslaught of a sudden revival of barefaced barbarity, other than concessions and smiles. The spirit of Munich is a sickness of the will of successful people, it is the daily condition of those who have given themselves up to the thirst after prosperity at any price, to material well-being as the chief goal of earthly existence. Such people -- and there are many in today's world -- elect passivity and retreat, just so as their accustomed life might drag on a bit longer, just so as not to step over the threshold of hardship today -- and tomorrow, you'll see, it will all be all right. (But it will never be all right! The price of cowardice will only be evil; we shall reap courage and victory only when we dare to make sacrifices.)"
More regulation will invite worse behavior: "Paul Krugman is too sophisticated to think that more regulation will temper excessive risk-taking in financial markets. ('Another Temporary Fix,' July 28) He should know that the more restrictive the regulations, the more opportunities conniving executives have to work the system. Look at the case of Angelo Mozilo and Countrywide. Mozilo and his company thrived on regulation, and they used it to their advantage."
Nine passengers on every British Airways jumbo lose their bags: "British Airways loses more bags and operates more delayed planes than any other big airline in Europe, a confidential report seen by The Times has found. On the day that BA launched its first advertising campaign to rescue the reputation of Terminal 5 at Heathrow using the tag line "Terminal 5 is working", it emerged that BA customers were 80 per cent more likely to lose their luggage than average in the first half of 2008. Britain's third largest airline, bmi, also had one of the worst records for lost luggage this year, beaten only by BA in a table of 29 European airlines. Nine passengers travelling on a typical BA jumbo jet flight between January and June found that their bags were missing when they arrived at their destination. The research found that one third of BA's short-haul and medium-haul flights and roughly one third of its long-haul arrivals and departures were at least 15 minutes late this year, well below the European average. According to the Association of European Airlines (AEA), which carried out the study, Tarom Romanian Airlines was the most punctual airline."
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)