Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 24, 2008

MCCLELLAN LATEST REPUBLICAN TO BACK OBAMA.... I vaguely recall the point in the presidential campaign -- I think it was called "the summer" -- when the chattering class obsessed over whether Barack Obama could keep the various elements of the Democratic Party together.

I think the media missed the more interesting trend: Obama is keeping Democrats together, and is picking up support from conservatives and Republicans.

It's been a rough couple of weeks for the McCain campaign, watching fairly high-profile Republicans endorse Obama, including Colin Powell, Christopher Buckley, Ken Adelman, and former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson.

Yesterday, Obama picked up yet another.

Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary who sharply criticized President Bush in his memoir last spring, told CNN Thursday he's voting for Barack Obama.

"From the very beginning I have said I am going to support the candidate that has the best chance for changing the way Washington works and getting things done and I will be voting for Barack Obama and clapping," McClellan told new CNN Host D.L. Hughley.

McClellan is the third high-profile Bush insider to throw his support to Obama, following Powell and Matt Dowd.

It's not just the more visible public figure, either. E.J. Dionne, Jr., noted in his column today, "In The Post tracking poll released yesterday, Barack Obama drew 22 percent of the vote from self-described conservatives. That's a seven-point gain on John Kerry's 2004 conservative share."

But it's the endorsements that have to be dispiriting for the McCain campaign. To be fair, McClellan, by virtue of his book, stopped reading from the Republican script quite a while ago, and it's fair to say his influence in GOP circles is minimal. But when the spokesperson for a conservative Republican president breaks ranks and throws his support to a progressive Democrat, it only adds to the sense of momentum and inevitability.

Update: Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, a Republican, also endorsed Obama this morning.

Steve Benen 8:41 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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The publicity for DL Hughly was far more consequential than the McClellan endorsement itself. Now if it had been the Civil War general McClellan, who told Sarah Palin we should surge in Afghanistan, that would be a different story.

Posted by: Danp on October 24, 2008 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps not so momentous, but certainly indicative of the general trend, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld announced that he will endorse Hon. Sen. Obama. If you do not follow New England politics, you might recall that he was the pro-choice speaker at the 1992 GOP convention.

Posted by: jhm on October 24, 2008 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

this endorsement of Obama, along with the book, goes some way toward redeeming McClellan, though being a party to the evil of the Bush administration by serving as its spokesperson for several years constitutes an infamy that can never be expunged from the historical record

Posted by: sjw on October 24, 2008 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

I still say the most interesting part of this election will come moments after the first network calls it. It could be like a hydrogen bomb going off in the Republican Party. Its going to be full on civil war. None of the Republican establishment will want to be associated with the loatsome McCain campaign, Sarah Palin or the freaks on display at their rallies. That ugly faction will be desperate to hold onto their influence. It's painfully obvious that alot of big name Republicans are putting as much distance as possible between themselves and this horror show while the wackiest, most extreme Republicans are rabidly supportive.

Posted by: Saint Zak on October 24, 2008 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Make that:

"But when the spokesperson for THE SITTING conservative Republican president breaks ranks and throws his support to a progressive Democrat, it only adds to the sense of momentum and inevitability."

McClellan isn't just some underling from the Nixon or Reagan days. He served the current occupant as spokesman for years.

Posted by: markg8 on October 24, 2008 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

As soon as this election is over the Republican party is going to begin its renewal. The direction it takes is going to be important. It is going to be interesting to watch. One thing is sure, a lot of the current "leaders" are going to be pushed to the curb. David Frum, of all people, has a book out on the subject of Republican rediscovery.

Posted by: Ron Byers on October 24, 2008 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Bill Weld is the big news this morning, Endorsing in NH at a press conference.

Posted by: Lilybart on October 24, 2008 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

I knew I liked that guy.

McClellan was NEVER comfortable support the Chimp and it showed.

I hope he gets a good job somewhere. Adherence to principle over party and personality should be richly rewarded.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on October 24, 2008 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

Off the radar is the work of some serious, moderate republicans who have been pushed out of their party and who are focused on building a farm team at local and state levels of government. They have largely been silent in making any endorsements in this national election.

Posted by: lou on October 24, 2008 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

The Religious Right is going to tell the Party that this is what happens when Republicans nominate a "moderate." Palin, Huckabee, Romney and several more will try to outflank each other on the right. They'll all be ignoring the fact that McPalin lost the election by losing the independents in the center when he tried to shore up his right flank.

Landslide Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Posted by: tomeck on October 24, 2008 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

lou,tomeck, Watching the long knives flash in the Republican party is going to interesting. If the moderates win, the Republicans reemerge. If the religious right wins the Republican party is going to become a marginal regional party which will set the stage for a new party to emerge.

Posted by: Ron Byers on October 24, 2008 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

Okay, thinking Republicans endorse Obama. Does that undercut his motif of "Change"? If a bunch of Bushites announce their support, does that engender doubt in the Changers?

Posted by: Nanuq on October 24, 2008 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK


Only way I see that second option working is the co-opting of part of an existing party. Growing a new party from the roots up without the state by state mechanisms in place is a manhattan project.

Alternatively, you could see the rise of a lot of independents that would then club together. But the candidates can only pull some of their suporters and none of the republican state mechanisms. And the forming of a new party would mean a lot of compromise (and while they are moderates, these are still conservative republicans we're talking about). It would require a charismatic leader to bring them together.

Posted by: royalblue_tom on October 24, 2008 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

And I remember the time (I think it was late 2007)when this 'classless chatterer' stated that no Republican Candidate running could hold together the various wild horses of the Republican factions, and that any Democrat running would beat any Republican running. (I did not predict the landslide I now expect because I had no idea that Obama would run as great a campaign as he did.)

We forget that McCain was (and remains) the best of the seven, better than Romney, Huckabee, Giuliani, Tancredo, Hunter or Paul. None of them would have even been this close.

We forget that, with all the damage that she caused -- and this will be a controversial one -- Palin didn't drive McCain's numbers down as much as we think. Remember, her pick caused everyone to ignore Obama's great Denver speech, which would have, if it hadn't been lost, given him an easy five point boost.

And the other possible VP choices (except, just barely, Huckabee) would have not done this. Pawlenty might have mollified the 'base' -- particularly the Religious Right base -- but wouldn't have excited them. Ridge or Lieberman would have driven them away into quiesence -- and Lieberman would have reminded people of McCain's 'flirtation' with the Democrats. ("What's the matter, with all those Republican office holders out there, he couldn't have found one to run with." It would have been the Hutchinson-Crist reaction multiplied.)

With another pick, even with an honorable campaign, McCain wouldn't be substantially better than he is now.

I'm going to make another prediction. Not only will there be an Obama landslide, but the Republican Party will be dead as the Whigs. They've tottered on the brink of extinction before, after Roosevelt, after Goldwater, but there's always been a group of centrists in the party (Scott, Dirksen, Case, Saltonstall, Javits, and others -- even Nixon) that could bring them together -- and the previous times the Democrats had the racist Southern albatrosses around their necks that gave some people reason to choose the Republicans.

The racists are Republicans now, and, except for a handful of Snowes and Collins,' the moderate Republicans are out of office or, like Lugar, too old to be a serious factor.

There will be a new party, a center-right one, composed of some remaining sane Republicans and some of the more Conservative Democrats, but it won't be called "Republican' and it may take a further landslide in 2012 to bring it about, and may not appear until 2016. (If there is a Republican ticket in 2012, it might just be led by Palin or Jindal and will suffer a Landon-like defeat.)

America may still be the 'most Conservative' major country, but it isn't this Conservative, and we'll finally be back where we would have been had it not been for the chaos of Vietnam.

Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on October 24, 2008 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

D.L. Hughley is on CNN now? I've got to get cable.

Posted by: jibeaux on October 24, 2008 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Bill Weld is the kiss of death for McCain. He's a real genuine moderate Republican of the kind they have by the truckload in the Midwest. Romney was a nut in moderate clothing, but Weld was the real deal. If McCain can't keep a guy like that in the fold, then I'm predicting voters who align themselves with Weld-type values will stay home on Election Day. They may not actively switch to Obama, but they won't vote for McCain.

Nobody loves McCain/Palin. Nobody loves both parts of that ticket. The nuts love Palin, but they hate McCain. There's not a single damn reason for anyone to get out and vote for the pair other than reflex.

Bloodbath. Epic fail.

Thank GOD.

Posted by: The Phantom on October 24, 2008 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

It would be a mistake to marginalize the Christian right's power too much. For one thing, most Americans, while perhaps center left on many issues, still identify as Christian.

For another thing, we are neglecting a very important dilemma in an Obama victory. This economy is going into the shitter and fast. It will be years before we recover and the next president is going to take a lot of heat no matter how well he does policy wise. I guarantee the Christian right, with their short memory span, will appeal to the visceral and proclaim the coming hard times as God's punishment for electing a liberal.
Unfortunately in the near future, many people will be in desperate straits, and appealing to emotions and superstitions will likely gain more converts fast.
Watch out for Christian Fascism! This economic collapse is the moment they have been waiting for.

Posted by: Jim on October 24, 2008 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, I think you should also include former Michigan Governor (William?) Milliken.

Posted by: Franklin on October 24, 2008 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Also: people, please quit calling 'bloodbath' until it actually is. Continue working towards a goal of 538-0. Anything less and I'm afraid that the Religious Right and neocon factions will stick around.

Posted by: Franklin on October 24, 2008 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Even if the leaders of the Republican Party come to their senses and realize that their right wing ideology has completely failed the nation, harmed the nation and the entire world, it will be difficult for them to reform it.

They have indoctrinated as many as forty percent of our people with hate and bigotry and fear and loathing of all things progressive and tolerant, and those brainwashed millions are not ever going to see the light. It's going to take a long time to repair this nation.

Posted by: hark on October 24, 2008 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

It's nice to see some prominent Republicans supporting Obama. I only hope that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney don't decide to support him, which could swing the election back to McCain.

Posted by: AJB on October 24, 2008 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Add to the list of Republicans supporting Obama the granddaughter of Barry Goldwater. (Though his son argued with her.)

Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on October 24, 2008 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Is Scott McClellen some sort of secret black successfully passing himself off as white? Based on Rush Limbaugh's logic regarding Powell, that would seem to be the only logical conclusion.

Posted by: Hieronymus Braintree on October 24, 2008 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Scott M on board? Ari Fleischer will pick up much needed cash, today on the Cable shows to rebut him.

Ron Byers is correct - The Committee of Public Safety is starting to devour one another in quest for the purest of the pure - The Titular head of the Republican Party has gone from Lincoln in the 1860s to Jeff Davis taking over in '64, and, now, the few Birchers, Pro-Lifers and Know Nothings left in the once proud party are placing Sarah the Lost atop. They will become nothing more than a splinter party. An amalgamation of the Alaska Independence Party, the Constitution Party and the Natural Law Party.

Posted by: berttheclock on October 24, 2008 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget who Scotty is related to and where they live. Carole Keeton Strayhorn is Scotty's mother. She is the former 3 term mayor of Austin, former Texas comptroller (treasurer), she ran for governor against Perry and lost. She holds a lot of political weight in Texas.

For Texas this is huge and will definitely has some effect. I would assume that Scotty didn't just announce this w/o some talks to his politically connected family. If his mother declares the same, it could seriously put Texas into play. Last time I checked 40% of registered voters are going with Obama, if Carole Keeton Strayhorn where to endorse Obama, I think she could peel off 5-10%. Right now Obama is at 40% and McCain is at 50%, 5% could be devastating to McCain.

Posted by: ScottW on October 24, 2008 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

There will be a landslide on the 2006 model--Prez, Congress, Governors, state legislatures, the works.
In 2012 Dobson, Robertson and the Religious Right will run a candidate on their own, independent of the Republicans.
That will be the end of the Republican party.

Posted by: pbg on October 24, 2008 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

From your keypad to God's ears, pbg.

Posted by: Hieronymus Braintree on October 24, 2008 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK



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