Two Conventions Down

Opinion by Matthew Dowd, ABC News Political Contributor Two conventions down, big ABC interview with Governor Palin, and big debate on the horizon so where do we stand in this presidential race? Obama got a brief, temporary lift from his convention in Denver and his speech on the last night, but this lift disappeared within 24 hours of the speech. Why? McCain introduced 'Hurricane Palin' to the country and it quickly moved from a Category One to a Category Three, overwhelming the Democrats (probably briefly) and taking over the Republican Convention in the Twin Cities. McCain has not only succeeded in knocking down Obama's bump but has actually taken a small lead in the presidential race. The open question is: how long will the Palin pop last? Will the new introduction of her be an iPod or will it be the pet rock (quickly gathered up and then put on a shelf)? Time will tell. We should all keep in mind that in 1984 Walter Mondale was behind by double digits before he picked Geraldine Ferraro as his vice presidential nominee. The race quickly went to even, and in some polls Mondale had a slight lead. Within ten days to two weeks the race trended right back to where it was before Mondale picked her. My guess is this race will trend back to even soon, then Obama with a small insignificant lead before the first debate on September 26th, and then the public will again look at both and decide. A couple of my own observations from watching the last few weeks and maybe a few unasked for suggestions: 1. Since the Palin pick, the Obama campaign has seemed to lose some of their mojo. They need to get it back, and probably next best time is the debate. If I were the Obama folks, I would be spending most of my time preparing and practicing for that debate, and trying to get answers down to brief direct responses which connect with people. I also think Obama should consider accepting McCain challenge for a series of town hall debates but only agree if Palin does same against Biden. 2. McCain has been successful in the short run of co-opting Obama's change message. I say short run because for months the McCain's effort was all about ready vs. not ready, and now this shift happened because of the Palin pick. When I watched the speeches at the convention in the Twin Cities and McCain and Palin on the trail, I almost find it surreal. The Republicans' message seems to be a combination of 'If you want a change from us, vote for us' or 'We broke it, let us fix it'. It is amazing, but I don't think this can be sustained for the next fifty days. It reminds me of the joke I made in a campaign meeting in 2004 for Bush and said our slogan should be "Things suck, stay the course". 3. The Charlie Gibson interviews with Sarah Palin were informative and interesting, but weren't over the top, as many suggested. If Palin supporters think that was over the top, well then they should just wait for when 50 microphones are shoved in her face over a controversy. In most respects Palin handled herself reasonably well, though I have to say from my perspective I was most taken aback by her answer to Gibson's question about whether she hesitated when she was asked by McCain to be his vice presidential running mate. Without batting an eyelash, she said no, and that she didn't blink or question her answer. I would rather have someone in that position that at least hesitates and does some introspection before they make a decision that big. At least she should have said, 'I wanted to talk to my family and think about how this would affect my life and if I thought I was ready.' We have had a President over last eight years who has prided himself on snap judgments and I don't know if that has served us well. That's all for now my friends, see ya along the trail.

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