Friday, October 17, 2008

Tsunami, Tidal Wave, or Implosion

(New Orleans) – We are down to the wire in this presidential race. The debates are over, several states are weighing in with early voting, and the targeting of undecided voters has ramped up. We live in very interesting times. We are on the cusp of a historic election where voters are engaged in ways they have never been. So what have we learned in this last week?

The Last Debate

Of the debates this was one most watched and had a level of engagement which heretofore had been missing. Senator John McCain was in a position where he had to continue the attacks against Senator Barack Obama.

There were several seminal moments some of them testy. Here are a couple of those moments.

McCain: I regret some of the negative aspects of both campaigns. But the fact is that it has taken many turns which I think are unacceptable.
One of them happened just the other day, when a man I admire and respect -- I've written about him -- Congressman John Lewis, an American hero, made allegations that Sarah Palin and I were somehow associated with the worst chapter in American history, segregation, deaths of children in church bombings, George Wallace. That, to me, was so hurtful.
And, Senator Obama, you didn't repudiate those remarks.

Obama: Well, look, you know, I think that we expect presidential campaigns to be tough. There is nothing wrong with us having a vigorous debate like we're having tonight about health care, about energy policy, about tax policy. That's the stuff that campaigns should be made of.
The notion, though, that because we're not doing town hall meetings...that justifies some of the ads that have been going up, not just from your own campaign directly, John, but 527s and other organizations that make some pretty tough accusations, well, I don't mind being attacked for the next three weeks.
McCain: But again, I did not hear a repudiation of Congressman...

OBAMA: I mean, look, if we want to talk about Congressman Lewis, who is an American hero, he, unprompted by my campaign, without my campaign's awareness, made a statement that he was troubled with what he was hearing at some of the rallies that your running mate was holding, in which all the Republican reports indicated were shouting, when my name came up, things like "terrorist" and "kill him," and that you're running mate didn't mention, didn't stop, didn't say "Hold on a second, that's kind of out of line."
And I think Congressman Lewis' point was that we have to be careful about how we deal with our supporters.

Joe the Plumber

If there was a conversation change during this encounter it was McCain trying to relate to a guy name “Joe the Plumber.” Joe was one of several people Obama met in Toledo, Ohio while canvassing door to door. “Joe” didn’t like the Illinois senator’s stance on taxing people making over $250,000 dollars. He called it wrong suggesting it would stifle his attempt to buy a plumbing business.

McCain: He looked at your tax plan and he saw that he was going to pay much higher taxes. You were going to put him in a higher tax bracket which was going to increase his taxes, which was going to cause him not to be able to employ people, which Joe was trying to realize the American dream.
Now Senator Obama talks about the very, very rich. Joe, I want to tell you, I'll not only help you buy that business that you worked your whole life for and be able -- and I'll keep your taxes low and I'll provide available and affordable health care for you and your employees.
And I will not have -- I will not stand for a tax increase on small business income. Fifty percent of small business income taxes are paid by small businesses. That's 16 million jobs in America. And what you want to do to Joe the plumber and millions more like him is have their taxes increased and not be able to realize the American dream of owning their own business.

OBAMA: Now, the conversation I had with Joe the plumber, what I essentially said to him was, "Five years ago, when you were in a position to buy your business, you needed a tax cut then."
And what I want to do is to make sure that the plumber, the nurse, the firefighter, the teacher, the young entrepreneur who doesn't yet have money; I want to give them a tax break now. And that requires us to make some important choices.
The last point I'll make about small businesses. Not only do 98 percent of small businesses make less than $250,000, but I also want to give them additional tax breaks, because they are the drivers of the economy. They produce the most jobs.

McCAIN: You know when Senator Obama ended up his conversation with Joe the plumber -- we need to spread the wealth around. In other words, we're going to take Joe's money, give it to Senator Obama, and let him spread the wealth around.
The whole premise behind Senator Obama's plans are class warfare, let's spread the wealth around. I want small businesses -- and by the way, the small businesses that we're talking about would receive an increase in their taxes right now.
Who -- why would you want to increase anybody's taxes right now? Why would you want to do that, anyone, anyone in America, when we have such a tough time, when these small business people, like Joe the plumber, are going to create jobs, unless you take that money from him and spread the wealth around.

Obama: I'm not going to...

This was McCain’s clearest message on the economy. But a funny thing happened after the debate as the talking heads start chatting up "Joe the Plumber" aka Joseph Wurzelbacher, “the winner of the debate” with nearly 14 references from both candidates. He’s not even a licensed plumber. By the way Joe only made $40,000 last year, not even close to $250,000. He believes one day he will and doesn't want to be given a higher tax rate. It's unfortunate a message that has been sold to middle class, "one day you will be as rich as us." Wacky. By the weekend his name was just another footnote in this campaign along with "Joe Six Pack", "the Real America", "Hockey Moms"," "Average Working Americans" and other code words being used this campaign season. But this resonates.

Despite these shots at Obama, McCain lost. In baseball terms "he didn't hit it out of the park." McCain was more forceful. Obama was measured. If there was any clear winner it was "Joe the Plumber."

Meanwhile, by weeks end the debate was in the review mirror and those of following this campaign were on to something else.




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