Maybe I'm reading too much between the lines, but I do not believe that the official
GOP Propaganda Office ...er, FOXNews feels at all confident about Republican presumptive nominee John McCain's chances this November. I don't think I've ever seen them be as upfront not only about his personal weaknesses, but also that the general sense is the country overall is not in good shape. I have to believe that there will be calls to Roger Ailes' office coming from the White House over this surprisingly bleak assessment of the state of the country and upcoming election.
Chris Wallace starts the discussion by saying that the economy is in bad shape and McCain offers nothing to ameliorate voters' fears. Brit Hume attempts to temper that like the good little GOP flunkie that he is by suggesting that the high gas prices could benefit McCain, but Juan Williams openly scoffs at him. Even hyper-partisan Bill Kristol suggests that McCain is going to have a tough time attracting voters unless he frames himself outside of economic issues.
Transcripts below the fold
CW: Let's talk about the economy, because the news on Friday was certainly striking, Brit. I mean, you had this $10 spike in the price of a barrel of crude oil, you had the unemployment rate, there were some statistical issues, but it was up by a half a point, the highest in 2 decades. Stock market, 400 points down. If - and I repeat, if -- not necessarily that set of perfect trifecta, bad economic news continues, does a McCain stand a chance?
BH: He stands a chance, because he is not the incumbent. But the candidate of the incumbent party is always affected badly by bad conditions in the country. And the economy is not likely to be perceived as particularly good. On the other hand, whatever happened to the recession? I thought we were in a recession; you don't hear that. It hasn't happened. It's kind of a miracle it hasn't, given all the forces that were weighed against the economy, which continues to kind of poke along at a very slow pace. But remarkable, nonetheless. I would say that if this bad economic news continues, it obviously helps Obama. McCain will need to outline a program that makes it appear he will do something major about it. You would think that gasoline prices could help McCain; it's helping members of the Republican Party in the Congress where the Democrats are not for doing anything to increase our supply. Except for nuclear power, McCain really isn't either.
CW: I was going to say, he's on the Democratic page on this.
BH: I don't think that's an issue that works too well for him, although it may work for people down ballot.
JW: You say gas should help McCain?
BH: Gas...I'm saying that the issue of gasoline prices could help McCain because the public polls have changed on this, Juan. People are for exploring for more oil, they're for more nuclear power, they're for exploring for oil off the coast. The Democrats are all against this and Obama is too.
JW: Are you kidding me? With two oil men in the White House right now and oil prices going up right now under Republican policies, that's going to help McCain?
BH: John McCain is not one of those people who is in the White House, Juan.
ML: You know, it's hard to see how a bad economy helps McCain in any way, shape or form. But, uh, he also hasn't come up with even just the raw material he needs to make to get into the debate. He needs to have a real plan, a better plan than he does, I think it also matters who he picks as the Vice President. If they're seen as competent in those areas where McCain has said very honestly that are not his main strengths. I mean, he's a national security/foreign policy um, guy.
CW: And that raises a really interesting question, Bill, because the fact is McCain has had this time-I mean, he has had four months since he locked up the nomination - and for all the talk about the sickly green backdrop at the speech and the fact that he didn't read a teleprompter very well, I think the thing that surprised me the most is that he didn't have a bold initiative on the economy or on energy to sit there and say, you know, beyond just making fun of the "change" line, to say, ‘I represent change and I got some specific, new ideas.'
BK: Well, there's more he can do, but he's locked himself in to certain positions which limit his flexibility. For example, he can't become a huge advocate for drilling, which I agree with Brit, would actually be popular. On taxes, he's already proposed corporate tax cuts and therefore, his ability to do something bolder with big tax reform is somewhat limited. I think, probably McCain is McCain. You know, if this is a Commander in Chief election, I think he has a good shot of winning. If it's an Orator in Chief election, he's going to lose. Or to put it slightly differently, the verdict on is the country in good shape, he's going to lose. If he can make it a choice election going forward, at a time of war, I think he has a pretty good chance to win. People could decide they got a Democratic Congress, they're not going to have conservative policies for the next two to four years, much as I would like them, no matter who's President, isn't it safer to have McCain as Commander in Chief?
JW: I tell you, you listen to this conversation and you think how can Barack Obama lose? And yet, when you look at the electoral map, the electoral map is pretty much what the electoral map's always been and it looks like it favors the Republicans and at least forgives the sins of the past eight years.