Q: What is the McCain campaign managing to do very effectively?
A: Make even those who were enthusiastic a few short weeks ago pull out the candidate signs and pack it in.
That is exactly what my new pal Candace Buehner of Royal Oak, Mich., said her husband did the other day. Buoyed by enthusiasm for Sarah Palin, she told me she took her two boys to a seedy office building in search of a McCain-Palin sign. When she finally found one, she put it on their front lawn. But this weekend she watched her husband remove the sign and put it away, like a souvenir of what might have been.
The dispirited couple wasn’t acting in a fit of pique inspired by McCain’s shouted-from-the-rooftops withdrawal from Michigan. Though I, for one, would certainly have understood if they had. Did the McCain campaign really have to announce their departure from the state so loudly?
No, Candace and her husband’s complaint is about McCain and his staff’s overall ineptitude. “Why is McCain continually making what my three-year-old would refer to as ‘very bad choices?’” she asks. She goes on to say:
Here he has Michigan, a state that has been in a one-state recession for more than four years because of the policies of our currently-very-unpopular two-term governor, Jennifer Granholm. Rather than capitalizing on the almost breathtaking similarities between Granholm and Obama — Granholm’s hallmark has been ‘consensus-building’ and ‘thinking about things’ rather than acting on anything — McCain ignored Granholm, similarly refusing to touch the issue of Detroit’s infamously corrupt Democratic mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, recently convicted of two felony counts of perjury (among other things). It would be difficult to envision a better microcosm of Democratic politics ‘at work’ than you would find in Michigan. Yet McCain, rather than realizing this and using it to his advantage, apparently decided that Michigan — just about served up on a platter it’s such a good example of what we’re headed for under an Obama presidency — just wasn’t worth the time.
Candace is also annoyed about the way the McCain campaign handled Sarah Palin in the weeks before the vice-presidential debate. She identifies with Palin, a conservative working mother, and hates it when the media criticizes the governor’s style, accent, and family life. She found watching the Couric interview especially painful.
I think part of the reason for that debacle was that the campaign handlers warned Palin to play down her own natural “betcha” perkiness. Perkiness (East Coast variety), after all, has been Katie’s shtick for decades, and perkiness has value. That’s what Americans used to like about Katie, before she became a black suit-white pearls serious anchor. But the shellacking Palin took from aftermath of the Couric interview made independent voters, especially women, lose a lot of their enthusiasm. When Palin got her mojo back during the debate, her appeal rose, at least among her supporters.
There are a few weeks left in the campaign, and lots of things can still happen. Candace says she’s keeping her McCain bumper sticker on her car, and she is still voting for the ticket. But knowing the McCain campaign staff considers her state a lost cause, she now has very little confidence that they will start making better choices.
Betcha she’s hoping that Sarah Palin, who just declared “the heels are on, the gloves are off,” will be allowed to lead the way.
— Myrna Blyth, long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness — and Liberalism — to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.