Fear and loathing on the campaign trail, July 2008

Saturday, August 9, 2008

July 2008 on the campaign trail will be remembered prominently for what people close to the campaign opined about the election. On both sides of the aisle a former presidential candidate made a statement demonized by the media. The media's coverage of the election was scrutinized by the media itself and became an issue that even the candidates discussed on the trail. The trends of the previous months were continued as another third party candidate rose and another influential election journalist (Tony Snow) died.

  • Barack Obama's shift to the political center in light of his liberal backing was documented by the media. It was noted that Obama had stated that he agreed with Republicans in backing a bill granting immunity to telecommunication businesses that participated in surveillance of terrorists and recognized that he agreed with the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision split upon ideological lines to lift the hand gun ban in Washington D.C. The move was also supported by Obama's remarks that he would "refine" his positions on the war in Iraq.
  • Former Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson stated in an interview during a commercial break that he believed Barack Obama was "talking down to black people" and that he would like to "cut his nuts out." The comments were in response to Barack Obama's comments that "Any fool can have a child. That doesn’t make you a father." Jackson apologized to Obama and the campaign's spokesman stated that Obama "of course accepts Reverend Jackson's apology."
  • New Yorker magazine set off a firestorm of controversy when it released its July 21 edition with a cover portraying Barack Obama and his wife Michelle as Islamic extremists. The publication claimed the cover was a satirical representation of rumors floating that Obama is secretly Muslim but both the Obama and McCain campaigns criticized the cover as "tasteless and offensive."
  • Obama visited the Middle East and Europe later in the month on a Senatorial "fact finding" mission with fellow Senators Chuck Hagel and Jack Reed. Obama met with world leaders and discussed the American strategy in Iraq with General David Petraeus and drew large crowds including 200,000 at an event in Berlin. During the trip Obama articulated his support for an increase in the American forces in Afghanistan. The trip received an abundance of media coverage and was followed by anchors from America's top news networks.
  • Virginia governor Tim Kaine emerged as the frontrunner for the Vice-presidential nomination for the Democratic Party according to sources within the Obama campaign. The source stated that Kaine "ranks very, very high on the shortlist" along with Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.
Third Parties
Green Party presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney
Image: Robert Bruce Livingston.
  • Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia won the nomination of the Green Party at the party's convention in Chicago. After winning the nomination McKinney proclaimed that "A vote for the Green Party is a vote for the movement that will turn this country right-side-up again." She is a vocal critic of the Bush administration suggesting that it covered up information regarding the 9/11 attacks. McKinney selected hip hop artist and Green activist Rosa Clemente as her running mate.
  • Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr reached 10% in a Zogby poll conducted in New Hampshire in July although Barr had not yet reached the number of signatures required to be included on the ballot in the state. Barr emphasized the promising results while campaigning and stated that he will continue his fight to be included on the ballot in all 50 states.
  • Comments made by Bob Barr that the government "has to do something" to help Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in light of the 2008 GSE support plan were instantly criticized by presidential candidate Charles Jay of the little known Boston Tea Party. Jay gained some media attention by claiming that Barr was wrong describing him as a "dixiecrat" and stating that the government should "let free markets flow." Jay's comments are representative of some Libertarian dissatisfaction with Barr, which fractured the Convention in May.
  • Similar to the previous summer, John McCain reshuffled his campaign staff: the biggest move being his replacement of campaign manager Rick Davis with Karl Rove's associate Steve Schmidt as the controller of campaign operations. The moves gave indications of a possible upheaval in the campaign but these charges were denied by advisor Carly Fiorina who stated that McCain was simply "ramping up" his campaign. It was also revealed that McCain planned to release a series of advertisements aimed at voters in the midwest.
  • Economic advisor for John McCain, former Senator Phil Gramm stated that America was a nation of "whiners" who are in a state of "mental recession." McCain countered that he "strongly disagree[d]" with the statements and that "Phil Gramm does not speak for me. I speak for me." After months of being touted as a possible Treasury Secretary in a McCain administration, when asked what role Gramm might play in light of his recent comments McCain remarked that he "would be in serious consideration for ambassador to Belarus, although I’m not sure the citizens of Minsk would welcome that."
  • John McCain criticized Barack Obama for his position on Iraq as the Democratic candidate visited the nation. He stated that Obama was wrong for formulating a plan for the future of the nation before assessing the conditions on the ground. In an interview with Katie Couric, McCain stated that he "would much rather lose a campaign than lose a war. Senator Obama has indicated that by his failure to acknowledge the success of the surge [in Iraq], that he would rather lose a war than lose a campaign."
  • Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal announced on Fox News that he's "got the job [he] want[s]" and that he's "not going to be the vice presidential nominee" although insiders stated that Jindal would take the job if asked. This came as McCain praised Jindal and Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty as "the future of the Republican Party." The two along with Florida governor Charlie Crist and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney are said to be the top prospects to be McCain's running mate.
  • McCain released an ad late in July that gave his campaign more media exposure. The ad described Obama as "the biggest celebrity in the world" and compared the Senator to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. It was later reported that at the end of the month McCain was a "significant or dominant factor" in 74% of campaign coverage compared to 81% for Obama, perhaps as a result of the new ad.


Editor's Note

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail... is a monthly article about the campaign events during the past month. The title is based on the series of articles written by journalist Hunter S. Thompson and compiled into a publication entitled Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72.