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Grandma Had Good Advice For Political Strategists

One of my grandmother’s favorite admonishments to me and my brother was that “criticizing another’s garden doesn’t keep weeds out of your own.” My favorite singer George Strait put it another way – “Every time you throw dirt on her, you lose a little ground.”

The message that you can’t build yourself up by tearing someone else down is something few political pundits and operatives take to heart. Now that the top candidates for U.S. president are set, the general election’s opening shots make it obvious they don’t intend to follow grandma’s advice.

Barack Obama hopes to tie John McCain to the unpopular sitting president, painting McCain as more of the same. With all the polls indicating voters want significant change in direction, if Obama can successfully link McCain to George W. Bush, it should be clear sailing for Democrats. Ironically, however, McCain earned his stripes as a maverick who opposed not only this president but the Republican Party on a lot of key issues.

Meanwhile, McCain’s strategy seems to be one of acknowledging that both candidates will bring about significant change, but that Obama’s change is in the wrong direction. The McCain strategy is to simply convince voters that Obama is more liberal than either Hubert Humphrey or Michael Dukakis ever dreamed of being.

While I think the candidate who most succeeds in selling his message will win, a recent Wall Stree Journal poll shows that both candidates enjoy shockingly large advantages among the various voter demographics when divided up by age, ethnicity, sex, wage, region of the country, etc. The bottom line is that the electorate is already highly polarized; thus, it will be some fairly small groups of voter blocs in a few states that will likely determine the presidential election.

While Hillary Clinton struggled during the Democratic primary season to shift the focus from Obama, the McCain campaign will likely strive to retain that focus on Obama. With McCain’s opinions, policies and the like seeming largely irrelevant thus far among the electorate, this election is shaping up to be a referendum on Obama. If enough people feel comfortable with him, he’ll be the next president. If the majority become wary of an Obama presidency, then he’ll lose.

From an ag standpoint, my greatest hope at this time is for a government that is bogged down with partisan squabbling, thus leaving us with a do-nothing government. On that premise alone, I’m leaning Republican just because the Democrats are poised to add to their majorities in both the Senate and House. A divided government seems like the best alternative for ag to me.

TAGS: Legislative