Entries categorized as ‘McCain’

Palin Vetter told McCain of Palin’s "High Risk, High Reward"

April 18, 2009 · Leave a Comment

Arthur P. Culvahouse was one of the vetters of those on the short list of consideration to be the Vice Presidential running mate of John McCain.

On Friday he talked about the advice he had given McCain, and the mistake he made in how he couched that advice, which helped result in McCain’s damaging choice of Sarah Palin.

He said that he told McCain in no uncertain terms that:

“I told John, she wouldn’t have been ready on January 20th .”

But his other comments may have played right into McCain’s love of risk and impetuous decision making, saying:

“The mistake I made — and we’ve laughed about it since — after giving him that advice, he said, ‘Well, what’s your bottom line?’ I said, ‘John. High risk. High reward.’ And his response, ‘You shouldn’t have told me that, I’ve been a risk-taker all of my life.'”

Categories: McCain · Palin · Palintology · Politics
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Bored, Pathetic, Anonymous Bloggers Who Lie

January 14, 2009 · Leave a Comment

In an interview with Esquire magazine that has gotten a lot of press over the last two days, Palin took a swipe both at her home town newspaper and bloggers, who she blames for repeating the rumors that Sarah is not the true mother of her son Trigg.

When I first read the headline I thought – “Oh no, does she mean us?”  But upon reading the full quote, it was clear she was talking about the unsubstantiated rumors that have indeed been out in the blogosphere.  Specifically she was upset that a fact checker had called about the issue of determining Trigg’s mother.  What she didn’t mention was that the story was to have been specifically about busting myths that persisted despite any hard evidence.  In other words, the story was going to try to lay to rest the rumor about Trigg’s “real” mother, as well as other rumors.

I’m finding Sarah’s claims of being victimized by anyone she doesn’t like unstateswomanlike, boring and disingenuous.  I can’t tell if she’s playing the media or really lacks even the self-awareness of an average human.  The liberal media, Tina Fey, Katie Couric, Obama, bloggers – wow, talk about a persecution complex.  And I thought that Alaskan politics were rough and tumble.

Mrs. Palin, whining does not become you.

And in a final note, Meghan McCain was willing to talk about anything (including her appreciation for Marilyn Manson’s ex-wife Dita Von Teese).  Except Sarah Palin.

I think you have to read into that refusal some bad blood.

Lesson:  pick your running mates carefully.  Meet with them more than twice, and for more than a few hours.  A decision like who you choose as a running mate is hugely important.  Personally I’m very glad that we were spared an impulsive decision-maker in the oval office.

Categories: McCain · Palin · Palintology · Politics
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Republican Sends Out Racist CD

December 26, 2008 · Leave a Comment

Tennessee Republican Chip Saltsman apparently doesn’t understand the difference between satire and poor taste.   Saltsman is (or was, prior to this gaffe) a candidate for the RNC chairmanship.  He sent out a CD with “humorous” songs including “Barack the Magic Negro,” “Ivory and Ebony,” and “The Star Spanglish Banner.”  Are you kidding me?

The self-destructive streak in certain Republicans as power slips away is truly remarkable.  Or perhaps Tennessee is so in the grips of decades-old good-old-boy thinking that this type of behavior is not seen as reprehensible or outside the norm.

Is Saltsman just some anonymous buffoon?  Well, he’s not anonymous.  He was that national chairman of Hillbilly Huckabee’s presidential campaign, and worked on staff for Bill Frist.


Here’s what CNN had to say:

(CNN) — A candidate for the Republican National Committee chairmanship said Friday the CD he sent committee members for Christmas — which included a song titled “Barack the Magic Negro” — was clearly intended as a joke.

The title of the song about President-elect Barack Obama was drawn from a Los Angeles Times column.”

“I think most people recognize political satire when they see it,” Tennessee Republican Chip Saltsman told CNN. “I think RNC members understand that.”

The song, set to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon,” was first played on conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh’s radio show in 2007.

Its title was drawn from a Los Angeles Times column that suggested President-elect Barack Obama appealed to those who feel guilty about the nation’s history of mistreatment of African-Americans. Saltsman said the song, penned by his longtime friend Paul Shanklin, should be easily recognized as satire directed at the Times.

The CD sent to RNC members, first reported by The Hill on Friday, is titled “We Hate the USA” and also includes songs referencing former presidential candidate John Edwards and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, among other targets.

According to The Hill, other song titles, some of which were in bold font, were: “John Edwards’ Poverty Tour,” “Wright place, wrong pastor,” “Love Client #9,” “Ivory and Ebony” and “The Star Spanglish Banner.”

Saltsman was national campaign manager for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s presidential bid in 2007 and 2008. Before that, he held a variety of posts, including a number of positions under former Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee.

Categories: McCain · Palin · Palintology
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McCain Wouldn't Necessarily Support Palin Presidential Bid

December 16, 2008 · Leave a Comment

In a sign of the cracks in the McCain-Palin relationship, McCain over the weekend said that he wouldn’t necessarily support a Palin bid for the Presidency in 2012.  Instead he said that there were a lot of strong Republican Governors that should be strong candidates.

We can only wish that McCain had done a better job of vetting and selecting his Vice Presidential pick a few months ago.

McCain also went on record against the RNC’s advertisements trying to tar Obama with the scandal now surrounding Illinois Governor Blogojevich.  The Republicans have long practiced the “art” of slander by association and insinuation.  Thankfully we are seeing more of the “old McCain” in standing against the worst of these tactics.

Categories: McCain · Palin
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Birth Rumors and Politics

December 7, 2008 · Leave a Comment

What do Sarah Palin and Barack Obama have in common?

They are both dogged by persistent rumors about a cover-up over births.  These rumors continue to circulate in blogs and forums on the Internet, where there is no standard of evidence or substantiation required.

You’ve surely heard the rumors, they go something like this:

  • Barack Obama is claimed to not be Hawaii-born as he has stated, but rather was born to his under-18 American mother during a trip to Kenya, which, under the laws in place at the time would mean that he is not a “natural born citizen,” making him ineligible for the Presidency.  [update: the Supreme Court refused on December 8th, 2008 to hear a case that claimed that Obama was a British citizen because of the citizenship of his father, despite his birth in Hawaii.  Read about it:  here.]
  • Sarah Palin is thought to not be the mother of Trig Palin, the baby born shortly before her Vice-Presidential run.  She is thought to be covering up for daughter Bristol, who is said to be the birth mother of the child.

I’m not going to go into the whole business of debunking these rumors.  I’ll leave that for another day.  Instead, I thought I’d toss out a few more anecdotes from history regarding rumors about birth and legitimacy as a means to ask:  “Why are Americans so hung up about issues surrounding birth and wedlock (aka the more charged “legitimacy”) when it comes to people seeking political office?”

John McCain’s candidacy against George Bush in 2000 is largely believed to have been fatally damaged by underhanded “push polling” in South Carolina, whereby potential voters were asked “hypothetically” if McCain’s fatherhood of a black child would sway their vote.  The underhanded Rovian tactic was effective not only because it played to the still virulent racism of many in the southern Republican party, but because John and Cindy McCain have an adopted dark-skinned Bangladeshi daughter, and there are many photos of the family that naturally include their daughter.

There have been widespread rumors that William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President, was illegitimate.  Records show that his father (who died a few months before his birth) had not been granted a divorce at the time that he married Bill Clinton’s mother, thus making him illegitimate.

Stretching way back, Abraham Lincoln was dogged by rumors that he was an illegitimate child, both during his life and ever since.  The rumors appear to have started because of the lack of physical similarity between Lincoln and his father.  Several scholars have effectively debunked the myth, but still the rumors persist.  In addition, there is fairly strong evidence that Lincoln believed that his mother was illegitimate, and that this belief caused him much consternation.

One of the most famous long-running rumors surround the relationship between Renaissance man Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings.  Most historians now believe that there was an intimate relationship between the two, and that they had children together.  DNA evidence studied in 1998 concluded that descendants of Hemings possess DNA from the Jefferson family, while not positively identifying the source as Thomas Jefferson.  At the time it was fairly common for widowers like Jefferson to have sexual relationships with female slaves, but it was not formally socially acceptable and was kept from the public eye.  The fact that Thomas Jefferson had promised his first wife that he would not remarry, and she died while he was in his late 30’s provides additional evidence that such a relationship was likely.

John Edwards, Jesse Jackson, Strom Thurmond, Grover Cleveland – the list goes on and on.

On the surface there are some simple reasons why these rumors are created, whether or not they are based in truth.  To the extent that character matters, and if people are caught in blatant lies – to their spouse, to the public – their qualification for office falls into question.  In addition, illegitimate birth carries with it a very real social stigma, even today.  We seem to hold our elected representatives to nearly impossible levels of moral purity, even while disdaining or at least ignoring such standards for ourselves.  And of course politics has always been a bare-knuckled fight covered with just enough decorum to maintain a semblance of civility.  So if a claim against an opponent could help a candidate, he or she was bound to make sure that that claim gained currency.

But the most interesting thing, I think, is why Americans still have such puritanical behavioral expectations of our politicians.  This is not the case in France.  Politicians and socially prominent people have often had mistresses whom they would take out in public.  The marriage persisted, and so did the “open secret” of the affair.  Not so in America.  An affair (which is, of course, broadly speaking the precondition of an illegitimate child) is considered a major moral failing, and has ruined many careers.

I think we are rooted in this puritanical conundrum as a result of our history.  There is something in Americans culturally that makes us all feel illegitimate.  While we revel in stories of Boston Tea Parties and defeating the British, at our core we are a newly constituted people.  You needn’t dig very deep in most American’s past to find “a little bit of trailer.”  I think that because of this cultural complex of illegitimacy, we need a higher standard to believe in, one that we can believe is a reflection of our truest selves.  If we maintain the myth of moral purity through a public ritual of shaming our officials, we somehow salve that deep part in our hearts that feels like a common pretender.

Let’s hope that as a country we can grow up, deal with our demons, and move on, looking for true character traits and intelligence for those who would deign to lead us.  Let’s find the best candidates for the job and stop our self-destructive witch hunts.

Categories: McCain · Palin · Politics
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Palin a Multi-Millionaire, Faces Cold Alaska

November 18, 2008 · Leave a Comment

Sarah Palin appears close to getting a $7 million to $11 million book deal after her unsuccessful run for Vice-President and emergence as the poster-girl for the Religious Right.  Based on her popularity with her base, there seems to be a built-in market for the book.  Personally I’d prefer that she just dictate the book and have it transcribed, along with a Palin-to-English dictionary, so that we’d get some real insight into her thought processes.  My guess is that a ghost writer will shoulder most of the writing burden.

Unfortunately for Palin she has to go back to Alaska and deal with a reality on the cold frozen ground that is very different than it was in August.

  1. Diminished standing of the “Sarah Palin Brand.” All of the national attention certainly brought out home-state pride, but it also highlighted Palin’s inexperience.  Many in Alaska were frankly embarrassed by her performance and the resulting negative image spillover onto Alaska.  Her approval ratings in Alaska have plummeted from their stratospheric heights.
  2. Troopergate fallout. There are many in Alaskan government bitter at the way that Palin and the McCain-Palin campaign handled the Troopergate inquiry.  They may even investigate whether individuals urged witnesses to not appear; something that would constitute witness tampering under Alaska law.  The findings of the independent investigator highlighted a Palin administration that did not follow proper disclosure policies (private e-mail for public business) and seemed obsessed by a personal vendetta.
  3. Questionable Billings to the State. Palin’s claims for per diem payments for time spent at home and her reimbursements from Alaska for family travel (and failing to report those payments as income) could come under new scrutiny.  The legislature is likely to create rules to make clear that these practices are unacceptable.
  4. State Budget. Alaska depends on taxes and fees on oil companies for the vast majority of its budget (no state income tax or property tax exists).  With the price of oil dropping, Alaska’s revenue faces a dramatic decrease.  Palin had governed in a time of easy money; the new economic realities will prove to be a significant hurdle for the Governor.
  5. The Pipeline. Palin trumpeted the natural gas pipeline deal with TransCanada with as her crowning achievement, but it has not been built and may never be built.  She led the effort to spend $500 million by the State to plan for the pipeline, but no other private or public money has been committed for the multi-billion dollar construction of the pipeline, and there is no guarantee that it will be built.

Categories: McCain · Palin · Palintology · Troopergate
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Disarming Candor and Staggering Presumption, Sarah Prays For Open Doors

November 11, 2008 · 2 Comments

Sarah Palin is praying that God opens some doors.  And if He opens up some national doors for 2012 (even a crack), she intends to walk through those doors.

As for me, I’m going to continue to view with great suspicion anybody who expects God to talk to them.  Where I grew up they called people who heard voices telling them what to do schizophrenic.

Palin is attempting to use the residual glow that she still enjoys to improve her now-tarnished image by giving multiple interviews with reporters like Matt Lauer and Greta Van Susteren.  Alessandra Stanley of the International Tribune writes “But so far, viewers have mostly witnessed some of the very traits – disarming candor and staggering presumption – that drove some McCain campaign aides to leak damaging accusations about her.”   In those, Sarah opines that the loss of McCain-Palin was due to:

  • Hispanics
  • Obama’s money advantage
  • The “R” next to their names (backlash against Republicans)

I guess she had nothing to do with the loss of the ticket.  I think the McCainiacs have gone overboard trying to blame poor Sarah for all of their woes, but to claim that her presence on the ticket or the extremely poorly executed campaign had nothing to do with their loss sounds like magical thinking.  But then again, Sarah is expecting God to tell her what to do next, and if that isn’t magical thinking, I don’t know what is.

Categories: Bush · McCain · Palin · Palintology · Politics
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The Vulgarization of Politics

November 8, 2008 · 1 Comment

On Friday, November 7th, just four days after the historic Presidential election, I had the opportunity to hear one of the key advertising architects for the McCain campaign.  Fred Davis spoke to an exclusive and intimate gathering of sixty marketing executives in San Francisco as part of The CMO Club.  Davis owns and runs Strategic Perspectives and was responsible for the advertising strategies of John McCain as well as the Senate campaigns of Elizabeth Dole, John Sununu, and a long list of other Republican losers.  In the long list of campaigns that he worked on, all were Republican and most lost.  I had to look across the table at the end of the list during his introduction and my table mate and I concurrently stage whispered: “those didn’t work out so well, did they?”

Fred Davis of Strategic Perspectives

Fred Davis of Strategic Perspectives

I was in equal parts mesmerized and horrified.  I found myself admiring his cunning and his thought processes, but then would take a step back and realize that the net effect of his work is truly corrosive to society and to the reasoned discourse necessary for a well functioning democracy.

You have to admit that Davis’ efforts have often been effective.  But they’ve been effective by appealing to the worst among and within us.  The Harold Ford Jr. Playboy Bunny ad?  That was his.  The Elizabeth Dole “Godless” ad?  His too.  So was the “Celebrity” ad against Obama this season.  When you review his work, as I did in the recent session, you see a not so subtle appeal to racism, class warfare, homophobia and misogyny.  Convicts dancing in tutus and a white playboy bunny talking about a black candidate.  Many of the most memorable extremes in negative ads have come from Davis’ work.  It is this kind of slimy campaigning that caused McCain’s longtime friend Chuck Hagel to not endorse McCain in the Presidential election.

Davis claimed to be mostly not interested in politics, and that might be true. But he only works for Republicans, and seems to have drunk more than his share of the conservative kool-aid.

Fred Davis is at once smart and charming but also reprehensible and largely responsible for so much of the partisan rancor and the disgust with which most citizens now view the political process. The win-at-all-costs approach makes advertising hitmen like Davis the practitioners of a dark art that has become indispensable to campaigns on all sides of the political spectrum. It was an interesting experience to say the least. Fred played a number of his TV ads from recent campaigns as well as earlier campaigns on figures like James Inhofe (his uncle) and Sunny Perdue (the “King Roy Rat” ads. He was responsible this election for the Dole “Godless” ads, as well as the “celebrity” ad attacking Obama that featured Paris Hilton. Davis believes that these ads were responsible for improved polling numbers for his candidates. He claims that Dole won 60% of the votes on election day after his “Godless” attack ads, but the enormous early voting that the Obama campaign turned out led to Hagan’s victory.

I will show some of the ads here, but with mainstream news commentary around some of them, because I really don’t want to just amplify something that is so vile at its root.

If you know what I mean when I say that you feel like you were nearly seduced by evil, you know what I was feeling.  Davis has so much charm that you feel yourself being attracted to what he’s saying, only to stop and realize that what the man is doing is manipulative and at is core evil and wrong.

Probably the best example is when Davis played the three minute Michael Monsoor video that was used during the Republican National Convention this year.  If you’re not familiar with the story, Michael was a young Navy Seal who fell under enemy attack while on patrol in Iraq.  After being struck by a live hand grenade, this courageous young man fell on the grenade, ensuring his own death but saving the lives of the other young men with him.  It’s a moving story of heroism and self-sacrifice to be sure, and even as Davis replayed it he choked up.  So why would I say that the use of this video was evil?  Simply because it follows in a long line of examples of Republicans taking remarkable stories and trying to use them for their own political benefit.  Monsoor was a hero.  Using his tragic story to try to get votes, in my opinion, is a tragic, cynical and evil use of his sacrifice.  Sacrifice and service are not partisan. Neither the Republicans or Democrats hold a monopoly on patriotism and honor. Even McCain, who personally sacrificed so much, does not hold a monopoly on service and honor. But then again the Republicans were willing to use Kerry’s remarkable service against him in the “Swiftboat” ads. That marked a disgraceful new low. While not his work, that ad is part and parcel of the work that Davis does. Yes, Monsoor was a hero, and we ought to honor his sacrifice. But we should never attempt to use his remarkable service as a way to get more votes for one candidate over another. That, my friends, is disgraceful. But you almost forget that when you get caught up in the remarkable and emotional story.  And such is the way of Davis’ most successful efforts.

Some of the most interesting comments were about the struggle between maintaining an overall strategy (which Obama did with “Change”) and the daily tactical approach that the McCain campaign used, and which resulted in the changing messages which left only the impression of a candidate who had lost his essential self, and ended up hawking an inauthentic brand.

Davis is also a Sarah Palin fan, and claims she is a smart lady, and a future leader of the Republican Governors Conference.  When Davis talked about his high regard for Palin, it was all I could do not to shout out: “If Palin is so smart, she’s done an amazing job of hiding it in her overcoat of ignorance.”

Davis was appalled that people within the McCain camp had turned on Palin and spread stories about her ignorance – not knowing that Africa was a continent instead of a country; not being able to name the three parties to NAFTA (The United States, Mexico and Canada).  He said that top leaders of the campaign including Schmidt would be on talk shows this Sunday to rebut those claims, and that Schmidt had put Nicole Wallace (widely suspected from within the campaign as being the source of those comments, as she did not get along with Palin but was charged with her handling) in charge of shutting down that story line.

I left the session feeling like I had met the devil.  I have it in my mind that the devil is clever and charming, but that behind the easy smile and the effusive charm lies an evil that slips into the room silently and poisons all who allow themselves to be lulled to sleep.

One thing is for certain, to borrow a phrase from traditional conservative Peggy Noonan, we are witnessing the vulgarization of politics in America.  And the responsibility falls squarely on Fred Davis and his ilk, on the candidates who are willing to utilize these hit men, and on all of us who let them get away with it. (more…)

Categories: Bush · McCain · Palin · Palintology · Politics
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Change Has Come to America

November 5, 2008 · 1 Comment


I first saw President Obama at the Los Angeles Democratic primary debate with Hillary Clinton.  I went in neutral and left an Obama supporter.

The single thing that struck me then and has stayed with me ever since was his consistency in never making this election about himself, but about restoring the hopes and dreams of the people.

I attended the debate because it was being sponsored by and broadcast on CNN, and I run marketing for a company that spends a lot of money advertising on CNN and Headline News.  A colleague was with me whose brother-in-law is an ex-Republican turned Obama ward captain.  I thought that Obama held his own in the debate, and displayed a trait that in the end helped him win the Presidency more than any position or talking point – his cool but engaged temperament.   Hillary was also very impressive, and her candidacy was historic in so many ways.  But in the end the Clintons had, to my mind, simply done too much to win the nomination at all costs and they used up all of the good will they had built up with me, and then some.

My colleague’s brother-in-law waded down to the front afterward where Obama stayed for quite some time interacting with anyone who waiting around long enough.  He shouted out to Obama “I believe in you,” and Obama said something back that he has repeated time and time again to supporters – “No, I believe in you! This is about you.”

Obama has inspired the hopes of a new generation.  While Obama won the support of most of the identifiable groups used for polling, there is no denying that symbolically this contest was about race.  While Obama never made race the main thrust of the campaign, if anything his campaign was the anti-identity politics, because of our nations history the campaign was about the ability of an African-American man to become President in a country that continues to struggle with a legacy of racism.  His nearly monolithic support in the black community (over 90%) and his very strong showing with Hispanic voters (70%) were most certainly deciding factors.   While the Obama win is undoubtedly about race, it is equally about the passing of the torch to a new generation.  Obama won in the 30 and under age groups by a huge margin (in most states well over 65%).  In addition to his lopsided support, Obama energized new voters – especially among racial minorities and younger voters.  A few times every century leadership passes from one generation to the next.  We have witnessed that hand-off.

Race continues to be an entrenched and horribly difficult issue (just look at the vote tallies in the South), and racism continues to block millions of Americans from equal opportunity.  We must not fall victim to the naive belief that the election of Obama means that racism has been defeated.  But neither should we underestimate the enormity of this achievement and of this moment.

And yet all is not rosy.  Virtually every anti-gay ballot measure on State ballots across the nation passed.  Most denied gays and lesbians the right to marry, by defining marriage as between a man and a woman.  Some denied the right of single people to adopt as a way to discriminate against gay people.  While one barrier to equality has fallen, others are being reinforced by the small-mindedness of the self-righteous.  Anti-gay discrimination is now on the front lines of ensuring equality of civil rights.

One telling contrast struck me last night.  McCain’s concession speech was gracious; the reaction of his audience was as ugly and petty as the campaign had been, booing at the mention of Obama.  By contrast the crowd in Chicago’s Grant Park listening to Obama’s declaration of victory applauded the mention of McCain.  It’s always easier, I suppose, to be gracious in victory than in defeat, but I was struck again by how rhetoric and tactics reveal character and are replicated in the reaction of supporters.  One seeks to unite and break the politics of division and rancor.  The other sees only its own loss.  Let us hope that we all seize this historic moment as a time to renew our commitment to stay involved, to improve our nation and our communities, and to unlock the potential of all of our citizens by providing the basics of a society of opportunity:  education, health care, and economic mobility – especially if it means self-sacrifice.

Obama has a steep hill to climb.  Two wars going badly and a military overstretched.  An economy in decline.  Nationalized mortgage institutions.  Huge amounts of public money pumped into a failing banking system.  An equity market that has lost over 35% of its value.  A world of disappointed allies and emboldened adversaries.  And yet climb we must.  And hope is the one thing that can bring us through this tough time.

Congratulations to Obama-Biden and their steady, disciplined campaign.  The hard work is over, now comes the even harder work.

Categories: McCain · Palin · Politics
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The Bradley Effect – Nada – RIP

November 5, 2008 · Leave a Comment

Based on the nearly complete results of the US Presidential election, it is fair to say that we can put the Bradley Effect onto the dusty shelves of history.

Many have argued that the so-called Bradley Effect was simply bad polling.  No polls were conducted in the final four days of the campaign.  That election happened when polling was less ubiquitous and less thorough.  Subsequent campaigns involving candidates of color (Douglas Wilder in Virginia, Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, Harry Ford Jr. in Tennessee) have polled very close to the final results.

Obama-Biden won the popular vote by a 6-point spread – on average this is exactly the total spread predicted by most national polls.  Even more telling was that the polled support for Obama among white voters also matched the final exit poll results.

So for now at least, the one issue that kept me up at nights even when the campaign was enjoying large polling leads has been put to rest.  And I say Rest In Peace.

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