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Hugh Hewitt Book Club
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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Michael Barone handicaps the presidential race, and key House and Senate races this fall.

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HH: Special treat this hour. We cover the political map with Michael Barone, America’s preeminent political analyst. And he’s in studio. He’s making a West Coast trip. He was over at my school today, Chapman University. So Michael, on behalf of all the Panthers, thank you for helping our university raise awareness and funds today. I’m glad that you did.

MB: Well, I’m always ready to help panthers and other predators.

HH: (laughing) Jim Doty is really one of those when it comes to fundraising, but we love the way he’s brought Chapman to the first rank of national universities. It’s wonderful. Michael, you drove up in a Prius today.

MB: Yes.

HH: Was that by design? I mean, are you now cognizant…

MB: No, I had a car rental at Alamo Rental Car, and I had a mid-size. I resisted the temptation to upgrade to a Cadillac for $40 on Chapman University’s dime. So I decided to…they said well, do you want a Prius? And my first thought was I don’t know how to drive a Prius. And then I thought, hey, this is my chance to drive a Prius.

HH: I think there’s a column in it, actually. How did it drive?

MB: It drives differently. It feels a little bit like a go-cart, except you know, you’re out here on these broad streets, and suddenly, you see well, you’re going 49 miles an hour, and you thought you were just going golf cart speed.

HH: Yeah.

MB: It gets right up there. It’s a different look and feel than the standard automobile, but I think it’s okay.

HH: We’re getting close to $4 buck a gallon gas, Michael Barone. How much has gas prices affected elections in the past? It’s always talked about, but I just never got the sense it mattered.

MB: Well, I don’t think it matters as much as people think. I don’t think there’s a one on one relationship between, you know, the price of gas goes higher, it hurts the president’s party. I think what really hurt on gasoline, and made an effect for a generation, but may no longer be effective, the gas lines in the 1970’s. You know, Hugh, you remember waiting in line for the gas line…

HH: Yes, yes.

MB: …and so forth. You go down there, you bring War And Peace, or some other book with you to read while you’re sitting there in the gas line, because you’re waiting for an hour. And that was a pretty formative experience. It taught a lot of Americans what regulation does. We are going to have price controls on gas. We’re going to have this or that. Well, guess what? When you control prices, you don’t have supply, and you have to wait in gas lines and go through all that attendant stuff. And that really taught a generation of Americans that there is such a thing as overregulation, and there is such a thing as too much government. The contemporary stagflation of the 70’s told us that big government spending and fiscal policies were not the right way to go. And that’s been a formative lesson that has had Americans believing more in market mechanisms, less in government.

HH: A lot of people are saying in fact, Michael Barone, that one of the reasons that this next generation is so inclined to Barack Obama is that they have no memory of Jimmy Carter. They really do not understand that you can have a misery index in the very high twenties when you combine inflation, the prime, and unemployment. Do you think that’s true?

MB: Yeah. I mean, the median age voter in 2008, Hugh, was born about 1963. They were never behind the steering wheel in a gas line. They may have been caught once with mom or dad in the gas line, and they probably made sure they didn’t get in the car again, because it was a pain in the neck, and mom and dad wouldn’t let them listen to the music they wanted and so forth. But they never experienced, they never paid bills with paychecks that were being eroded by bracket creep, even though the prices of things were going up steeply. They’ve never been through that experience. It was different in 1992 when Bill Clinton was first running. Median age voter then was born in 1947, Hillary Clinton’s birth year. They remembered the 70’s as young adults, and they took that with…Bill Clinton was quick to assure us that he wasn’t going to do big government solutions. He didn’t believe in that sort of thing. We don’t hear that from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama today. Quite to the contrary, and I think we do hear, is this talk from Generation Obama, that hey, oh, well, government’s going to pay for health care. That’ll be fine. It won’t cost anything, it’ll be terrific. You know, we’re going to have government redistribute income. Hey, good idea, some people are so rich, let’s just spread it around. They don’t understand, they haven’t personally experienced the downside risks of big government overregulation policies. And I think they’re not alert to the, and I think that those of us who think that there are such risks, and such downside possibilities, really have to make the case affirmatively, because half the voters don’t remember the 70’s.

HH: Wow, that’s remarkable. Now let’s talk a little bit about the presidential race. We’ve got an hour, and I want to get to the Senate and the House. But I want to start with this. First of all, just generally, you talk about open field politics at your blog, and I think it’s a concept that people are uncomfortable with, because they don’t really know what you mean by it. I think you mean by it, we ain’t never been on this terrain before. It can go left, right, center, up the middle, go long, whatever, anything can happen.

MB: I think that’s right. Very many things can happen. Lots of things have happened this year. I mean, all five leading Republican presidential candidates had a strategy that failed. That wasn’t because all five employed stupid people, or employed idiots. It was because in open field politics, it’s hard to see the way forward.

HH: Yeah.

MB: And John McCain was lucky, because his strategy failed first.

HH: Yeah (laughing). So the question then becomes, what’s the impact of Rezko, Wright and race on the Democratic primary? We still have that…that’s right up in front of us right now. What’s the key there?

MB: Well, I think the key is that, you know, the bloom is coming off the rose to some extent for Barack Obama. If you’ve been checking the Rasmussen daily polls this week, his favorable percentage has gone down from 52 to 47.

HH: Wow.

MB: …now trailing John McCain by six points, which is also the case with Hillary Clinton. That’s a little bit of an outlier. Most of the polls show that race a little closer. It’s undermined the argument that Obama supporters have had of look, he’s a stronger candidate in the general election. And it’s highlighted what I think is this fact. Hillary Clinton doesn’t have much room to go up or go down. People have opinions about her. She, you know, 50% fav, 50% unfavorable, which means A) she can win, B) she can lose, and neither case by as wide a margin. Barack Obama’s got higher upside potential. He’s got higher downside potential. Rezko, Wright and the race of which he’s going to make a major speech on tomorrow night, tomorrow, supposedly, is those illustrate the downside risks in Barack Obama. And you have the other one of inexperience, you know, lack of exposure in foreign policy, lack of experience at this level, in political and governmental operation.

HH: It’s going to come down to Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Indiana and West Virginia. And you know Pennsylvania. Does his race matter there with white ethnics? Does Ed Rendell matter? You know, Pennsylvania’s such an odd state. It can elect a Rick Santorum six years ago, and then turn him out decisively this time around. It’s pro-life, but it’s also got a huge black population in Philadelphia. What do you think is going to play out there?

MB: Well, the demographics of Pennsylvania are not particularly favorable to Obama. It’s old, and he hasn’t been doing well with old voters. I mean, it’s the second highest percentage of over 65’s after Florida.

HH: Oh, I didn’t know that.

MB: Yeah.

HH: They stayed. The ones who didn’t go to Florida stayed.

MB: Yeah, they stayed there, and they’re still, you know, living in their Pittsburgh neighborhoods, which are always difficult for me, because you look on the map, and they’re right next to each other. But actually, there’s a thousand foot cliff in between them.

HH: (laughing)

MB: And so you can’t get from here to there. But it’s a state with ingrained people. It’s got about 10% black population. Obama will carry the city and county of Philadelphia, majority black, about half and half. The Philly suburbs, those areas have been very good areas, demographically, that’s a good fit for Obama’s upscale voters. And to some extent, you’ve got a young population, exurban, doing well in the free market. That’s the part of the state where it’s most pronounced. But also, that’s the home area of Ed Rendell, the former mayor of Philadelphia, governor of Pennsylvania. He’s…his real heartland is the suburbs. They love him there. They’ve moved from Republican to Democratic, and he’s got to crack them. The current polling, Real Clear Politics average has Obama behind Hillary Clinton 52-36.

HH: Wow.

MB: That…remember, there was a ten point gap in Ohio, 54-44, that everybody kind of looked, oh, that’s a big margin. We’re looking right now at what looks like a bigger margin for Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania. She might even, you know, win more than a margin of eight delegates, which I think she got an eight or nine delegate edge out of Ohio, the nation’s seventh largest state.

HH: Can you see the superdelegates, assuming that Obama wins with the most delegates, as seems likely, and has a narrow lead in the popular vote, if we don’t revote Florida or Michigan, can you see the superdelegates denying him the nomination, Michael Barone?

MB: I can see it more now today than I could a week ago, and the reason, I think, is the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. I think that this, you know, this long association that he’s had with a man who says you shouldn’t sing God bless America, you should sing God damn America, that’s not what most Americans believe in. That’s not what I think most Democrats believe in. Certainly, very, very many Democrats, people who regularly vote Democratic, find that abhorrent. I think that’s a problem. Is Barack Obama a guy with transnational attitudes, who is at best ambivalent about America, and at worst, adversary to it? He’s been trying to suggest very much that he’s not.

HH: What’s interesting is tomorrow, he gets the opportunity that Mitt Romney had. He gets to dominate the national media, and give a speech about faith. And it helped Romney, though not enough. And I think he might get to display to a national audience that magic again, and demand for his Church and his pastor, or Wright to believe the eccentric without attributing the eccentric to him. Do you think that can work?

MB: I think that can work to some extent, but I think, you know, you’ve also got to weight that in this age of YouTube with the videotape of Jeremiah Wright, which is not…

HH: Is harsh…

MB: …what most Americans want a president to be associated with.

– – – –

HH: Hugh Hewitt with Michael Barone, author of, among other books, Our First Revolution, a book my law students now have to read, Michael Barone, because I think that 1688 matters a great deal. Have you watched the John Adams HBO special?

MB: I have not. I have seen terrific rave reviews, and I’m looking forward to it.

HH: I missed it, too. It’s on my Tivo, or if I can work it. Michael Medved today told me it made him cry, it’s so wonderful. And obviously, it’s going to connect up with your love for our founding period of time. So I’ll be interested to see what you write about it when you get there. Back to politics, to the gritty. We talked about Jeremiah Wright. Let’s talk Tony Rezko. Now Michael, to me and any homeowner in America knows, if you haven’t got the money for a house, and a guy comes along and buys the vacant lot next to you, to help you buy the house, he’s done you a favor, hasn’t he?

MB: Well, particularly if he pays the full asking price for the vacant lot, and you get the house for $300,000 less than the asking price.

HH: So why is this not absorbing the attention of those who understand the Senate gift rules?

MB: Well, that’s an interesting question. You’d have to ask some of Senator Obama’s colleagues in the Senate that…the next time you have Senator Feinstein or Boxer on this broad program, perhaps you could raise that issue.

HH: They’re not usually on this broad…but I ask…you know, Hillary Clinton’s team is raising this. I would think that Howard Wolfson would want to file a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee if they’re so…they keep pointing to this on those conference calls.

MB: Yeah, I’m a little mystified why they haven’t done that. I guess they don’t want to escalate it quite to that level, but you know, the Chicago press, the Sun Times and the Tribune, ran some articles about Rezko. The national press, until the last, about two weeks ago, has been quite uninterested in Rezko, and I think one of the reasons, aside from the usual press bias in favor of Democrats, which is so pronounced that the Associated Press in a picture caption identified Eliot Spitzer as an R rather than a D.

HH: I know (laughing). They just assumed.

MB: It’s, you know, it’s really not too hard to ascertain the party of the governor of New York. Usually, that’s a pretty well known fact, but they got it wrong. You know, is the feeling that Obama is something special? And I think they share a feeling that I think most Americans have, which is that as a general proposition, and if the right kind of candidate could be found, it would be a good thing for this country to elect a black president.

HH: Sure.

MB: I feel that way myself.

HH: Sure, of course it would be a statement to the world of a post-racial America that would be confirming our Declaration of Independence in many ways.

MB: Yeah, a statement to ourselves about ourselves, and to the world. And that, you know, has led them to give Obama, how should we put this, less unfavorable coverage than they’ve been inclined to give Hillary Clinton, who many members of the national press, notwithstanding their general liberal beliefs, regard as sort of a cross between Nurse Rached and one of the Salem witches.

HH: Has she gotten better, do you think?

MB: Well, she shows, you know, occasional glimpses of humor from time to time.

HH: Yes.

MB: She and Bill Clinton did that Sopranos video, which I thought was terrific.

HH: Yeah.

MB: And her comments on, what, the Daily Show, or something, that was a good sense of humor, whether she or whoever invented that line, she delivered it well. So she does show some of that, and she, you know, she has shown us once again that she perseveres in the face of setbacks. That’s a quality that people, you know, may very well value in a president.

HH: Last hour, I interviewed John McCain. I’ll repeat it next hour from Jordan on his trip. Of course, I was a fierce critic of McCain in the run up to the primary, but now, as I always said, I wanted him to win because there’s such a huge gap here. Do you think what he is selling, which is a sobriety which is extreme, a seriousness far beyond anyone that we’ve seen except on days of crisis, but kind of an extended seriousness, is there a place for that in American politics?

MB: Well, I think there was a place for it in George Washington. There’s a face for it in Abraham Lincoln, which is not to suggest that John McCain rises to the sublime level of the first and sixteenth presidents, but you know, I think there’s a sense that this is a difficult world, and that we have to, that it’s not easy to deal with, that you do need to bring to it a kind of a seriousness. And we’ve got, you know, these different generations. I recommended this new book, Millennial, I forget the exact title, Millennial Marches by Morley Winograd, long time Democratic activist whom I knew when I was an active Democrat and he was Democratic state chairman of Michigan, the 70’s. And it’s a very interesting book. He goes into, he’s got a co-author who worked with the Frank Magid survey research group, and goes into the millennials, these young voters who were very civic minded, they volunteer for things, they love their parents, their not antithetical to society. But they’re also totally unaware of downside risks in the international scene and locally. It’s been one of the great virtue of youth in political history is idealism, willingness to do something new, and innovate. The great weakness is they haven’t absorbed the lessons of history of what the dangers are, and what may lurk. And John McCain, if he’s opposed by Barack Obama, has got to do something about educating these voters about downside risks, and about what we must do to avoid them. And that to make a better world, you can’t just blithely say well, we’ll push a button and have government declare it’s all going to be better, and you know, we’ll be friends with the world, so hey, we’re not going to have any problems beyond America.

HH: You know, it’s interesting, Michael, I spent Friday at the Midway with the Vets For Freedom kickoff tour. And these are millennials. These are kids who are 25, and I say kids, they’re hardened warriors.

MB: Yeah.

HH: They fought, often four and five tours of duty in hard places.

MB: Yeah.

HH: But they are absolutely committed to sort of American exceptionalism, and to John McCain, I think. I think that might be part of the answer, if he puts them out there.

MB: Well, I think that’s very interesting, and you know, we’ve seen a couple of these groups come forward. We’ve seen the writing of a veteran named Peter Hegseth from Minnesota…

HH: Yup.

MB: …who is a terrifically good writer.

HH: He was down there, yup.

MB: Yeah, he is a very gifted writer and so forth. And I think we need to make that point, that Iraq was not the pillaging of something by American soldiers. It has been an area where American idealism has been put to work, and has had real positive results.

HH: Yeah. Well, let’s get to the scorecard – the Senate, because obviously, if the White House is lost, and the House doesn’t come back, we’ve got to stay above 41 or 42 solid votes, or all sorts of bad things happen. John Sununu in New Hampshire, does he hang on, Michael Barone?

MB: I would have to say right now, he probably does not hang on. But he’s got a better chance now that John McCain is the Republican nominee.

HH: Oh, why is that?

MB: Because I think McCain is the only Republican that could carry New Hampshire of any that were running this year. Rudy Giuliani might have, too.

HH: Okay, Susan Collins in Maine?

MB: I think she holds on. I don’t think the left wing Democrat running against her is going to get enough uphill traction.

HH: Now you’re going to break my heart. I know the answer to this. The open seat in Virginia?

MB: The open seat in Virginia, that is a dead duck.

HH: (laughing)

MB: Mark Warner, if Mark Warner, the former governor, Democrat, well, pardon me for referring to him in a way like…not to mean to suggest that he was a defunct fowl, but…

HH: No, but that Jim Gilmore is. The chances of Jim Gilmore beating him are zero, right?

MB: From the point of view of prognostication, you’ve got to regard that as a Democratic turnover.

HH: Now I’ve got to ask, though, that’s such a shock to our system. Virginia has been…we went from John Warner and George Allen to Jim Webb and Mark Warner in two years.

MB: Well, George Allen, in some ways, was an unforced error, and it’s also an illustration of the YouTube age.

HH: Yup.

MB: I mean, he made that macaca comment in a venue that I believe…I did a MapQuest on this at one point. 340 miles from Washington, D.C., the biggest media market in the state, about as far from D.C. as you could get in the Commonwealth of Virginia. But it went everywhere.

– – – –

HH: Norm Coleman’s a friend of this show. We like him a lot. I think he’s doing okay. How do you call Minnesota in ’08 against Al Franken?

MB: Well, I’m going to bet on Norm Coleman a second time. I bet on him in ’02, and I think he’s going to pull it off. He’s been very active, he’s been all over the state, he’s catered to some local issues. You know, the sugar growers won’t be unhappy with him, even though I am on his vote on sugar issues, beet sugar people up in Minnesota. I think he pulls it out. He’s got a better, sunnier personality than Al Franken, the likely Democratic nominee, and I think Norm will pull it out with outstate votes.

HH: Let’s go down to Landrieu in Louisiana, a tough state to call, because the demographic changed because of the Katrina aftermath was so extreme.

MB: Well, it’s pretty big. I mean, it’s not as big as some Republicans hoped. You’ve obviously had a lot of black voters from New Orleans leave the state. You had a fair amount of white voters from St. Bernard Parish that lost about 80% of their voters.

HH: Wow.

MB: And that’s an almost all…you know, that’s an 80% white area. It’s much smaller than Orleans Parish. You lost some from…I think I will pick John Kennedy, the Republican, to hold that.

HH: So that will be one pick up. So we’re only down one at this point. Off to Colorado where Doc Allard is retiring. You’ve got Bob Shaffer, great conservative, against a very traditional, bolder liberal in Mark Udall. What do you think, Michael Barone?

MB: Well, I think the polls have been closer there than I expected. And once again, McCain as the nominee I think is a good omen for the Republicans. Right now, though, I’d say Mark Udall, the Democrat, is going to win that seat.

HH: Possible to bring it back, though?

MB: Oh, I think that’s going to be a seriously contested one, Hugh, and it’s been interesting. The polling there in the ’02 cycle, in particular, was very…the polling suggested the Democrat was way ahead.

HH: Strickland, right?

MB: Strickland.

HH: Yeah.

MB: And it wasn’t so. The polling was wrong, and kind of systematically. Not just Strickland’s pollster, but most of the public polls.

HH: I was in Colorado that morning, and talking to Dick Wadhams, who was Strickland’s campaign manager, then he went to…

MB: Or Allard’s, yeah.

HH: …then he went to Thune, and then he went to Allen, now he’s back out with Bob Shaffer. And he was as confident as confident could be that morning. And of course, they always play that game, but that was…

MB: No, I know Wadhams, and he was confident about that, and the polling they had, in house polling, was more accurate than the public polls.

HH: All right, interesting race, Tim Johnson in South Dakota, might have been a great race for Republicans. A lot depends on who they recruit, and also, a lot depends on sympathy voting for the Senator who’s fighting back from a major stroke. What do you think?

MB: I think Tim Johnson’s going to win big. He’s actually won by smaller popular vote margins than any other U.S. Senator if you tote the two elections. One, it’s a small state…

HH: Yeah.

MB: And he won two close elections. But I think my understanding is that he’s come back enough in his health, and I think, you know, remember, in South Dakota, people meet their Senators. They’ve talked to them.

HH: Yeah.

MB: They’re almost always nice people, or give the appearance of being nice people, because they wouldn’t elect a nasty person there. They’ve talked to the guy. And to see somebody whom you know, who’s achieved the success in life of a U.S. Senator, be struck down with a disabling brain event at age 59 is something that you feel tremendously sorry for him. And now he has, you know, rallied back. He’s now back on the floor of the Senate. And I think that that’s going to be a big sympathy vote for him.

HH: Gordon Smith, Oregon, last one on my list.

MB: I say Gordon Smith wins.

HH: Why?

MB: I think a couple of reasons. I think number one, he’s worked the state hard. He and his Democratic colleague, Ron Wyden, for some years have been conducting joint hearings around the state in non-election years. I think he’ll have, I think he’ll have more money, including he can raise, he can self-finance to some extent. And I think the Democrats there tend to get a problem that they have in some of these states with a very big metropolis that’s got a lot of hyper-liberals in it, and then a rest of the state where Democrats are a little more moderate and so forth. They tend to get split between left wing Portland and Eugene, the university town, and the kind of voters that they need in the rest of the state.

HH: So that’s only a net two loss for the Republicans. You know, they’d take that if you could give it to them on a plate right now, wouldn’t they, Michael Barone?

MB: Oh, I think they’d give you a million dollars if they could have that right now. That is perhaps an optimistic thing, and we’ve got, you know, we’ve got some other seats that the Democrats would like to pick up. I mean, they’re talking about taking on Mitch McConnell in Kentucky.

HH: I know that, but do we think any of those are serious at this point?

MB: Well, I wouldn’t, in a year of open field politics, I don’t rule out a lot of things, and so I look around. The Larry Craig seat, Republicans will probably hold, but you’ve got to be looking around everywhere. There’s…something will surprise us before this Senate cycle is done.

– – – –

HH: Let’s talk about the House in an aggregate sort of way, Michael Barone. About this time two years ago, people began to talk about seeing a tide. It did come in, it did take out a lot of Republicans, though not nearly as many as some people were prophesying. What do you see going on out there this year?

MB: Well, I don’t see very much good going on for the Republicans. I mean, they just lost the seat held by the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert. I mean, there’s only two other examples of Speaker of the House seats going away. Tom Foley in the 1994 general election lost his seat in Spokane, Washington. The party was out of power for twelve years. The other example was John Pennington, the Speaker of the House who lost his seat in 1860. He was a Whig. The party disappeared.

HH: Well, I hope we’re not going that way.

MB: I don’t think the Republican Party is going to disappear, but I think they’re at a severe disadvantage. The wave of retirements, you’ve got a bunch of retirements there where it’s going to really be hard for Republicans to hold onto these seats. Tom Davis in Northern Virginia, an excellent Congressman, Jim Saxton and Mike Ferguson in New Jersey 3 and 7, those are seats that barely went for George Bush this last time. Those are going to be tough. Having said all that, you know, we’ve got very few seats where Republicans really are targeting incumbent Democrats very well. Having said all that, I think it’s possible that the playing field can change. In a period of open field politics, if the scope, if the look and feel of the presidential race changes in a way that’s more favorable to Republicans than it currently is, and you know, the predominant number of polls have had McCain slightly behind Obama and slightly behind Hillary Clinton, things could change. And things could change in particular areas. A couple of weeks ago, Survey USA released results of polls in fifty states matching McCain and Obama, McCain and Clinton. They both showed races about even, with the Democrat winning slightly in either state. And if you aggregate it and try to infer popular vote totals, they come out, the Democrats come out ahead about 51-48, or something like Bush’s margin over Kerry in 2004. That’s an unfavorable position for the Republicans, but not too unfavorable. They’re different by states. He shows the electoral votes different in 15 of the 50 states…

HH: Wow.

MB: In McCain Obama, McCain Clinton race. And that, you know, by way of comparison, the 2000, 2004 presidential races, only three states switched party in the presidential race.

HH: Wow.

MB: And so what that tells me is there are currents and sub-currents and counterveiling trends going on with the electorate, a considerable amount depends on whether Obama or Clinton is the nominee, that the potentials for a change in either a Democratic or Republican direction are substantial, and particularly if Obama’s the nominee, because he’s got that higher upside potential, but also that bigger downside risk.

HH: Where’s the security issue playing out? They call it the red phone issue, but I think it’s much more an awareness of threat than just a crisis.

MB: I think that’s John McCain’s big ace in the hole right now. I mean, clearly he is regarded as the guy you want answering the red phone much more than Clinton, even much, much more than Obama. And I think he’s going to continue to have that edge. I think that we’ve been seeing on some of the videos of his biography and things, messages that reinforce that in a very powerful way. I think that needs to be pounded home. And we’ve got him, you know, in some ways, he’s the Republican’s strongest candidate, I think.

HH: You’ve got the Latino vote, less of a gap with the Latinos than any of the other ones, for sure.

MB: Well, Latino voters, and I think potentially, Jewish voters. You’ve got…which were both groups in California, in particular, who are heavily for Hillary Clinton over Obama. And you’ve got Obama with various statements being made by him or close associates about the Palestinians, about where they are in the Middle East, that are worrisome. You have the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, this past year, giving an award to Louis Farrakhan, Minister Farrakhan, as Senator Obama calls him. You don’t have to be Jewish to dislike this.

HH: Right. Last question…

MB: But it helps.

HH: We’re almost out of time. Has McCain done what he needed to do to heal the conservative rift?

MB: I think he’s gone pretty far. We’ll see how much that’s true on the last hour of your program, but I think he’s gone far. He’s been helped by the graceful concessions of all four of his major Republican rivals.

HH: Yeah, yeah.

MB: He’s been helped by the fact that, you know, he cinched the nomination before really divisive issues have come into play. And he’s helped by the fact that he alone, of those Republican candidates, advocated the surge long before George Bush did. Events have proved John McCain out. From the summer of ’03, he was for a surge of increased troops, and more forward looking tactics. When Bush finally ordered that in ’07, it worked, and we’re getting victory where we were facing defeat.

HH: Michael Barone, if you got ten minutes with John McCain, and he said okay, Michael, who do I need as my vice president, I’m not going to take it outside, you get to help me out here, who do you recommend to him?

MB: The person I would recommend to him right now, at least the person that’s received less message, I’ve thought of Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Chris Cox from Orange County, who is also now Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. In that vein, I’d look at Rob Portman, former Congressman from Ohio, quite effective Congressman, and well liked, interestingly, by his Democratic colleagues as well as his Republican colleagues. A special trade representative, so he’s a guy that’s had some knowledge of the international economic scene, and has operated competently therein, and director of Office of Management and Budget, and a good OMB director, understands a lot about the internal workings of the federal government and domestic policy, in a way that few other holders of jobs in an administration does. It’s really…

HH: Do you think he brings Ohio along with him?

MB: I think that he is a help in Ohio, but I think Ohio is going to be a tough state for Republicans. You look at polling now, Pennsylvania and Michigan are doing better for McCain, and he’s doing worse in Ohio. That’s the opposite of the party all three of those states voted for in ’00 and ’04.

HH: That’s remarkable. And Ted Strickland, of course, at the top of a lot of Democratic lists for vice president if it’s Hillary, and probably if it’s Obama, I would assume.

MB: Well, he is. I would say my own view is that this guy was a prison psychologist, and he has said, in interviews, he said look, I’m just, you know, I’m not really ready to be vice president. He appears to be a nice man who was a prison psychologist, served competently in Congress for twelve years…

HH: And modest. We like that.

MB: Yeah.

HH: Michael Barone, great to have you in studio. Thanks for coming down to Orange County to help out Chapman University Law School.

End of interview.

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