From Chuck Todd and Domenico Montanaro
*** The A.D.D Election: It's another whiplash week. It's amazing how many Fridays we look back at the week and just shake our head... This really is turning into the A.D.D. election. Here's the week that was… in reverse order… Phil Gramm's "mental" comments (btw, isn't "mental" such an '80s word?), Jesse Jackson "nut"-ty remarks, Iran's missile tests (and that McCain "killing them" joke), FISA (Obama's reversal and Clinton voting against it -- so did Biden, by the way), Clinton donors not happy with Obama's debt relief efforts (and Obama briefly forgetting to mention the former rival at a joint funder), that McCain bio spot invoking the culture wars of the 1960s, the scrutiny of the candidates' economic plans, more courting Latinos, Webb off the veep list, Carly Fiorina's Viagra/birth control comment, the T. Boone Pickens energy ad launch, the RNC energy ad and the first Obama response of the general election, and, of course, we started the week with Obama announcing he was moving the last night of the Dem convention to a football stadium. Whew. It's no wonder neither candidate has been successful at taking one of their "insert issue here" weeks from start to finish. There are just an incredible amount of distractions even during a supposed slow period like this one in July.
*** Why Gramm's so damaging? How annoyed was McCain's camp in having to deal with economic adviser Phil Gramm's "mental recession" and "nation of whiners" comments -- especially during their ECONOMIC week? So annoyed that McCain tossed his longtime friend under the bus faster than, well, a typical Obama under-the-bus tossing. And get this… Gramm stands by the remarks. "I'm not going to retract any of it. Every word I said was true," he said, adding, "When I said we've become a nation of whiners, I'm talking about our leaders. I'm not talking about our people." Gramm's comments threw McCain camp way off message, but more than that, this -- combined with McCain calling Social Security "a disgrace" -- is flypaper for the "out of touch" label, something both candidates have been desperately trying to avoid. McCain was already struggling in proving that he had a grasp on the economy and could feel the pain of the average struggling voter in Michigan or Pennsylvania. Gramm's comments are going to keep coming back for some time, and it probably means McCain's got to stick to focusing on the economy even more than he wants.
*** Gaffes all around: Of course, it wasn't just McCain's side dealing with gaffes this week. Hotline noted where Obama camp's message had gone awry with forgetting to mention Clinton at his fundraiser, Jesse Jackson's comments and Michelle Obama's $600 earrings. But Gramm's comments blow the earrings comments out of the water, and the Jackson gaffe was all positive for Obama. There is no positive in the Gramm remarks for McCain -- no matter how far under a bus in Minsk McCain puts the former senator. But seriously, can either of these candidates get the message THEY want out there for even a 48 hour period? Calling you, Wes Clark, Phil Gramm. (Speaking of stepped on, yesterday was supposed to be about women's issues, remember?)
*** Speaking of gaffes…: Imagine if Al Gore or John Kerry had changed the facts of a story they told forever in order to appeal to whatever swing state they were speaking in? John McCain is getting killed on Steeler fan forums for claiming that when he was a P.O.W. he would tell his interrogators the names of the starting defensive line of the Steelers. The actual story in his book had to do with Green Bay Packers offensive line. Also, the famous Steelers defensive line that McCain was trying to refer to (Mean Joe, L.C. etc.) didn't become famous until after McCain was out of Vietnam. The actual Steelers front four McCain could have referred to, according to one the Steeler fan forum that is crushing McCain on this comment today: "When McCain became a prisoner of war, the Steelers front four consisted of Ken Kortas, Chuck Hinton, Ben McGee and Lloyd Voss." Not exactly household names. And while we're sure McCain's a big time NFL fan and was in the '60s, there's little chance he knew the front four of the then perennial doormat Pittsburgh Steelers. (Irony alert: McCain is in Wisconsin today, where no doubt the story would change before Cheeseheads.)
*** Money, money: Can McCain camp with the RNC close the money gap? Yesterday, McCain announced $22 million raised in June, his best month yet. And with the RNC's money, the Republicans have almost $95 million cash on hand, the campaign said -- $27 million for McCain; $67 million for the RNC. No word on what Obama's haul is, but with his need to coalesce Clinton donors combined with the DNC's paltry figures, how embarrassing would it be for Obama, who passed up public financing, to come out close to tied with McCain? Also of note: Rick Davis proclaimed that the McCain campaign was on pace (with the help of the RNC) of meeting a goal of a $400 million general election budget. The Obama campaign has pegged its general election budget at $450 million. For McCain to hit his target, he and the RNC need to raise a combined $100 million before the GOP convention. Doable? We'll see. No doubt Rick Davis' boastful proclamation was designed to change the C.W. a bit about McCain's fundraising ability. The campaign doesn't like prospective GOP donors to believe somehow their money isn't going to count against Obama's financial juggernaut. Will Davis' happy talk turn into more donations? That was the design of yesterday's release and conference call. We'll see if the fickle GOP money folks who haven't given will now pony up.
*** No subtlety about this one? McCain went from $36 million on hand last month to $27 million this month because of what he is spending in ads, and today he is up with another, and it is an "all in" appeal to Hispanics in the battleground states of Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico where the ad is running. The ad is called "God's Children" and excerpts McCain speaking about Hispanics at a GOP primary debate last year (how do we know it's last year? A picture of Tom Tancredo; subtle jab). McCain camp has to see the poll numbers, showing Obama up by wide margins with Hispanics, and if McCain doesn't make a play for them in those battlegrounds, this election could be over. But the problem that has always existed is the delicate balance McCain has to strike when talking about immigration. He backtracked on the issue last year in the Republican primary, saying he wouldn't even vote for his own legislation. He said he'd gotten the message from conservatives on the issue. But this ad appears to be an attempt to strike a balance with those on the right who might not like McCain's immigration position. By using the military card, he makes it hard for those on the right to directly criticize his position; In fact, the ad doesn't advocate a specific immigration reform but the message is clear.
*** Who's being vetted? It's starting to leak out who's being vetted (Chris Dodd, apparently) and who isn't (Hillary Clinton and Tim Pawlenty -- really?). Of course, none of that leans one way or another to who is going to actually be picked. They could just not be vetted YET. Remember, there are a couple of short lists, the actual one and the one for public consumption, so Obama and McCain can politically pay back a supporter or two.
*** Get that swing: We've been so focused on the NEW swing states, and where are Obama and McCain today? Wisconsin and Ohio -- the most traditional swing states there are. Wisconsin was the closest state of the 2004 presidential campaign -- just 0.38% of the vote separated Bush and Kerry.) And everyone knows the importance of Ohio. By the way, Obama is in Dayton -- and nothing says bellwether like Dayton.
*** On the trail: McCain campaigns in Wisconsin where he holds a town hall at a steel company, which happens to be women-owned; Obama, meanwhile, holds a town hall in Dayton, OH. Also, Clinton speaks to the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, in DC.
Countdown to Dem convention: 45 days
Countdown to GOP convention: 52 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 116 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 193 days
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