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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

 12:25 AM 

Analysis: McCain's record in the crosshairs

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Chris Micklos
Commentary
Hillary Clinton took to the podium tonight, and she delivered a phenomenal, inspiring speech that will easily rank as the best she has ever given. There will be a lot of words written and spoken about her performance tonight, but her full-throated endorsement of Barack Obama and stinging indictment of John McCain will no doubt go a long way toward bringing her supporters over to Team Obama. It was exactly what she needed to do, and the convention hall could not have been more enthusiastic and responsive.

However, for those wringing their hands over recent polls and concerned about Democratic defections to the Republican in November, the key comments to watch were not made from the Pepsi Center tonight but from a small press conference off-site on Monday.

Turncoat Wisconsin Democrat (and deposed DNC delegate) Deb Bartoshevich has gotten a bunch of publicity in recent days for starring in an ad for the McCain campaign. In fact, for all the attention she has gotten, her new-found Republican friends might even dub her a "celebrity".

But during a press conference to promote the ad, Bartoschevich was asked if she was concerned about McCain's anti-choice voting record. Her response: "Going back to 1999, John McCain did an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle saying that overturning Roe v. Wade would not make any sense, because then women would have to have illegal abortions."

Now, that doesn't really sound like something said off the top of her head, does it? That sounds like something straight out of campaign talking points. In fact, that sounds like just the kind of bad information that the McCain campaign would put out to obscure their candidate's real record.

Of course, it may well be true that McCain said that nearly ten years ago, but that is not the John McCain who is running for president today.

This is the man who has gone on bended knee to embrace the right-wing ideologues whom he once called "agents of intolerance." This is the guy who will not commit to supporting as president the immigration bill that he himself authored in the Senate. And this is the committed anti-choice candidate who has this to say on his own campaign website: "John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned".

For the record, that's the exact same web site where you can also view the Bartoshevich ad.

The point isn't to embarrass Bartoshevich. The point isn't to make her feel absolutely ridiculous about basking in her 15 minutes of fame while demonstrating complete ignorance of McCain's position on such a fundamental Democratic issue.

The point is that many, many of those Democrats and independents who are still resisting Barack Obama don't actually know the real John McCain. And in Wisconsin, school starts after Labor Day, so over the next two months, you can be sure that Democrats will make sure that those voters learn who John McCain is, what he stands for, and what the stakes of this election will be.

For example: a John McCain presidency means the end of Roe v. Wade.

So, while Hillary Clinton's unity speech was very important and equally effective, the key to unifying Democrats and bringing independents on board for Obama will be to draw the contrast between both candidates and make sure that voters know the real John McCain. That process began tonight in Denver, and it will gain steam over the next several weeks.

If the sad Bartoshevich episode is instructive of anything, it demonstrates that a lot of McCain support is built on misperceptions and deliberate deceptions. That's the kind of foundation that the Democrats can really hammer away at.

Expect to hear a lot more hammering coming from Denver during the next couple of days.

-- Micklos is partner and senior strategist at Visuality, a Madison-based media consulting firm. Contact him at chris@visuality.com.

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