The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

McCain’s acceptance speech: prediction

Posted by Bill Nance on September 4, 2008

I’ve had a full day to digest Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech and between the usual process of seeing what other people are saying, listening to voter reactions and just plain ole’ ruminating I’ve come to a few conclusions; conclusions which I think will give some clues about what John McCain will say tonight.

Palin’s speech was, as I’ve already said, primarily a red-meat attack straight out of the culture wars. As usual with such speeches, it was full of attacks, short on substance and contained plenty of outright lies, half-truths and distortions. But the base ate it up.

Outside the convention hall however, it didn’t poll too well. According the Huffpost, focus groups watching the speech reacted less than favorably to the non-stop attacks.

“Once she started mudslinging, I thought, it’s the same old crap as other politicians. McCain used her to get the women’s vote. And she’s using McCain,” said one member of the focus group, which consisted of all women.

The more I thought about it, the more I came to a couple of conclusions.

1. The campaign is betting the farm on the Karl Rove strategy of energizing the base and chipping away at the opposition’s.

2. Palin is going to fill the traditional attack-dog role, with the added benefit of her gender, making it hard for Democrats to respond in kind without seeming like bullies picking on a woman. It’s ugly, but it’s not a bad move -vintage Rovian divide-and-rule-stuff.

The Republicans have their own focus groups, and I think today they realized that Palin over-reached. Tonight’s speech will in some measure be an attempt to reasure voters that they atually have a policy beyond vague promises of reform.

Expect John McCain to play the role of the kindly uncle, who loves you and has your best interests at heart. The tone will be “Trust me, I’ve been in tough situations, I can get us through this. Whatever we face isn’t as bad as being a POW.”

I expect tonight he will focus more on econmic issues, and give some more depth to his so-far fairly empty promises. He wil also make a point to scare the living bejeebers out of voters with the bogeymen of potential terrorist threats and hammer home on the theme of “no surrender.” But even so, I expect him to go very easy on Obama personally. He will point out philosophical differences, which will be trying to appeal primarily to undecided voters in the middle. For this reason he will have to lie a lot. They won’t be blatant lies, but he’ll use the usual culture wars rhetoric of “democrats tax more, we trust you with your own money and they don’t,” etc. But again, the attacks, which will surely be there, will be muted.

What McCain needs to do tonight is appear to be the stable, experienced statesman to Palin’s red-meat culture warrior. It’s a role he’s comfortable in, and the change in the stage for tonight’s speech is designed to both make it appear more intimate, and to try to take away from the many camera shots that have appeared on TV over the last few days showing thousands of empty seats.

Look for more of the same, in other words. Unless McCain gives the speech of his life, which is possible, if unlikely, I expect it to be fairly predictable. Then again, I may be here at midnight telling you all how badly I screwed the call. 🙂


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