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Both Parties Now Ignoring McCain

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The presidential campaign strategies these days are clear. For the Democrats, it's time to stop the bickering and rally round Barack Obama, who dominates the Democratic National Committee's Web site.

On the Republican National Committee site, it's all Obama, all the time, boosting the campaign's "celebrity" theme, which appears to be gaining some traction. Recent polls showed that the public is tiring of hearing about the once-new-and-fresh young Democratic candidate. At the same time, the GOP is pounding Obama as just Hollywood, an empty suit, no experience, and who is he anyway?

The two Web sites at first glance seem almost interchangeable. In fact, it was hard to find a mention of John McCain on either of them. Obama dominates both sites pretty much equally, though the GOP site also has some prominent blasts at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. There are no featured shots at the Democrats' Senate leader, the guy from out West, what's-his-name . . .

Obama has virtually dropped out of sight, retreating to Hawaii, leaving it to McCain to boost his celebrity status. At the same time, Obama's absence might have given McCain the field to himself maybe to pick up some ground, command the stage for a bit before the conventions.

But it wasn't to be. First came Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and the Redeem Team. Then came the wonderful, lying John Edwards and the Love Child. Then Bush's pal and soul mate, former KGB thug Vladimir Putin, decided to go for a little revenge on Bush and NATO by smacking around the upstart and powerless Georgians.

And while there was news yesterday that the Russians had backed off in Georgia, that will just leave more time to focus on the track and field events and the ongoing Edwards story.

Iowa Recount

Speaking of Edwards, former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman Howard Wolfson made a splash telling ABC News that had the Edwards scandal come out before January's Iowa caucuses, Clinton would now be the nominee.

Wolfson's speculated that "maybe two-thirds" of the Edwards voters would have voted for Clinton, who came in third after Obama and Edwards.

A fine theory, except that it conflicts with the networks' polling data at the time, our pollster Jon Cohen notes on washingtonpost.com.

Cohen writes: "In the networks' Iowa entrance poll, 43 percent of those who went to a caucus to support Edwards said Obama was their second choice. Far fewer, 24 percent, said they would support Clinton if their top choice did not garner enough votes at that location." The rest preferred others, had no second choice or were uncommitted.

So what? The undisputed fact remains that if Obama and the other candidates hadn't run, Clinton almost certainly would have won the nomination.

Georgia Who?

The Russian invasion of Georgia, our close friend and ally, appears to have raised doubts among some U.S. allies of Washington's willingness to defend its friends.

And it's dealt a blow to what's left of the Coalition of the Willing in Iraq. The Georgians, the third-largest contingent, after the United States and the Brits, withdrew their 2,000 troops from Iraq to send them home to defend their country.

The non-U.S. coalition members, who a few years ago numbered about 40 countries with about 50,000 troops in Iraq, already had dwindled to 9,200 troops from 23 countries, according to a July 30 State Department count. And most of those troops were in a noncombat role.

The Georgian withdrawal leaves Poland, with 900 troops in Iraq -- and a 130-mile border with the Russian province of Kaliningrad -- as the third-largest contingent. But last month the Polish media reported that Warsaw's troops would be out by Halloween.

And a report last week in the South Korean press said that country was set to withdraw all its 500 troops from Iraq by the end of the year. The British government is looking to reduce its 4,100 troops, as long as the violence continues to abate, with the remaining forces focusing on training Iraqi troops.

Well, Tonga and Mongolia are steadfast.

Larry Craig? Old News Even Then.

This from a Nov. 12, 1999, Loop column.

Bipartisanship Never Sleeps Quote of the Week: Sure, it's only Friday, but we're confident this one can't be topped. It's from Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho), remarking Tuesday on how he and Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) were in sync on some mining issues.

"Politics makes strange bedpersons," Craig said, according to the New York Times. "I would not be uncomfortable in Bob Byrd's bed."

But Byrd might be.

Attention, Flock

The McCain campaign has been long concerned about whether conservative Christian voters would fall in line this fall. But last week Ralph Reed, the first executive director of the Christian Coalition and an unsuccessful 2006 candidate for Georgia lieutenant governor, invited well-heeled folks to a "very special event" -- that means a fundraiser -- for McCain in downtown Atlanta on Aug. 18.

Reed, whose campaign was torpedoed by his affiliation with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, noted that he's also agreed to serve as a member of the McCain Victory 2008 Team, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

"John McCain believes in a strong national defense," Reed wrote, and that "tax cuts work best when tied to spending restraint. He has a 26-year pro-life voting record and has pledged to appoint conservative judges."

The oddity here is that much of the information about the Abramoff-Reed relationship was uncovered in an investigation by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which was chaired by McCain.

Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this column.

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