St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Some 4-letter options for John McCain

No, not that kind of 4-letter word. Names.

As I noted in my previous post, Democrats have adopted the “10-letter strategy” that Republicans have used in all seven of their wins over the past ten presidential elections. The surnames of Nixon Agnew, Reagan Bush, Bush Quayle and Bush Cheney all added up to 10 letters. Now, for the first time in 84 years, Democrats have selected a 10-letter ticket of their own, Obama Biden. Can John McCain respond in kind?

Since McCain is 6 letters, he needs a veep with just four letters, and none of the speculated choices add up, so to speak. The surnames of Romney, Huckabee, Pawlenty, Hutchinson, Lieberman, Cantor, Palin, Fiorina, Whitman, Jindal, Powell and Crist are all too long. I can think of four four-letter possibilities who would make credible nominees, but they haven’t been mentioned on anybody’s short list:

  • Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) sought the presidency in her own right in 2000, but her senate seat is up for re-election this year. Polls for her contest show it to be very competitive, even with Dole running as an incumbent. She is even planning to campaign right through the Republican National Convention, which she therefore won't attend. Her seat would likely go Democratic if Republicans had to make a last-minute substitution.
  • Our own Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) would bring lots of experience and the loyalty of an important “swing state,” but Bond’s record on earmarks would contradict McCain’s maverick appeal on that issue. Also, the 69-year-old Bond would aggravate concerns about the age of 72-year-old McCain, an issue on which Obama surrogates continue to hammer.
  • Former New York Mayor Ed Koch would be a wild card, in more ways than one. Like Joe Lieberman, Koch would form a outside-the-box cross-party ticket. He would also match Lieberman’s Jewish faith, but frankly, rising GOP star Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) would accomplish the same appeal to Jewish voters without alienating the Republican Party base. Plus, Koch is a bit of a loose cannon.
  • The best four-letter choice might be Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. An African American woman with lengthy foreign policy experience, she would also be a groundbreaking choice. Her race would only matter as a demonstration that Republicans are not bigotted, because neither Rice nor Green Party presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney will significantly erode the nearly unanimous African American support for Obama. But Rice’s gender is a different story. She could conceivably seal the deal with disaffected supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton.
On the other hand, Rice has repeatedly stated that she doesn’t want to be vice-president and, in a CNN interview, declined to say for whom she plans to vote even though she says she has decided. (Ouch!) Moreover, Rice’s deep involvement in Bush Administration foreign policy mistakes would hurt McCain by tying him to an administration from which he wants to distance himself.

None of these four, or any other four-letter name, appears in the Oracle’s crystal ball. Instead I expect McCain to choose either Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty or Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, allowing Obama to test whether the 10-letter strategy works for Democrats as well as it has for Republicans.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Obama-Biden: It’s numerologically correct!

Democratic presidential nominee-in-waiting Barack Obama’s pick of Deleware Sen. Joe Biden seeks to complement Obama where he is perceived to be weak – foreign policy. Obama’s message to the public is clear: Biden’s the guy who will take the 3 a.m. phone calls. (I guess the red phone has call forwarding.)

My friend and fellow blogger (and newly elected Democratic committeeman) Antonio French observed:

Joe Biden brings a sense of security to the millions of older, white voters who still aren’t sure about Obama. . . . [Biden] reassure[s] Americans who are worried about Obama’s lack of years in national politics that there will be someone in the White House who has been around a long time, who does know how Washington and the world works . . . . Biden fills the old white guy requirement to a tee.
I’m not sure it’s a good idea for a prominent African American Obama supporter like French to be alluding to “the old white guy” requirement, but perhaps it explains why Obama passed over an even better foreign policy fit: New Mexico Gov. (and former UN Ambassador) Bill Richardson. The Hispanic Richardson’s odds faded as Obama soared in polling numbers among Hispanics without Richardson’s help. Hispanic voters’ too-sudden switch from Hillary Clinton to Obama allowed them to be taken for granted.

But there’s also a less serious side to the choice. Obama is five letters, and so is Biden. The ticket is a combined 10 letters. (Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine would have also worked.)

Since 1968, the surnames of the winning presidential ticket has added up to exactly 10 letters 7 out of 10 times:

1968 and 1972: Nixon Agnew
1980 and 1984: Reagan Bush
1988: Bush Quayle
2000 and 2004: Bush Cheney

Two of the exceptions were 1976, when neither the winning Carter Mondale ticket nor the defeated Ford Dole ticket consisted of 10 letters, and 1996, when neither Clinton Gore, Dole Kemp nor Perot Campbell were 10-letter tickets. Moreover, the Carter Mondale exception subsequently lost re-election to a conforming 10-letter Reagan Bush ticket, at a time when an incumbent president hadn’t been defeated for reelection since 1932. The solid exception was 1992, when Bush Quayle lost re-election to the 11-letter Clinton Gore ticket (arguably with the help of the Perot-Stockdale ticket).

The last prior time that a major-party 10-letter ticket was defeated by a non-conforming ticket was 1960, when the Republican Nixon Lodge ticket lost to Kennedy Johnson, but some still say that Nixon and Lodge won until the election was stolen by corrupt vote counters (or manufacturers) in Chicago.

With that history, perhaps the “10-letter” strategy is a better reason for snubbing Richardson than “the old white guy requirement.”

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Does Steelman inspire gender backlash?

The (apparently) last pre-primary survey of the Missouri governor’s race by Survey USA (released August 1) discloses an interesting non-event: In the high-visibility contest between Congressman Kenny Hulshof and State Treasurer Sarah Steelman in the Republican Primary, there is little or no difference in how the candidates perform with male and female voters.

While the typical partisan gender gap (i.e., women favoring Democrats more than men) appears in test runs pitting each potential Republican against likely Democratic nominee Jay Nixon, the
“identity politics” gender gap that appeared so prominently in this year’s Democratic presidential primaries does not appear at all in the survey of women planning to vote in the Republican primary.

In hypothetical November contests against Nixon, women support the Democrat by 50-39 over Hulshof and by 51-38 over Steelman. The reason Hulshof trails Nixon by only 6 points (48-42), compared to Steelman’s 9-point gap (50-41), is primarily because of men, with whom Hulshof and Nixon are tied 46-46, but who favor Nixon by 5 points (49-44) over Steelman.

But in Tuesday’s head-to-head matchup in the Republican Primary, Hulshof leads by 12 points (45-33) among men and by 11 (42-31) among women, a statistically insignificant difference. The biggest contrast is that twice as many Republican women (20%) remain undecided the Friday before the election.

Frankly, I would have expected Republican women to gravitate towards Steelman, similar to the way Democratic women favored Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama. Not only have Republican women faced the same “glass ceiling” issues as their Democrat colleagues, they also would be expected to long for a more ideologically and politically compatible symbolic candidacy to support. They support the possibility of electing a woman to a top executive office, just not that woman (Hillary). The socially and economically conservative Steelman would seem to fit the bill. But the poll numbers don’t support that theory.

And if Steelman were the GOP nominee in the general election, I would expect some gender-identity conscious Democrats and independents (excluding single-issue abortion rights advocates), still smarting after Hillary’s loss frustrated their expectations, might have taken out that frustration by crossing over to back Steelman over Nixon. The poll numbers don’t show that happening either.

But there may be something else afoot here. Younger voters might not have noticed, but among older men like the Oracle, Sarah Steelman is hot (at least for a 50-year-old). She plays down her appearance, making a point of calling herself a mom, but her long blond locks are hard to hide. Some time ago (before any ads began airing in the St. Louis media market) I informally asked three male Republican friends of mine (all over 50) who they were supporting for governor, and all backed Steelman. Perhaps their Republican wives noticed they supported Steelman over the unanimous choice of the party’s most trusted leaders and concluded that their decision was motivated more by Steelman’s looks than her masters degree in economics. That may have brought to mind personal workplace experiences in which they perceived that physically attractive women received promotions or other favorable treatment at the expense of seemingly qualified but less attractive colleagues.

The Oracle suspects that Democratic women don’t necessarily have the monopoly on identity politics that the poll numbers might suggest, and that many Republican women do identify with Steelman and support her because of that, but that their support is offset by opposition from other Republican women who subconsciously resent her appearance. These competing factors would net out to near zero.