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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vote Dammit!

The McCain team got some news yesterday. It wasn't good. I imagine that they drew straws or flipped coins or played rock-paper-scissors to find out which adviser would break it to the candidate and get an up-close look at his legendary temper -- the Senator from Arizona stands a damned good chance of losing Arizona.

A new poll from Arizona State University shows the presidential race too close to call in Sen. John McCain's home state.

The Arizona senator is leading Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama by 2 percentage points, 46 to 44, down from a 7-point lead a month ago and a double-digit lead this summer. Factor in the poll's 3-point margin of error, and a race that was once a nearly sure thing for McCain is a statistical dead heat, pollsters say.

"One would think McCain would still carry Arizona, but anybody who says they can predict the state this time, they can't. It's going to depend on who goes to the polls," said Tara Blanc, associated director of the poll by ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and local PBS affiliate Channel 8 (KAET).

Not surprisingly, the pool of remaining undecideds there is small, at about 9%. There's a real chance that Arizona could go blue this year, but only if Obama voters get out and vote.

And, with a mere five weekdays until E-Day, that's what it's down to -- who votes. Both in Arizona and nationally. That's bad news for John McCain who, despite firing up the base with his selection of Sarah Palin as running mate, finds himself losing the voter enthusiasm race. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll taken last week found that enthusiasm for McCain was low. 26% of respondents said they were "excited" to cast their vote for the Republican, 34% were just "satisfied," and the largest percentage -- 39% -- called him "the lesser of two evils.”

Obama did much better, with 52% saying they were "excited," only 14% calling him "the lesser of two evils," and 33% merely "satisfied." Excited people vote, unexcited people may not. If past elections are any indication, Obama will have the edge in voter turnout. There are voter suppression efforts going on out there, but they only seem to be succeeding in the states McCain would probably win anyway. Still if Democrats don't make it their goal in life to punish illegal campaign tactics and make elections must harder to steal in this next term, they may not get another chance for a while. Democrats are taking this election because it's not close enough to steal.

For their part, the GOP is planning (plotting?) their triumphant return at some undetermined point in the future. Politico's Jonathan Martin reports that they've already scheduled the strategy meeting.

Two days after next week's election, top conservatives will gather at the Virginia weekend home of one of the movement's most prominent members to begin a conversation about their role in the GOP and how best to revive a party that may be out of power at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue next year.

The meeting will include a "who's who of conservative leaders -- economic, national security and social," said one attendee, who shared initial word of the secret session only on the basis of anonymity and with some details about the host and location redacted.

The decision to waste no time in plotting their moves in the post-Bush era reflects the widely-held view among many on the right, and elsewhere, that the GOP is heading toward major losses next week.

"There's a sense that the Republican Party is broken, but the conservative movement is not," Martin's source told him. The idea will be to rebuild a "national grassroots political and policy coalition similar to the out Reagan years." I guess that means "pre-Reagan" years, since the talk is of the time during the Carter administration.

"Should McCain lose next Tuesday, the conversation will include who to groom as the next generation of conservative leaders," Martin writes. "A list that will feature [McCain running mate Sarah] Palin at or near the top." The lesson, apparently, was that McCain wasn't far enough to the right.

The logic here is a little hard to grasp. If the problem with the candidate was that he wasn't conservative enough, how did that result in voters turning in droves to a candidate Republicans pretty successfully branded as extremely liberal? In what world does that argument make any sense? Reason would seem to lead you to the conclusion that McCain either wasn't moderate enough or failed to portray himself as moderate enough. Yet here they are, assuming that someone like Palin holds the keys to the kingdom. No wonder they're losing seats all over the nation.

Still, November 4 isn't a sure bet -- it's just damned close to one. Those two, four, eight, twelve years in the political wilderness won't happen for Republicans if people don't get out and vote. Aesop's tortoise and the hare, you know. Sit at home in smug certainty and that big lead in the polls means jack.

That goes double for you, Arizonans. For the rest of us, if someone asks why you think McCain's losing, tell them it was because he wasn't conservative enough.

Reinforcing Republican false assumptions can't hurt any.