In a reality check for Barack Obama and John McCain, a Zogby poll shows that most "likely voters" think Bob Barr should be part of the Presidential debates. Heck, almost half feel the same about Ralph Nader. (A hint, Raider Ralph; do you remember now?)
For Independents, it's 69% for Barr and 59% for Nader. Draw your own conclusions. For me it's the ideas, stupid. McCain and Obama have settled into canned speeches, talking points and the occasional shot at each other. Maybe another point of view would jar them out of the pandering platitudes and cannedpaign speeches.
That's just my dream. The reality is that the major parties play Least Common Denominator politics; trying to wrap up the uncommitted without alienating their base. It works: the Commission on Presidential Debates (I'm not kidding, it exists) only invites candidates with at least a mathematical chance of winning. Barr and Nader aren't on enough state ballots; Barr is tracking at about 6% nationally, with 2% (!) favoring Nader.
Exorcising his demons
I had misgivings, to put it lightly, about the Saddleback love-fest, but was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't the litmus test I expected. Sure, there were the usual talking points from the candidates, but Orange County populist Rick Warren asked some reasonable questions and got (some) reasonable answers. There was very little 'gotcha' and no 'my opponent'. He later said he was trying to help voters who might agree with one candidate on some issues but with his opponent on others. I vote for Warren to moderate all debates.
Both racers benefited; McCain with 'Yes, I am' and another war story, Obama with a biblical quote. McCain rather self-consciously peppered his remarks with 'my friends' and Obama just as obviously hummed My Sweet Lord under his breath throughout. Let's ignore $5 million as the new rich and the 'above my pay grade' copout.
I'd call it a tie. Reassuring the fundies on one hand and showing he's not a monster on the other. Maybe a small edge to Obama because he needs to avoid the Clinton Syndrome: a visceral 'anybody but' response. For the same reason, his latest foray into the Veterans of Foreign Wars command post is valuable because he was able to put blood on the table: relatives who had fought in America's wars. That's their currency.
Who knows? Let's see if the new (sigh) polls show that fewer than 12% of the hypnotized still think he's a closet Moslem.
Nader has announced a super rally during the Republican convention as well as the Democrat's convention. I can see drafting after the heavyweights I guess, but he's likely to only get covered by the half-dozen loonies who can't get press credentials to the Main Events. Let's call them anti-conventions; the hall he's booked in Minneapolis seats 2,500, even Ron Paul's shiv in McCain's back has room for 20,000.
Strangely, candidate-who-never-announced Michael Bloomberg might have more effect on the election than any of the third, fourth and nth party candidates. Virginia is a battleground state and its Independent Greens have got him on the ballot. Supposedly Ron Paul pops up here too as number two on the ticket.