In what many would call a fascinating debate intellectually as well as strategically, I will say that I am completely shocked by the lack of political and strategic performance that John McCain put forward. 

In my opinion, this debate for John McCain held a huge importance — McCain was in need of a breakthrough, and he as well as I knew that it would need to come with negative attacks. 

But McCain simply didn’t pick the right fights — he picked all of them. In almost every question and issue, McCain choose to attack his opponent. And this simply did not (and is proven to have not) provoke a positive reaction from the audience. 

And this is essentially what part of the outcome is for McCain’s slip in the polls — he has chosen a proven strategy, in this case negative campaigning, and has abused it — both in this debate and in his campaigning in total. 

 Obama laid out my point perfectly after a repetitive string  of small jabs by McCain, quoting to a questioner in the  audience named Oliver:

 “You don’t want to hear politicians pointing fingers, you  want to know how my or senator McCain’s policies will  affect you.”

 This quote was both the closest point to a knockout punch  that this relatively motionless debate held, but also a show  that McCain was not pointing his finger correctly at Obama.  As a democrat and Obama supporter myself, I will say (and you can quote me on this) the Obama won the debate from a policy standpoint. But as a thirteen-year old American and political blogger, I will also say that McCain lost a debate on the strategic side that he very well could have won if he simply stopped attacking.

And this is essentially because although McCain had very little momentum coming into tonight, the debate’s town hall-style favored him — he purposely holds his campaign events as town-halls because he knows that it is his strength. 

But despite this, McCain, instead of capitalizing on the town-hall format by directly answering the questions asked, seemed anxious to put fourth a knock out punch question after question in the form of a political attack towards Obama. 

And because of this, McCain left Obama the momentum door a jar and Obama exploited it, using his strengths to please the crowd with his policies, ignoring the sometimes off-topic McCain points. His ratings instantly increased and as an effect, the normally non-commenting people I watched the debate with pointed out that Obama clearly had a strategic and political edge. 

And in the end, McCain never got his chance for a knockout punch. Why? Obama never gave him another chance — using his earned momentum to both answer McCain and present his point in the way he wanted to.

And so I think that McCain fared as more anxious in his portion of the debate than Obama, and that is why he clearly lost.

Today Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin presented her second speech in as many days on the topic of opponent Barack Obama’s political involvement with past leader of radical group Weather Underground — a subject repeatedly punched by the McCain campaign. Palin’s words were responded with boos and shouting alike from the McCain supporting crowd, a harsh way of showing they wanted more. 

But has this been the response from the general public, especially neutral undecideds? 

The popular trend has been no, but past and present pollster stats have had a history of contradicting this claim. But in contrast, Barack Obama’s recent climb in the polls have been widely linked with the fact that his campaign has been running a lower percentage of attack ads. 

But in truth it really comes down to the campaign making their attacks carefully and with strategy. Although incredibly dated, my case in point is knockout campaign ad “daisy” by then-presidential candidate Lyndon Johnson. The ad (click here) was truly a textbook attack that although was in fact a PR gamble, paid off handsomely for the Johnson campaign, and is even credited at times in part for his presidency win.

Why? Though a gamble alone because of its topic, the ad was in fact very well played. The Johnson campaign found a large stumble by opponent Barry Goldwater where he stated that nuclear bombing Vietnam was a possibility. 

For those as young as me, to put this into prospect: the political importance of capitalizing on the uncertainty and fear of a nuclear war in 1964 was by all means not the equivalent but rather of the same concept as a candidate in this race falling on a political pot of gold. In other words, finding something (most useful would be a quote) coming out of the opposing campaign that involved the prospect of funding the people who are suspected to have started the financial crisis.  

 But once something like this has been discovered, the  campaign must in fact use their information carefully. 

 What is my point? There are essentially three steps a  campaign must take to orchestrate a successful ad — a juicy  and controversial topic (in Daisy’s case a nuclear war), a  somewhat truthful piece of information from the opponent  (the more untruthful it is the more skilled the director must  be), and finally a non-generic: “and this is why you should  vote John ’64″ quote. 

 And “daisy” not only hit straight on all of those topics, but  also found time to put fourth an intense start (the young girl counting roses that turns in to a T-Minus countdown for an nuclear bomb) that has made people think and argue for decades.

And what does this have to do with the 2008 presidential race? In a strategic sense, almost everything.

In my opinion, Obama’s lead has come from two things — his policies and the topic of this post — McCain campaigning. 

But not as you might suspect — I am not discrediting McCain for his negativing campaigning itself, but rather the fact that it has not successfully followed all the points to make a successful PR ploy. This is simply because he has thrown out way too many talking points as ads, and hasn’t followed what has worked in the past and will continue to — a central arguement.

As an American, I have recently been surrounded at all angles by the financial crisis, both presidential and vice-presidential debates, and already interestingly enough, the ongoing saga of Sarah Palin. 

So as I tuned in to CNN, passing through images of Wall Street, abandoned houses and OJ Simpson’s Trial, I knew it was only a matter of seconds before I saw Sarah Palin. And when that did in fact become reality, I was completely dumbfounded — not only did I see her, but rather I heard her. 

What do I mean? CNN’s routine coverage of a McCain campaign stop in Carson, California showed Palin addressing the public, but not like I was used to. I’ll get to the point — she wasn’t delivering a stump speech. 

Yes, a non-stump speech wouldn’t have been such a spectacle at any other campaign event in recent history, but the truth is recent history has never seen Sarah Palin. Although today I will lay off the long saga of Palin herself, I must point out something like this has not only been a rarity in the past few months, but to me shows a turning point in the McCain campaign. 

 Although I believe that Joe Biden won the Vice Presidential  debate, I also will point out that Palin didn’t lose it. She  fought, but was taken captive by Biden’s foreign policy  credentials and successful soundbite gambles. 

 But what I think Palin accomplished in the debate gave her  more long term firepower than any single thing she has  done as running mate for John McCain (and sorry for the  bluntness) — she is now no longer a joke.

 If you asked strategists from both the right an the left on  the morning of the VP debate, there would be no disputing  from them across the board that Sarah Palin has been in the public’s eye a PR ploy. Whether that is what the McCain campaign intended to accomplish is another analysis in itself, but my blunt point here is that the Vice Presidential debate simply changed the way people thought of Palin. 

She didn’t have any coupe-de-grace moments, she didn’t gaffe, and she certainly didn’t win, but Palin kept up. And in doing that she passed a certain point of public status — from more of a joke and PR stunt to a vice presidential candidate. This will admittedly not change opinions on her policies, especially mine, but as pointed out in a rather comic tone by one of my friends, “Palin achieved the expectations of stringing together multiple coherent and complete sentences.” 

Although that comment wasn’t exactly correct, it was essentially in the right direction. Palin’s expectations were in fact incredibly low, and because she exceeded them in such a national stage, my guess is that Palin became a valid political figure to many people. 

So what does that have to do with Palin not delivering a stump speech? In truth, a lot.

In more of a bold statement, because of Palin’s renewed status, she has essentially set herself into the position to carefully open herself up to the MSM and public alike. My point here is that because of her partial success in the debate, Palin was either herself motivated or given the green light by the McCain campaign to open herself up to the press.

And this of course temps the question: what would have happened if Palin had gaffed and knocked herself out of the debate?

In my opinion the McCain campaign would be very hard pressed to do virtually anything in that situation. They would face a press fire if they didn’t bring Palin to an event, but would also face a brutal media wall if they let her speak.  

So I’ll let the commentators have a say at this.

It seems like the press is now convinced on two topics — the economic bailout that has cost us one trillion in a day — and everything about Sarah Palin. Because I am no economics professional and am too young to have a bank account, I have become more or less obsessed with Palin and her press craze. 

Very early this month, I found a small blog offering that John McCain’s campaign should ask Palin to step down as running mate, in what seemed like a drunken tone, which I had very little interest for mostly because the blog’s credibility and links were nothing less than bogus. 

I then started seeing more and more blogs pop up with this topic, along with the occasional webzine posting a opinion piece with similar views to the original blog. But I was extremely surprised to see the story go all the way to CNN’s Jack Cafferty File, a very prestigious, and to me, credible opinion blog. So as I sifted through the hundreds of comments, some (let us say) “interesting” points came up. This is one that I will center my analysis around — written by “erica”:

If he [John McCain] has half a brain he will – but I think we know how much brain he has, based on the fact he chose her in the first place.

I originally noticed this comment because it was so overly partisan that it triggered dozens of follow up arguments, but after staring at it for quite a long time, I saw something different in it — it was completely true…without the “brain” comments. 

 In truth, McCain made a smart decision, but a very  important one in his acquisition of Palin. And many can  agree that it has not paid off. 

 In my perspective, Palin was chosen in the most part for a  nation-wide press boost and to collect outer right  conservatives who otherwise wouldn’t support McCain. It is  widely disputed if they intended to also herd in former  Hillary Clinton supporters, but that is completely off topic. 

 In short, for whatever reason John McCain choose Sarah  Palin, he cannot avoid the fact that he has chosen her. He  also cannot avoid the fact that he has backed her up and  called her “the best running mate I could have chosen”  multiple times. So this now brings me to a revised version  of the comment I saw. 

John McCain is now feeling his Sarah Palin press fire burn out in the midst of the economic crisis, and although he and his staff know that Palin does not have a good chance of coming out of the debate (or really any public appearance) with an increase in the polls, he has chosen her. He cannot replace her. 

He simply can’t. Sending Palin into a debate that now seems impossible to win and hard to stay alive would prompt any political writer, commentator, strategist, blogger — anyone to think that it would be a good campaign move to replace her. But he can’t.

Palin, in her VP beginnings, was a literal press flame although she barely ever choose to enter the media. And I, as well as many liberal and conservatives alike thought it she could carry that media flame all the way to the White House. As a Democrat and teenage citizen of the US, I was terrified by her, but as a political strategist I strongly thought that she could eventually carry her stardom all the way. But I forgot one thing — she had to debate. I stand corrected. 

The McCain campaign has found themselves in a trap. Their favorite baseball was hit as a home run, but instead of clearing their fence to their friendly neighbor’s yard, it was hit too hard, landing in the haunted house that Joe Biden lives in. 

In more simple words, Palin was a genius idea that worked, perhaps too well. The conservatives just didn’t look far ahead enough politically and tested all available traps to see that this could happen. Palin started off brilliantly, but then she made some mistakes and the press as well as many others have exploited them. Hence her “Bridge To Nowhere” claim that everyone from Bono to Keith Olberman have capitalized on. Her two failed interviews that are now legendary on youtube, being smashed to pieces by comedian Tina Fey. But most of all, it is the few information that has been given out, most of it called lies. 

So as Palin limps into the debates, there is a very low chance she will make it out. And there is literately nothing John McCain can do about it.

Politics played center stage in the United States on Friday night, once again occupying the front page of press outlets everywhere, and hitting hard in the blogosphere. But in plain words: we won’t see anything until we see the Vice Presidential debate. 

And this is essentially because of Barack Obama and John McCain. After a debate of their own that was close enough to produce mixed feelings along the left and right press, both senators have simply set the grand stage up for the rest of their respective tickets. 

But what I really am yearning to see is Sarah Palin. 

Because for the first time, I believe that she is under pressure. Since her “blindside the press” entrance into the national stage, I have been fascinated by her stardom that has caused a wildfire inside the media. But most prominently, I have been in awe of her difficulty to     interview. 

And this raises a great point that has gone unnoticed — Sarah Palin’s vice presidential debate could very easily end in a complete disaster for the Republican party, mostly because no one knows what to expect from her, including me. Why? She has avoided the press, only occurring in three formal interviews, which is a sharp contrast to her debate opponent: Joe Biden has appeared in nearly one hundred.

But what I do know is that what we have seen from her rare appearances is that she is not very good at thinking on her feet. There is no disputing from either party that (I’m not about to get partisan) that she has fumbled in all of her interviews, sticking with her proven false points. But there are two very large differences from an MSM interview and a debate — one being that it is for much higher stakes. 

The other, (which as a democrat I must admit I am happy about) is the fact that she is debating Joe Biden. What I mean by this is that Biden is essentially the worst person she could dream to face — someone who (unlike Obama), will ruthlessly exploit her lies and attack with “brutally honest remarks” (CNN). And this is not just because he has this type of political strategy, but he can afford to. 

Why? I believe that if Joe Biden successfully makes Sarah Palin look like a mayor again on national television, the McCain camp’s “cheater” and “darkhorse” cries will be overshadowed by Palin’s backlash. 

And if he doesn’t succeed? I think that Biden will at least be able to recognize that his tactic is not working as he might have wanted, and go back to the subject where he can win — politics. 

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It would be put well quoting that tonight’s debate “almost wasn’t,” far exceeding my expectations of a full out brawl.

But before I start, in a nutshell, what really occurred the most to me is that there never really was a knockout punch, a home-run swing — a bold statement or attack that either tore off the roof or declared a real winner. There were really more or less small policy jabs, and in that respect I think that Barack Obama came out on top strategically. 

 A conservative CNN guest commentator put it extremely  well, pointing out that in a social sense, there were truly  two different people debating — a confident foreign policy  candidate who will accuse, accuse, and accuse, and then an  intellectual candidate who very acknowledges his opponents  rights and points out his wrongs, playing out the debate on  the defensive. 

 Although I am not sure that I agree with the statement on  offense and defense, I think that the man raises a very good  point — that Obama will win a debate through his policies,  not his soundbites.  

And this is really where Obama came right off the bat strong, starting by discussing the economic crisis. His first message was ripe and straight to the point, first throwing out the problem and what he will do to fix it, then proclaiming in a more subdued way that his opponent will take a different and less successful path more towards our president. And I also think that he brought out the point of: “Do you want the next four years under a president similar to ours, who is by the way the same person who you give approval ratings below freezing to?” 

And I think that the general audience thought a second about that, liberal, moderate or conservative, and make their own decision. 

And I think at the same time, McCain felt his grasp slipping. CNN provided a audience reaction poll (it obviously debatable if it is accurate) which showed a huge advantage out of the gate to Obama. 

And this was a very decisive moment in the debate. 

When the topic switched to foreign policy, I noticed a McCain taking chances. The pinnacle of this was a very bold statement from McCain about Russian President Vladimir Putin, quoting:

“I looked into the eyes of Vladimir Putin, and I saw three letters — a K, a G, and a B.”

And although the strongly conservative crowd went nothing less than “ga-ga” about that comment, I think that in the long term that really lost the debate for McCain. But it essentially wasn’t the point itself, rather a small turning point in the debate showing the larger and larger chances that McCain was taking to make his points. And in the end, I think that people will think about the debate in a whole and move towards the conclusion that Barack Obama was more in control, not jumpy, and factual. But most of all, he wasn’t trying to start a World War Three inside that Mississippi auditorium, rather pointing out what is wrong and right. 
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The Need For A Debate

September 25, 2008

*** After a non-partisan post on the strategic side of John McCain’s campaign “suspension” as well as some comments questioning my views on it, this is my partisan take on this issue: ***

Although the economy is in desperate need of help one way or another, I think that the American people desperately need a debate. Both candidates have different plans to fix the economy crisis, and both won’t release something for the press without mentioning that President Bush’s plan has major flaws in it. And to say it in a warm way, our president is “retiring” in a matter of days, and if elected, both candidates, mostly Barack Obama, will lead our country in a different matter. 

 And this is precisely why I am personally disgusted to see  John McCain suspend his campaign to chime into  Washington’s bailout plan, because when he knows that if  elected, he will chose to (at the least) push congress to  tweak what is being discussed right now. 

 And in a more broad sense, I am surprised to see both  Barack Obama and John McCain with president Bush and  bailout officials at a high profile White House meeting. In  my opinion, as far as taking action with a bailout, both  candidates are still senators. This contradicts the fact that  these two “senators” are seemingly of a higher authority then anyone else in this issue. 

But the main point that I would like to make is the need for a direct debate. For years now we have had to make our own media points based on attack ads and press statements shot to and from campaign headquarters. I, as well as the rest of the american people, deserve a straight-faced talk between both candidates, and see what they stand for as opposed to what they campaigns release to the press.

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Today’s announcement from John McCain was more than what the press uttered, it was a strategic campaign move that more than took Barack Obama off-guard, but poses as a trap. 

This morning McCain announced the suspension of his campaign and his proposal to delay the first presidential debate so he can participate in bailout talks, urging opposing candidate Barack Obama to do the same. 

But to me this is no more than a genius PR stunt with a popular campaign trap strapped on as bait. By suspending his campaign, McCain has provided himself a chance to rebound from the political loss he was handed to by Obama’s bold economy talking point that was made out of the bailout plan when it first surfaced. 

 The most crucial word used in McCain’s statement is  “suspend.” This is a popular strategic move which acts as a  giant bait for the opposing party to jump on, and this has  essentially already started. Similar to what McCain attempted  during Hurricane Ike and the GOP Convention, McCain is  taking the hint of the economy crisis and the bailout and  stopping campaigning to help a topic that is popular with  the America people, and most importantly, popular with the  non-partisan mainstream media. 

 What McCain is essentially doing is getting himself into the  press as someone who seemingly wants help with the  economy, and furthermore give Obama enough bait for him to complain. And if this is successful, McCain could unleash a statement looking something like this:

I am disgusted over the selfish actions of senator Barack Obama for intervening politically with a cause that is posing a national crisis. I originally encouraged him to join with me and rise above campaigning to help solve this problem, but it seems that has ignored me and thus the rest of the American people.

And this could seriously injure the Obama campaign, hitting them with something they have never been hit before: a attack questioning their morals. And so far, Obama has been fast on his feet reacting to McCain’s decisions. We’ll just have to see for ourselves if he takes the bait.

I was recently asked by a friend of mine about my stance on the elections. And although I try to keep non-partisan in my posts for the sake of the blog as well as my reputation, I will admit that I am an Obama supporter. And as a thirteen year old seventh-grader, I would like to point out that I don’t think he is something of a Messia or persuasive cult leader, as the frankly true stereotype for political teens would suggest. 

I support him. My job here on this blog is to follow both parties’ political moves and strategies, and this has also opened me up to his policies, which I do believe can send America in the right way.

But I don’t, however, think that John McCain is any sort of enemy. He isn’t running for president because he is a communist intent on dissolving our government, he is running for office because he wants to change the direction that we are headed in. I just believe in my opinion that he will not change America in the way that we want him to, and that his health is a serious risk. 

Which takes me to Palin. 

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I would call myself a strategic commentator as far as my preferred topics, and I will say without doubt that McCain’s choosing of Sarah Palin was pure genius. It took the media by storm and was prepared long in advance (I’ll get to it). The story of a extremely-far right woman governor as the Vice President of the United States with a chance to become the leader of the free world had added a new chapter to politics, getting five-paragraph opinion pieces out of food bloggers and leading to complete chaos inside the media. It got everyone’s voice out, and that is exactly what it intended.

And meanwhile, it let Sarah Palin prep for the debates. Setting a fire inside the press as well as the blogosphere, the pick not only let the media go opinion-galore in arguments and editorials, but it let Palin go out of the MSM and prepare for what is to come – mandatory debates that she must complete without falling flat. 

But it was a PR stunt. 

Politically, it placed a rocket under the Republican party, but what people fail to understand in my opinion is the permanent placement here is the fact that one must think of a vice presidential pick as a vice president, not a burst of nitrous on a racecar. A CNN news commentator put in extremely well: 

As a Democrat and political strategist, I am excited [with the pick of Sarah Palin], but as an American I am scared out of my mind.

I completely share this man’s point. I am both scared and offended that in a time needing drastic change, a campaign would choose someone to not only place the second highest office in the most powerful country in the world, but pick with such strategic care and literately no thought of the future. Obama told the media after the Sarah Palin frenzy that he choose his running mate Joe Biden because he wanted to change America and he thought that Biden was the best person for that cause. 

And this is precisely why I both pushed far away from supporting the McCain campaign and now have a fascination towards Sarah Palin and what she will do next. As a non-voting 13 year old who (by definition) shouldn’t be talking about this stuff — rather playing outside in the sprinklers), is also a political commentator, I am terrified of the McCain campaign because this seems like their plans for America, and completely amazed with the strategic marvel of Sarah Palin. 

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In a race unlike any other, politics have mixed with mainstream media, PR stunts and campaign tactics cannot be deciphered, and candidates are currently in a full-fledged ad war. First ladies have turned into public enemies, and lines have been drawn inside of political parties.

But the single, most plain asset in this political chaos that we call the 2008 presidential race is most certainly the element of surprise.

Partisan or non-partisan, liberal or conservative, we can all agree on one thing – Sarah Palin was a surprise. The little-known one term Alaskan governor has set political media to a standstill, hitting nerves on everyone, liberal, conservative, or independent. She has changed politics as we know it, stirring so many feelings that can’t all be represented by just one writing. 

So how can we take all of this in? The truth is, we can’t. Which ever party you support, which every race and creed you are, you simply can’t take in Palin without emotion.

And this is exactly what John McCain wanted.

He wanted this news frenzy. He wanted the blogging world, liberal and conservative to explode into opinion. He wanted chaos to erupt in the media world, (i.e. the OK! Magazine bias). He wanted people like me and you to think long and hard about this media bonanza — he wanted a diversion.

Understanding the importance of his vice presidential pick, McCain couldn’t simply choose anyone. He needed to go out of the ordinary, not into the realm of his contenders, middle-aged white males who would be perceived just like they have for two-hundred years.

And no matter how unreliable, local or politically ripe Sarah Palin was, he knew she would create the second big bang. He knew that she would occupy every political blog, think tank, magazine, and newspaper. And finally, he knew that she would provide a wall between both parties, blacking out media solely focused on the Democrats.

Palin’s experience is an issue, but McCain knew he could exploit this to the fullest, initiating a media strategy that could literately absorb any attack from the left.

And in a sense, this has succeeded, with help from Sarah Palin herself.

Her choosing for running mate has acted as a literal smoke bomb, creating only a small explosion, but then spreading over the entire mainstream media, sparking a spreading cloud of mist. Palin, acting as bait, has done all she has needed to do, unleashing attack speeches when needed and sparking controversy with her “troopergate” scandal as well as he pregnant daughter. The media then proceeded to take the bait, igniting a fire within itself and not running a story without the world “Palin” in it.

Meanwhile, Palin actually has stayed away from the media, ignoring any invitations for interviews on sit-down shows and political debate television as well.

Why? She doesn’t need too.

Palin’s one weakness is the one trait that you would assume a running mate would use to his/her advantage – politics. McCain knows that if Palin explodes back into the media, accepting interviews and arguing head-on with the liberal press, she will be beaten to her knees, and a coupe-de-grace will be imminent during her mandatory debate with opposing running mate Joe Biden.

And because of this, the future is more of an enemy to the conservatives than Barack Obama, and if the Democrats plan to exploit this, they must understand that for now, they have lost the battle of the present.

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