Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hateful Rays-Baiting By McCain Camp at PA Stop

This morning I drove to Bensalem, Pennsylvania, just outside Philly, to check out a John McCain event being held at the TC Millwork facility. TC Millwork manufactures fixtures and whatnot for casinos, health care facilities, and other retailers.

I had wanted to check out for myself some of this hatefulness characterizing many McCain campaign events over the last ten days or so.

But aside from a couple of refrains of "communist" or "socialist," McCain supporters in Bensalem were largely peaceful. No overly offensive anti-Obama tee shirts or buttons. The event was tightly controlled and occurred very early in the morning.

I was disappointed that I had schlepped all the way to Bensalem with a camera only to be put back to sleep by the relaxed crowd and the boring speech but trust me when I say how reassuring it was not to have had to witness a bunch of spiteful human caricatures flying off the handle.

Before the speeches began, I was chatting with some members of the local press gaggle who were wondering about just how short the notice was before this morning's rally. The reason was that the event drew no more than 1000 people. The McCain camp has gotten used to smaller crowds in comparison to Obama's events but the advance team seemed to have anticipated a more substantial turnout - a much larger area was cordoned off in the facility than ended up being necessary.

The other thing I noticed about the crowd was how familiar everybody seemed to be with other attendees. Now that's not an observation of the friendliness and camaraderie of McCain supporters - I'm saying that people knew each other, literally. The crowd seemed to be made up of a lot of regular GOP volunteers, not the larger Bucks County population. Also the crowd was disproportionately over the age of - they were freakin' old. There were some nuclear families there too but overwhelmingly, it was the early-bird.

Remember, it's not as if this event was held in Center City Philadelphia, where Obama is wildly popular. This was a campaign rally in the traditionally conservative suburb of Bucks County. Republicans have long relied on the Philadelphia suburbs to offset the liberal voting power of the city proper. But in 2000 and 2004, Bucks rejected George Bush and so did Pennsylvania at-large. In 2006, Bucks flipped the 8th Congressional district by electing Patrick Murphy, the first Democrat to represent the district since 1993.

Apparently, signals coming from the McCain campaign indicate a Pennsylvania-centered strategy over the next few weeks. Without a viable means of keeping up with Obama's message and campaign machine, the McCain camp seems to be realizing that there is no way they can win Colorado, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc. Without flipping a big electoral prize like Pennsylvania, McCain can't win the election. He simply does not have the money, time, or campaign competence to expect to keep all the red states that Obama currently leads in the polls - even if you take Florida and Ohio out of the equation.

To win Pennsylvania, which voted with the Democratic nominee in both 2000 and 2004, McCain will have to reverse the last fifteen years of GOP atrophy and Democratic gain in the Philadelphia suburbs. Not to mention the 8-15 point lead Obama has in the polls in Pennsylvania. He has two weeks to do it and he can't do it without boosting his popularity in Bucks County. And I don't think he can boost his popularity in Bucks County unless he can figure out a way to quintuple the number of people willing to attend his rallies there.

But wait -

John McCain is an experienced candidate and has become increasingly well-versed in the politics of division and deceit. He played the Rays card at today's event in the Philly burbs.

Here's what he said:

I heard that Senator Obama was showing some love to the Rays down in Tampa Bay yesterday. Now, I'm not dumb enough to get mixed up in a World Series between swing states, but I think I may have detected a little pattern with Senator Obama. It's pretty simple really. When he's campaigning in Philadelphia, he roots for the Phillies, and when he's campaigning in Tampa Bay, he shows love to the Rays.

That's the most blatant form of Rays-baiting imaginable. McCain is hinging his campaign on Pennsylvania which means he needs to reverse course in the Philly area. So what does he do? He questions Barack Obama's credentials as a Phillies fan.

Brilliant strategy.

McCain's advisers certainly know how important the World Series is for Philadelphia and have likely encouraged McCain to do whatever it takes to impugn Senator Obama on that issue.

But it's wrong!

Barack Obama has maintained that since his hometown White Sox were eliminated, he'd be rooting for those Fightin' Philadelphia Phillies. And good for him. It's the correct policy. Any objective observer that has studied the history of the game and the current baseball climate knows that the Phillies are the right team for the right time.

Yesterday, after the Tampa Rays won their first ever AL pennant, Barack Obama was introduced at an event by rookie pitcher David Price and some other members of the local nine. Obama politely congratulated them on their success, saying this:

"I have said from the beginning that I am a unity candidate, bringing people together," Obama said. "So when you see a White Sox fan showing love to the Rays, and the Rays showing some love back, you know we're onto something right here."

In no way did Barack Obama flip-flop on his endorsement of the Phillies. There is nothing wrong with the Tampa Rays. They have a lot of likable players, have a compelling worst-to-first story, and Barack Obama has no reason not to appreciate their efforts. But let us be clear: Barack Obama is pulling for the Phils!

He first endorsed the Phillies on October 12th. He did so AGAIN over the weekend - to an enemy Florida radio show. So what kind of campaign is John McCain running?

McCain, while accurately quoting Obama, makes an absolutely inappropriate inference about switched loyalties. The derision in his voice was palpable - it was scary.

McCain's decision to Rays-bait a tense Philadelphia shows what kind of man he is. McCain himself does not have the courage to pick a World Series team of his own but he has no problem inciting a crowd to - we're talking Philly sports fans here - violence.

It was a shameful display by a man once destined to be remembered as honorable. My how times have changed.


alli said...

Somebody at the Daily Show's reading your blog!

E said...

Dude I know! What the fuck!