Besides the usual tax and big government and vitriolic attacks against their opponents, several themes arose last night that may be the battlegrounds of the next two months.
Remember in 1992 when Clinton campaign chiefs Paul Begala and James Carville coined the phrase "It’s the economy, stupid?" It worked for Clinton. They tapped into the American angst of that moment.
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Now I think it is "It’s your wallet, stupid." The housing crisis and oil prices have people very worried. People are terrified about the high price of gas, the diminishing value of their paychecks, the insecurity of their jobs, fear that oil prices are being controlled by foreign powers. We are worried about the future.
While polls indicate that most Americans want solar, wind and alternative energy for our future, they also put the need for new energy sources ahead of environmental concerns. Over 60% of American support drilling. So, both McCain and Obama have changed their positions on off shore drilling. At one time, they were both opposed, now they are behind the idea.
Even though our own Department of the Energy says we cannot drill our way of this mess, people are more worried about their wallets, their money, the cost of oil and the Democrats have not made their case about how this new Green Economy will work. Americans are comfortable with oil. It is part of the American persona and mythology. We are addicted to it. We know our cars, not mass transit. We are reluctant to give up our lifestyles. If we think that drilling will make gas for our cars, and oil and electricity for our homes, less expensive, as well as keep us secure from our enemies and provide jobs, then that is what we want. People want to keep more money in their wallets and want to know we will not be at the mercy of "foreign devils" that control our oil.
The Democrats have to make their case, and it can’t be complicated. How do we make this transition to the Green Economy? People want it, but want to understand simply how we get there. How will it work? Is it real or fantasy? What about our jobs?
While most Americans think it was a mistake to go into Iraq, polls show the American electorate is divided on whether the surge worked and whether we should pull out now or stay till the job is done. The Republicans are pushing the idea that the surge worked, that we are winning.
The Democrats’ opposition to the war has been tepid, at best. The American people were lied to about why we had to go to war. More and more evidence ties this war to a debatable geopolitical position in the Middle East and to securing Iraq’s oil. Over the last five years the Democrats have not pushed their opposition to the war; they have not demanded investigations of the beginning of the war or the complicity of big oil. Now they have to come up with a plan that stirs as much passion and interest among the people as the Republican message that McCain was right and the surge is working.
So, tonight we hear McCain. We can talk about that tomorrow together, right here.