The Filter: Oct. 28, 2008

A round-up of this morning's must-read stories.

(Barack Obama)

After decades of broken politics in Washington, eight years of failed policies from George Bush, and twenty-one months of a campaign that has taken us from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunshine of California, we are one week away from change in America. In one week, you can turn the page on policies that have put the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street before the hard work and sacrifice of folks on Main Street. In one week, you can choose policies that invest in our middle-class, create new jobs, and grow this economy from the bottom-up so that everyone has a chance to succeed; from the CEO to the secretary and the janitor; from the factory owner to the men and women who work on its floor. In one week, you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation just to win an election; that tries to pit region against region, city against town, Republican against Democrat; that asks us to fear at a time when we need hope. In one week, at this defining moment in history, you can give this country the change we need.

(John McCain)

We cannot spend the next four years as we have spent much of the last eight: hoping for our luck to change at home and abroad. We have to act. We need a new direction, and we have to fight for it. I've been fighting for this country since I was seventeen years old, and I have the scars to prove it. If I'm elected President, I will fight to shake up Washington and take America in a new direction from my first day in office until my last. I'm not afraid of the fight, I'm ready for it. I have a plan to hold the line on taxes and cut them to make America more competitive and create jobs here at home. We're going to double the child deduction for working families. We will cut the capital gains tax. And we will cut business taxes to help create jobs, and keep American businesses in America. Raising taxes makes a bad economy much worse. Keeping taxes low creates jobs, keeps money in your hands and strengthens our economy. If I'm elected President, I won't spend nearly a trillion dollars more of your money. Senator Obama will. And he can't do that without raising your taxes or digging us further into debt. I'm going to make government live on a budget just like you do.

(Jay Carney, Time)

McCain seemed tired, as if he had been up too many late nights, and at times his answers meandered through a series of only tangentially connected sentences. But his central argument — that the race is not over, that he might still pull this thing out — is not completely unreasonable. It is not just that McCain has stared long odds in the face before and triumphed, as he did when his campaign collapsed in the summer of 2007, financially broke and in disarray. Back then, trusted friends advised him to withdraw rather than suffer a humiliating defeat. Even some of his closest associates were ready to give up, and it fell to McCain to tell them to quit feeling sorry for themselves, to lecture them about what it means to keep fighting for what you believe in. Of course, he was right, and he emerged improbably from a field of contenders to win the Republican nomination. "McCain doesn't have a lot of time for quitters," says a senior McCain adviser. "He's not about to quit now."

(Greg Sargent, TPM Election Central)

Obama's success -- like Bill's -- is rooted in an uncanny sense of the electorate's mood, and of what it's looking for in its next leader. The likenesses were unmistakable today. In 1992, Bill -- though he was running against a popular incumbent who'd just prosecuted a successful war -- sensed a widespread drift among voters that was only partly rooted in economic doldrums. Crucially, Bill also sensed that the electorate was looking for a clear signal from its next President on just how the nation would be moved from the 20th Century to the 21st at a time of rapid global change... Obama -- should he win -- has outworked McCain in ways very similar to Bill's outmaneuvering of Bush Sr. Like Bill, Obama has sensed that the electorate is looking for something larger than a set of policies or personal attributes. Unlike McCain, who has proven utterly incapable of grasping the public mood on many levels, Obama has sensed that the electorate wants to know how we will remake our politics -- domestic and international -- for the next century.

(Mark Leibovich, New York Times)

Senators Barack Obama and John McCain have been ever vigilant in recent days for signs of January Fever. The candidates have slipped a few times into the “when I’m president” construction in campaign speeches, but usually are careful to use the cautionary “if I’m president” refrain... The United States does love a winner, but it most certainly does not love an early-celebrating one. Mr. McCain has spent significant stump time recently trying to portray Mr. Obama as the political equivalent of that strutting football player... Mr. McCain regularly mentions the “planning already under way” among Mr. Obama; the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid; and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to assume their hammerlock on the government come January. In Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Sunday, Mr. McCain accused Mr. Obama of already “measuring the drapes” for the White House, something he has said repeatedly. As far back as July, Mr. McCain’s campaign has tried to pin the premature-inauguration tag on Mr. Obama. They dismissed his summer tour of Europe and the Middle East as a “premature victory lap,” and mocked him for fashioning his campaign logo into a faux-presidential seal (an experiment the Obama campaign quickly scuttled). For his part, Mr. McCain traveled abroad before Mr. Obama did, delivered a speech looking back on a hypothetical first term, and began giving a Saturday morning radio address, just as real, live presidents do.

(Howard Kurtz, Washington Post)

So much for the formality of next week's election. Many pundits and publications seem so certain of a big Democratic win that they're exploring the intricacies of an Obama administration and whether the party will have a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate. "If the mainstream media are wrong about Obama and the voters pull a Truman, that is going to be the end of whatever shred of credibility they have left," says Tobe Berkovitz, associate dean of Boston University's College of Communication... If, as a former McCain strategist put it to Politico, "the cake is baked" for his man's defeat, it's fair to ask whether the media have provided the flour, the frosting and the candles... To be sure, the forward-looking pieces in the Times, New York magazine, Newsweek and elsewhere are sprinkled with caveats about "if" Obama wins and the "possibility" of a Democratic sweep. But the lack of similar speculation about a McCain administration makes clear which way the journalism world is leaning.

(Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times)

By July, I had covered McCain for almost seven months. I could recite many lines of his stump speech by heart, dreamed about his events at night and spent so much time scrolling through campaign e-mails on my BlackBerry that my fiance joked to our friends about the other man in my life. Over those months, McCain had artfully created a sense of intimacy with the reporters who traveled with him. He barbecued for us at his Arizona cabin, and opened up about matters as personal as his faith and his son's girlfriends. On one of my first days covering McCain, another reporter protectively warned me that it was important to be judicious with the material I used from McCain's bus rides to keep the conversations in context. Although the relationship was mutually beneficial, McCain offered accessibility and openness that was rare, if not unprecedented, in modern presidential politics. Now, as the presidential campaign plunges into its final days, that intimacy -- real or imagined -- has evaporated. 

(Peter Nicholas, Los Angeles Times)

Discipline is essential for candidates who want to drive home a consistent message, or avoid the self-sabotage that comes with a careless answer. A steely perseverance helps explain why Obama at this point stands a better than even chance of becoming the 44th president. But when you're exposed to the guy 18 hours a day, it's a bit maddening. You want him to loosen up. I've watched Obama demonstrate a soccer kick to his daughter in Chicago; devour a cheesesteak in Philly; navigate a roller rink in Indiana; drive a bumper car; and catapult 125 feet in the air on an amusement-park ride called "Big Ben." He's done it all with dogged professionalism, but with little show of spontaneity. After all this time with him, I still can't say with certainty who he is.

(Michael Barone, U.S. News and World Report)

One of the mysteries of this campaign year has been why John McCain keeps campaigning in Pennsylvania when the polls show him far behind Barack Obama there. A clue comes from the most recent poll there by SurveyUSA, which helpfully provides a regional breakdown of results... McCain is running even with or better than Bush in most of Pennsylvania but is running far behind in metro Philly. My sense is that the McCain campaign just can't believe this is true. Metro Philly, after all, in 1988 split evenly between George H. W. Bush and Michael Dukakis; the four suburban counties' Republican margins matched the Democratic margins in the city of Philadelphia (conveniently coterminous with Philadelphia County). As I've noted over the years, affluent suburban territory like the Philly suburbs trended Democratic in the 1990s on cultural issues and stayed there up through 2004. (Ethnic change played a minor role. There are more blacks in the suburban counties than in 1988, but metro Philadelphia has not had huge population change in the last 20 years.) Now, if SurveyUSA is to be trusted, the Philly suburbs are about to give Obama a significantly larger percentage than the 53 percent John Kerry won there in 2004. 

(Jonathan Martin, Politico)

Florida and its 27 electoral votes are essential to John McCain’s hopes of winning the presidency — but less than 10 days from the election even some Republicans in the state say it is tilting toward Barack Obama. Even if Obama doesn’t take Florida — and most Republicans still believe McCain can win there — the Democrat’s decision to compete so aggressively in the Sunshine State has hampered the Arizona senator’s national campaign by forcing him to scramble to spend time and money late in the race on a state thought to be safely in the GOP column as late as the two national conventions. With flush coffers, Obama was able to test that conventional wisdom by flooding the sprawling state’s 10 media markets with $10 million in TV ads this summer — spots that were unanswered by McCain until Labor Day. Now, with McCain constrained by his decision to take federal funds and poll numbers showing a dead heat or an Obama lead in the state, the Illinois senator is doubling down. Obama is investing even more money on TV and matching it with personal attention in hopes of landing a death blow to Republican hopes by taking a state that went comfortably for President Bush in 2004. 

(Mark Penn, Politico)

This election promises to offer a fundamental realignment that could stand for decades to come as young moderate voters become the driving force for change in the presidential race. These more socially tolerant, opportunity-oriented voters are the ones likely to put Barack Obama in the White House next week. In its simplest terms, this election is a complete rejection of President Bush’s policies. But the broader potential is for the election to choke off the Republican Party and its religious right ideology for a generation. A great deal hangs on the new administration’s first 100 days and whether it will be a repeat of 1993 or 1997 — whether the moderate voters who have shifted to the Democratic column see a decidedly leftward presidency or the moderate administration they have been promised. While Bush got 45 percent of young voters in 2004, Obama is likely to open up a 20-point gap with this bloc; they grew up knowing only Bill Clinton or George W. Bush as president. In the latest Zogby poll, Obama won the crucial moderate vote by 2-to-1, 60 percent to 30 percent. Obama wins nearly nine in 10 liberals as well, putting together a strong center-left coalition and leaving John McCain with a big margin only in the sizable conservative bloc.

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