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Strains Between McCain and Palin Aides Go Public

Now that the defeated team of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin have gone their separate ways, the knives are out and Palin is the one who is getting filleted.

Revelations from anonymous critics from within the McCain-Palin campaign suggest a number of complaints about the Alaskan governor:

Fox News reports that Palin didn’t know Africa was a continent and did not know the member nations of the North American Free Trade Agreement — the United States, Mexico and Canada — when she was picked for vice president.

The New York Times reports that McCain aides were outraged when Palin staffers scheduled her to speak with French President Nicholas Sarkozy, a conversation that turned out to be a radio station prank.

Newsweek reports that Palin spent far more than the previously reported $150,000 on clothes for herself and her family.

Several publications say she irked the McCain campaign by asking to make her own concession speech on election night.

The tension is likely to continue or get worse. Lawyers for the Republican National Committee are heading to Alaska to try to account for all the money that was spent on clothing, jewelry and luggage, according to The New York Times.

Reports of agitation between the two camps bubbled up in the final weeks of the campaign as Barack Obama began pulling away and the GOP duo was unable to regain the momentum.

But those reports are no longer in the rumor stage as McCain loyalists are now blasting away at the Alaska governor, who was a favorite of the Republican right during the campaign, but was cited in numerous polls as a reason why many Americans wouldn’t vote for the Arizona Republican.

Perhaps the most dangerous allegation for Palin are reports in The New York Times and Newsweek that when she was urged by McCain adviser Nicole Wallace to buy three suits for the Republican convention and three suits for the campaign trail, she went on the now-infamous shopping spree at swank stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.

A Republican donor who agreed to foot a majority of the expenses was stunned when he received the bill, Newsweek reported. Both the Times and Newsweek report that the budget for the clothing was expected to be between $20,000 and $25,000. Instead, the amount reported by the Republican National Committee was $150,000.

That wasn’t the whole tab, however, according to Newsweek. The magazine claims that Palin leaned on some low-level staffers to put thousands of dollars of additional purchases on their credit cards. The national committee and McCain became aware of the extra expenditures, including clothes for husband Todd Palin, when the staffers sought reimbursement, Newsweek reported.

There is one comment in particular from a McCain aide that guaranteed to heighten friction between the two camps. The angry aide described the Palin family shopping spree to Newsweek as “Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast.”

It’s unclear how much McCain knew about the clothing debacle. Reports suggest that he was kept out of the loop for fear that he would not approve.

Both Newsweek and The New York Times say McCain and Palin had little contact with each other.

“I think it was a difficult relationship,” one top McCain official confided to The New York Times. But a high level McCain adviser told ABC News that the two had a good working relationship.

“He likes her,” this senior McCain adviser said last week. “He’s had no problem with her. He’s very appreciative of what she’s done.”

The adviser said McCain and Palin talked at least once a day. He also said McCain frequently joked about how large Palin’s crowds were compared to his.

However, press accounts today suggest that Palin rubbed many of the McCain aides the wrong way. On election night when it was clear that McCain would be giving a concession speech instead of an acceptance speech, Palin approached McCain with a speech in hand hoping to make her own concession speech, according to published reports.

Vice presidential candidates traditionally leave the spotlight to the top of the ticket on election night and McCain aides made it clear to Palin that she would be a spectator that night, not a speaker, The New York Times reported.

And when McCain and Palin split up in Arizona Wednesday, the personal differences were stark.

McCain drove himself home in a Toyota sport utility vehicle. Palin’s departure was a grander event. She left with an entourage of 18 family members and friends and a Secret Service detail, heading to the airport in a motorcade stretching more than a dozen vehicles, flanked by a dozen more cops on motorcycles.

McCain aides had numerous complaints about Palin. She was unwilling or unable to find the time and energy to prep for her disastrous interview with Couric. And when she did study, she astonished her handlers by her unsophisticated views.

She didn’t know Africa was a continent, according to Newsweek. Fox News revealed that during her cramming, she couldn’t name the three countries that belong to the North American Free Trade Agreement: the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Questions followed Palin home to Alaska. She was asked about some of the accusations from anonymous sources when she landed there late Wednesday.

Asked about the Fox report that she did not know the NAFTA members or that Africa was a continent, Palin said, “If they’re an unnamed source, that says it all. I won’t comment on anyone’s gossip based on anonymous sources. That’s kind of a small of a bitter type of person who anonymously would charge that I didn’t know an answer to a question. So until I know who’s talking about it, I won’t have a comment on a false allegation.”

When pressed on what went wrong with the campaign, she said, “I certainly am not one to ever waste time looking backwards.”

She defended herself against the notion that she is to blame for the failure of the McCain-Palin ticket.

“I don’t think anybody should give Sarah Palin that much credit, that I would trump an economic, woeful time in this nation that occurred about two months ago, that my presence on the ticket would trump the economic crisis that America found itself in a couple of months ago and attribute John McCain’s loss to me,” Palin told reporters in Arizona Wednesday.

“Now, having said that, if I cost John McCain even one vote, I’m sorry about that because John McCain I believe is the American hero. I had believed that it was his time. … He being so full of courage and wisdom and experience, that valor he just embodies, I believe he would’ve been the best pick, but that is not the Americans’ choice at this time.”

She also rejected the characterization that she was a “diva” on the campaign trail, as one anonymous McCain adviser told CNN.

“If only people, y’know, come on up and travel with us to Alaska and see this ‘diva’ lifestyle that I supposedly live or would demand, because it’s just false,” she said.

Asked about her national political ambitions, she said, “I have not given it any thought in the context of making any kind of decisions at all, so no, just happy to be back here.”

In one of her favorite coffee shops in Wasilla Tuesday morning, Palin summed it up this way: “Forever, I’m going to be Sarah from Alaska.”

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November 6, 2008 Posted by | News, Politics | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Why John McCain lost?

Candidate John McCain seemed to have it all.

Few in America did not know about his decades of service, his breath-taking heroism as a war hero in Vietnam, his foreign policy expertise and his ability to reach across the Congressional aisle.

Mr McCain’s opponent was largely untested, inexperienced and, initially at least, unknown; his race only added to his challenge.

If there is such a thing as a perfect political storm though, John McCain found himself caught in the middle of it. In a leaky boat. With limited fuel.

Financial squeeze

From the start, his biggest problem was finding the money to compete with Barack Obama’s $650m (£403m) campaign juggernaut. By accepting federal funding (which Mr Obama declined) he capped his general election campaign spending at $85m (£53m).

Of course much more than that was spent by the Republican National Committee and other pro-McCain groups, but Mr McCain could never seriously challenge Mr Obama’s ability to dominate the TV airwaves – even in states that were traditionally Republican.

Worse, Mr Obama had the money to force him to compete in states he should have been able to rely on, which reduced the amount of money Mr McCain had for states he needed to target.

His other big problem was in trying to separate himself from one of the most unpopular presidents in American history and a Congress which had been Republican for six of the past eight years.

As a mostly loyal Republican, his record was one of support for President George W Bush, which Barack Obama never let him forget.

Mr McCain insisted that he would be a very different president, without explicitly rejecting George Bush’s presidency. Instead he tried to position himself as a maverick who had gone his own way in the past.

But conservative Republicans knew all too well that “maverick” also meant going against them on issues such as immigration and campaign finance reform.

The right-wing, evangelical Republicans who had got Mr Bush elected were unhappy about Mr McCain from the start. That forced him into selecting a vice-presidential candidate who would reassure them.

Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska was a huge gamble from the start.

Mr McCain had said that the only thing he would look for in his vice-president was the ability to be president. Given that he would have been the oldest first-term president in history, that seemed particularly relevant.

Palin problems

But choosing someone with no national experience and no foreign experience as his running mate raised questions about his judgement and undermined his main argument against Mr Obama.

In the few interviews she gave, it was clear that she had not grasped foreign policy issues to the same extent as anyone she was running against. But there were other problems too.

She was the subject of an ethics probe in Alaska which eventually ruled that she had abused her power. Then came questions about her official expenses and her claims to have tried to end wasteful federal construction projects.

Her “hockey mom” persona was undermined by a revelation that the campaign had spent $150,000 on clothes and accessories for her.

As the weeks went on, her poll ratings fell heavily. She may have helped shore up the Republican base but she made it far more difficult for Mr McCain to broaden his appeal – especially with her forceful views on abortion and the environment.

She also helped drive away some in her own party. Mr Bush’s former Secretary of State Colin Powell cited her as one of the reasons he had decided to endorse Mr Obama; he decried what he saw as an increasing “narrowness” of the party.

He also condemned the negative attacks on Mr Obama coming from the McCain campaign as having gone too far.

Hopes dashed

This was another aspect of the McCain strategy that seemed to backfire. Although Mr McCain ran only 10% more purely negative adverts than his rival, according to media monitoring groups, they were more deeply personal attacks – accusing Mr Obama of having a close relationship with a “domestic terrorist”, for example.

Such ads created a backlash from independent voters, according to the polls, and Mr McCain was forced to change his tone.

In fact, he could never quite find a narrative that worked. He went from being war hero, to the voice of experience, to maverick, to tax-cutter, but he never found a way to lift himself in the polls.

His team hoped the three presidential debates would finally reveal their candidate to be best qualified for the job. But in the “town hall” setting Mr McCain favoured, he wandered around the stage and forgot that what may work in a real town hall doesn’t necessarily work with a TV audience.

In other debates he tried confronting Mr Obama, but was never able to shake the younger man’s almost unnatural cool. At times, Mr McCain seemed to be trying to keep a simmering rage under control, which brought more negative coverage.

When the credit crisis erupted and the economy stalled, it seemed a damning indictment of an era of Republican deregulation and “trickle-down” economics.

Mr McCain’s past quotes about the fundamentals of the economy being strong came back to haunt him. His tax plan – which seemed to favour the wealthy – rang hollow with people facing foreclosure and job losses.

His abrupt suspension of his campaign to return to Washington and “fix the problem” seemed erratic and was ultimately ineffectual.

In the end, he projected an image as a man from America’s past, who had been through much and served his country well.

But in a disgruntled nation, deeply disenchanted with Republicanism, he couldn’t match the appeal of his younger opponent and his message of change.

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , | Leave a comment

Rice: ‘proud’ of Obama’s victory

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced Wednesday that the Department of State “will do everything we can” to ensure a smooth transition to President-elect Barack Obama.

While noting that Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain was “gracious” in his defeat, Rice said, “On a personal note, as an African-American, I am especially proud because this is a country that’s been through long journey in overcoming wounds, and making race not the factor in our lives.

“That work is not done, but yesterday was obviously an extraordinary step forward.”

November 5, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , | Leave a comment

Wait times reach 4 to 6 hours in St. Louis area

Long lines at polling stations across the city are no surprise, said officials at the St. Louis County Board of Elections. Callers into the CNN Voting Hotline reported waits of 4 to 6 hours in the northern suburbs of Jennings and Velda City.

The county’s board of elections assistant director Dick Bauer said a lengthy ballot and what he expects to be a record turnout have slowed the process. Voters can make as many as 37 selections on the ballot today, and 10 of them are issue choices, said Bauer.

Voters in line at two polling locations in the suburb of Jennings have been experiencing waits of 4 hours or more, according to U.S. Representative William Lacy Clay. The congressman said both Jennings City Hall and Fairview Elementary were understaffed to handle the crowds.

“As we expected, the St. Louis County Board of Elections authority was ill-equipped and ill-prepared for the mass of humanity that showed up to exercise their constitutional right to vote today,” said Clay. He said two judges were in place at Fairview Elementary where upwards of 400 people were waiting in line to vote.

Judge Joseph Goeke, director of the Board of Elections, said Clay’s statement was incorrect, and that Fairview Elementary had 12 judges all day. He said the county was planning to add another two judges this afternoon. In response to Clay’s accusations that polls were ill-equipped and understaffed, Goeke said his plans for today’s elections exceeded requirements.

“We’re required to have one voting device for every 124 people, and I have one for every 108 or 109,” said Goeke. Goeke also said voters in St Louis County have 25% more equipment than he has ever deployed in an election.

St. Louis County has touchscreen and optical scan equipment. Goeke said that “outside influences” are trying to dissuade voters from using touchscreen machines and that some of them go idle at polling stations.

“It’s a shame certain advocates are slowing down the process by telling people to take paper ballots”, said Goeke, “we have more than enough equipment available.”

November 4, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , | Leave a comment

High turnout in historic US polls

Democrat Barack Obama is joining the nation’s earliest voters in filling in a ballot in his historic presidential contest with Republican John McCain.

Obama arrived at his precinct in Chicago shortly after 7:30 CST Tuesday. His wife, Michelle, and their young daughters accompanied him as he received a ballot and went to a polling station. The Obamas stood side by side and their daughters looked on as they read their ballots.

Obama planned a quick campaign stop in Indiana on Election Day before a massive outdoor rally in front of the skyline in his adopted hometown of Chicago. The day’s forecast was for an unseasonably warm 70 degrees.

McCain planned events in Colorado and New Mexico, then a party at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix.

Meanwhile, long lines have formed as polls open in Eastern states as John McCain is counting on a narrow path to an upset victory today while Barack Obama pinned his hopes for becoming the nation’s first black president on a ground organization designed to swell precincts with voters across the country.

“I think these battleground states have now closed up, almost all of them, and I believe there’s a good scenario where we can win,” McCain told CBS’ “The Early Show” in an interview broadcast as the day’s first voters stood in early-morning lines.

“Look, I know I’m still the underdog, I understand that,” the Arizona senator said. “You can’t imagine, you can’t imagine the excitement of an individual to be this close to the most important position in the world, and I’ll enjoy it, enjoy it. I’ll never forget it as long as I live.”

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said he was confident that new voters and young voters would fuel an enormous turnout to benefit the Illinois senator.

“We just want to make sure people turn out,” Plouffe told “Today” on NBC. “We think we have enough votes around the country.”

Standing in line in one of the battleground states, Ahmed Bowling of Alexandria, Viginia, said the election “will mark a significant change in the lives of all Americans, and so we do have to come out as early as possible to cast our votes.”

In Brooklyn, New York, 49-year-old Venus Kevin said the line at her precinct was “already down the block and around the corner” when she arrived shortly before 6 am EST.

“Obama is the man,” said Kevin, who is black. “His message and his vision has reached a lot of people, not just African-Americans.”

The contest pitted the 47-year-old Obama, a first-term Illinois senator who rocketed to stardom on the power of his oratory and a call for change, against the 72-year-old McCain, a 26-year lawmaker whose mettle was tested during 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

“I’m feeling kind of fired up. I’m feeling like I’m ready to go,” Obama told nearly 100,000 people gathered for his final rally Monday night in Virginia.

“At this defining moment in history, Virginia, you can give this country the change it needs,” Obama said to voters in a state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential nominee in 44 years.

McCain completed a cross-country trek through seven battleground states before arriving at home in Phoenix early Tuesday morning.

“This momentum, this enthusiasm convinces me we’re going to win tomorrow,” McCain told a raucous evening rally in Henderson, Nev. It was the fifth campaign stop in an 18-hour odyssey that took him across three time zones.

Obama planned a quick campaign stop in Indiana on Election Day before a massive outdoor rally in front of the skyline in his adopted hometown of Chicago. The day’s forecast was for an unseasonably warm 70 degrees.

McCain planned events in Colorado and New Mexico, then a party at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix.

Obama urged his supporters to resist overconfidence. “Even if it rains tomorrow, you can’t let that stop you. You’ve got to wait in line. You’ve got to vote,” he said.

OBAMA WINS IN EARLIEST VOTE IN TINY DIXVILLE NOTCH
Barack Obama came up a big winner in the presidential race in Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location, New Hampshire, where tradition of having the first Election Day ballots tallied lives on.

Democrat Obama defeated Republican John McCain by a count of 15 to 6 in Dixville Notch, where a loud whoop accompanied the announcement in Tuesday’s first minutes. The town of Hart’s Location reported 17 votes for Obama, 10 for McCain and two for write-in Ron Paul. Independent Ralph Nader was on both towns’ ballots but got no votes.

“I’m not going to say I wasn’t surprised,” said Obama supporter Tanner Nelson Tillotson, whose name was drawn from a bowl to make him Dixville Notch’s first voter.

With 115 residents between them, Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location get every eligible voter to the polls beginning at midnight on Election Day. Between them, the towns have been enjoying their first-vote status since 1948.

Being first means something to residents of the Granite State, home of the nation’s earliest presidential primary and the central focus “however briefly” of the vote-watching nation’s attention every four years.

Town Clerk Rick Erwin said Dixville Notch is proud of its tradition, but added, “The most important thing is that we exemplify a 100 percent vote.”

Dixville Notch resident Peter Johnson said the early bird electoral exercise “is fun.” A former naval aviator, Johnson said he was voting for McCain, but added, “I think both candidates are excellent people.”

GRANDMOTHER DIES
The Illinois senator’s final day of campaigning was bittersweet: He was mourning the loss of his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who helped raise him. She died of cancer Sunday night, never to see the results of the historic election.

A tearful Obama, who stands on the historic threshold of becoming the first black US president, told 25,000 supporters here that Madelyn Dunham had passed away in her sleep at her Hawaii home after a long battle with cancer.

She was 86.

The Democrat lauded Dunham, who raised him when his anthropologist mother was studying in Indonesia, as one of America’s “quiet heroes,” and delivered an impassioned vow to work for all such heroes if elected to the White House.

The news broke on the campaign’s final day as Obama blitzed through Florida and North Carolina before a concluding late-night rally in Virginia — all Republican states that he is bidding to flip into his column.

Obama had dashed to his grandmother’s side in Hawaii two weeks ago, fearing she would not live to see what polls suggest may be his triumph against Republican John McCain in Tuesday’s election.

November 4, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment