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Friday, November 07, 2008

Setting the record straight

Did Lehman Kill McCain?

By Andrew Sillivan

That's the partisan Republican spin on the dreadful McCain campaign. Krauthammer makes the case this morning:

The patient was fatally stricken on Sept. 15 -- caught in the rubble when the roof fell in (at Lehman Brothers, according to the police report) -- although he did linger until his final, rather quiet demise on Nov. 4. In the excitement and decisiveness of Barack Obama's victory, we forget that in the first weeks of September, John McCain was actually ahead. Then Lehman collapsed, and the financial system went off a cliff.

The data do not support this thesis. McCain was behind for almost all of the campaign, apart from a brief post-convention bump. Here's the Pollster graph for the period in question:

Pollstergraph_copy

You will note that McCain's slide began September 7, a week before Krauthammer claims; and Obama's re-surge began September 9. Pollster's polls are smoothed out, but the turning point was well before Lehman, and correlates with the disastrous Couric Gibson-Palin interview.

All along, the clear line for McCain was always down, and only the convention period - when people were still under the temporary illusion that Sarah Palin was a credible, rather than a farcical, candidate - gave McCain any hope.

Charles also argues that Palin hurt McCain solely because she undermined his "experience" card. This is part of the truth, but much more important was not that she was inexperienced but that she was barely at a high-school education level, unable to tell fact from fiction, and totally out of her depth. That called McCain's judgment into question, and highlighted his impulsive, reckless decision-making style. When that jumpiness was confirmed by his campaign suspension (done, some are now saying, to distract from Palin's Couric mess), and by his terrible debate performances, the cake was baked.

And on Palin, Krauthammer is also avoiding the issue:

The choice of Sarah Palin was also a mistake. I'm talking here about its political effects, not the sideshow psychodrama of feminist rage and elite loathing that had little to do with politics and everything to do with cultural prejudices, resentments and affectations.

Dismay at Palin was not a function of enraged feminists and "elite" loathing. It was a function of people being shocked by McCain's total indifference to ability, contempt for national security, and cynical sexism in believing that somehow women, missing Clinton, would vote for someone else with the right gender wiring. If Krauthammer and Kristol cannot recognize that their bet on Palin was based on nothing, that their cynical campaign hood-ornament move was too cynical for a country seriously grappling with a multiple crises, then they will not understand why their side lost so badly.

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