In GOP circles, Schmidt's nickname is "The Bullet," both for his gleaming shaved head and the way he relentlessly seeks out his target. (When he can, he lets off steam at the gym by practicing Ultimate Fighting techniques.)MEGAN: I shudder at that. You know he asks women to call him that in bed. Or men. Either way. "Oh, God, Bullet, yes, pierce me! Fire it into me! Explode in me like you're a hollow point!" SPENCER: No word on whether he practices his moves outside the locker room. But we have the verdict on Schmidt's "message control... specialty," about a week-plus after the launch of the Hate Talk Express, and here it is:
Overall, Obama is leading 53 percent to 43 percent among likely voters, and for the first time in the general-election campaign, voters gave the Democrat a clear edge on tax policy and providing strong leadership.It gets so, so, so much better from there.
McCain has made little headway in his attempts to convince voters that Obama is too "risky" or too "liberal." Rather, recent strategic shifts may have hurt the Republican nominee, who now has higher negative ratings than his rival and is seen as mostly attacking his opponent rather than addressing the issues that voters care about. Even McCain's supporters are now less enthusiastic about his candidacy, returning to levels not seen since before the Republican National Convention.MEGAN: You know you are the worst Republican strategist in the history of the universe when you make voters believe that your candidate is worse on taxes and the economy than the Democrat.
nearly as many said they think their taxes would go up under a McCain administration as under an Obama presidency, and more see their burdens easing with the Democrat in the White House.SPENCER: So great fucking job, Steve Schmidt. You've erased McCain's convention bounce, entrenched Obama's margin, and tarnished, forever, McCain's brand. Let's go back to Holly's piece for one second: MEGAN: I really think that he's Mark Penn levels of terrible. SPENCER:
Schmidt never wanted to get back into presidential politics. But he admired McCain's willingness to buck convention and go up against his own party, and joined the Arizona senator as an unpaid adviser.MEGAN: Do you know Holly? Is she always so naive? Schmidt was just so taken with his little Maverick that he couldn't resist doing something he never wanted to do again? SPENCER: It certainly is bucking convention to accuse the likely next president of the United States of "palling around" with terrorists who blew up the World Trade Center and use a line — "Who is Barack Obama?" — that comes out of the imagination of an anti-semite. I don't know Holly and didn't think her Schmidt profile was naive. It read to me like she wrote it deliberately flat in order to give Schmidt the rope to hang himself. MEGAN: Well, that last quote was giving more credibility to Schmidt's personal mythology than it deserved, in my opinion. SPENCER: And he's not just hung himself, he's hung the entire GOP. After a week of "turning the page" — a Bartlett's-level classic line from campaign director Rick Davis — from the economy to AYERSTERRORISTARABN*****, downballot Republicans in blood-red states think McCain is taking them down instead of Obama:
Rep. Mark Souder, an Indiana Republican, said he was looking at an "Obama tide" in his district and wondering about his own reelection: "Can I withstand a firestorm?" "The impression of McCain on the economy is that he wanted more deregulation than Bush" at a time that voters are demanding more help from the government, he said. "I'm not sure right now that McCain can carry seven states," added Souder, whose home state has not picked a Democrat for president since 1964. "In the end I think McCain will carry Indiana. But if you are fighting for Indiana, you are in trouble."Here's my question for you: isn't it preferable for the GOP to have nominated McCain, the Deviationist, in a year when it was all but destined to lose, so that it has an alibi for conservatism? "If only we had nominated a real conservative, a Rock of the True Church, this calamity would have never befallen us..." etc etc? MEGAN: I mean, I think the problem with that narrative now is twofold, which is not to say they won't try it out. First, he was pretty well enthusiastically embraced by the conservative machinery after he swore fealty to the elimination of my reproductive rights and played the hell out of his conservative record on other issues. Two, he was beloved for choosing Sarah Palin, who is even further to his right and there's plenty of evidence that her nomination did him no favors. I am sure that the party will do some soul-searching in November — hopefully without the violence some of us fear, but they should have done that after 2006 and didn't. Instead, you got Boehner and Cantor and Blunt and DeMint and Coburn stepping up the partisanship, swinging to the right and generally echoing their already-failed tactics. Tom Davis said six months ago ago that if the GOP brand was dog food, they'd pull it from the shelves and I think that holds. Also, every time I hear "the party of staying out of people's lives" I yell back at the TV "unless you have a uterus." That's the fundamental conflict, and it's not resolve-able. Either they go back to being small-government and fiscally conservative, or they embrace the big-government interfere-y mentality of the culture wars on things like abortion, same-sex marriage and abstinence-only education. But I think they're seeing they can't have it both ways. SPENCER: Well, there is a third option, one that defers a moment of conservative reckoning, and that's to establish a narrative that "thugs" and "poverty pimps" — you know, those people — stole the election. Tom Mattzie:
n the event that campaigning, purging and intimidating voters doesn't work, the Right is creating a myth like they did in 1960. They are creating the myth of a stolen election. Conservatives plan to claim that ACORN and Barack Obama stole the election. Their hope is to steal the legitimacy of what is looking like a massive repudiation of Bush, conservatives and the Republican Party. The Right plans to steal the election by trying to steal the legitimate defeat of them by progressive forces. And why wouldn't they? The entire Republican coalition could be shattered with this election. White suburban voters who once voted Republican on tax issues are running away from Republicans on a host of issues—including taxes. Independent are looking more and more like Democratic voters.More than anything else, I think that's what's behind the Hate Talk Express. Schmidt probably recognizes that they've lost, and he and Rick Davis are setting up a strategy to tear down President Obama through charges of illegitimacy. MEGAN: Republicans have been gunning for ACORN for a damn long time. I think the problem is that attacking them only plays to the base. SPENCER: But that's only a problem if your strategy is to play beyond the base, and at this point that's doubtful. The McCain campaign's last big push to win the election came with the failed attempt at "suspending" the campaign. Everything since has been to generate the result of preparing for the 2012 campaign. Or, perhaps, something far more sinister. I can't post images, but this is something that got banned from Say Anything, a right-wing Pajamas Media blog: an image of Obama and a noose, with the caption, "The Fucking Solution." MEGAN: Oh, I can post images (and a shout-out to Jill Filipovic for alerting me to this in the first place). I mean, how stupid do you have to be, honestly? That's the shit that makes me believe in the reverse Bradley effect. Like, I wouldn't want to tell people like him that I was voting for Obama, but I sure as shit wouldn't want that guy's candidate fucking elected. I wouldn't want to be associated with that, even if I were a Republican. SPENCER: Let's also not forget this model citizen who held up a stuffed monkey with an Obama sticker and, smiling, told a cameraman "This is Little Hussein." MEGAN: I feel like I owe someone a beer or something. SPENCER: The last thing I'll say here: Last night I watched Dodgers-Phils game 3 — shitty game — with a friend who has great sources on the right, and he reported that this isn't a cynical push. The right has convinced itself that Obama is in fact a threat to the country, and not in any policy-minded sense. MEGAN: Oh, I have evidence of that on my Facebook page alone. SPENCER: My question: at what point does this actually become a long-term electoral liability for the GOP? Or am I searching for a theory of political gravity that doesn't exist? MEGAN: I think that the GOP has set back a good decade of outreach to minority communities, including the Latino community. Between the foaming-at-the-mouth for a big fence and this kind of shit coming out of Republicans about the Scary Black Man That Will End This Country, that's the end of it. SPENCER: But what's the end, really? Doesn't it actually come when whites stop buying the GOP dog food? As James Baker once memorably said, "Fuck the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway." You know? MEGAN: And I think a lot of people on the margins — the people who were already registering as independents, the people who were leaning libertarian, the people for whom this kind of race baiting in an anaethma, the people who remember the party of small government — for this, this will be the end. McCain the Maverick was supposed to be their guy, the Republican for Republicans disenchanted with Bush and Gingrich. And, instead, he's worse than either in the end for the party. I had a piece of RNC memorabilia for my ex's dad, who worked every convention except this one for the last 30+ years. He turned it down yesterday. That's not a good sign SPENCER: Ironic: the conservative 2008 strategy is like al-Qaeda in Anbar Province. Its natural constituencies reject the severity of its rule, renounce its appeal, and — at least transactionally — turn to their ostensible enemy. MEGAN: On the other hand, who knew the libertarians might end up as a credible third party?