The McCain campaign is pulling back in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Colorado, Maine and Minnesota. The place where it appears to be rededicating itself? Pennsylvania. Pats, Packers, Broncos, and Vikings fans, you can now enjoy your Sunday football free of election advertising, which I'm sure you're thoroughly sick of by now. Steelers and Eagles fans, no such luck.

For a pretty solid explanation of the McCain campaign's move, which appears to fly in the face of recent PA polling, check out Open Left.

And for the record, John McCain isn't helping his own cause in PA. See this video, in which McCain attempts to respond to a claim by Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) that Western Pennsylvania is "racist".

Is 2008 the most expensive election ever? Not if you use real dollars. Yes, Barack Obama is raising more raw money than any candidate ever. And yes, this is the first time an election has surpassed $1 billion. But in 1896, William McKinley spent an astonishing $3.35 million to ensure populist firebrand William Jennings Bryan got nowhere near the White House. As Paul Krugman notes, "As a percentage of gross domestic product, it was the equivalent of more than $3 billion today, five times what the Bush campaign spent in 2004." And Krugman is just highlighting one example; he isn't conducing a systematic study of all election spending adjusted for inflation.

This isn't to say the campaign finance system doesn't need to be reformed. It does. But let's keep context in mind when you hear shrill media claims that every election is the most expensive ever.

bachmann.jpgWith her career in jeopardy because of her McCarthy-esque comments on Hardball, Rep. Michele Bachman (R-MN) is in full spin mode. She's telling everyone who will listen, "Chris Matthews laid a trap, and I walked into it." And she's trying to raise money off of the episode. Here's an email she sent to supporters:

So much for hockey mom and Joe six-pack, huh? Sarah Palin's wardrobe bill, Politico reports, has come to a cool $150,000 since she arrived on the national scene in late August, and the Republican National Committee has graciously picked up the tab. Working out to an average cost of about $2200 per day on the campaign trail from the RNC convention through election day, Palin's designer duds cost more per day than many people's monthly mortgage payments.

McCain campaign spokesperson Tracey Schmitt was apparently unfazed by the $75,000 Nieman Marcus bill, the $50,000 Saks bill, the $5,000 September cosmetics and hair bill, and the assorted other few thousand dollar bills--small change--at a Macy's and Barney's here and there: "With all of the important issues facing the country right now, it's remarkable that we're spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses." (When legal issues about the reported arrangement were raised, the campaign issued a statement saying of course Palin won't keep the clothes when the campaign is all over--which is a shame from a purely aesthetic standpoint at least given the seemingly custom tailoring.)

But I'm not sure the McCain campaign has laid the groundwork for quickly neutralizing this story. After all, it was McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis who said just a few weeks ago on national television that as far as the McCain campaign is concerned, "this election is not about issues," but character. And it's not unreasonable to note that one hundred fifty thousand dollars spent on Palin's wardrobe in six weeks does say something about not just her expensive tastes but her character, and suggests something of a disconnect between who Sarah Palin says she is (ordinary small town hockey mom who will come to Washington to fight the entrenched interests) and who she actually seems to be (here's my Visa bill, can you take care of it?). Seriously, did the RNC put the Saks buyer on retainer? I'm having a hard time getting my head around 150 $1000 clothing item purchases in fewer than 60 days. This may call for some investigative journalism shoe-leather so to speak by Vogue.

Heading into the summer, it was clear that George W. Bush was John McCain's biggest liability. Of all the negative characteristics polled about the candidates at that time, the one that drew the most concern from voters was McCain's similarities to Bush. It was more problematic than Obama's connections to Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, even.

Today, that's changed. Sarah Palin is now the heaviest anchor around the neck of John McCain's sinking campaign. From First Read:

...her numbers have plummeted in our poll. For the first time, she has a net-negative fav/unfav rating (38%-47%), the only principal to carry that distinction. What's more, 55% think she's unqualified to serve as president if the need arises, which is a troublesome number given McCain's age. (Have worries about McCain's age risen because of Palin? Seems to be the case). In fact, her qualifications to be president rank as voters' top concern about a McCain presidency -- ahead of continuing Bush's policies. (Who would have ever thought that Palin would be a bigger problem for McCain than Bush would?)

The distinction to make, of course, is that McCain couldn't really do anything about his similarities, real or perceived, with Bush. He brought Sarah Palin on himself.

Boris Johnson, Tory mayor of London:

Democracy and capitalism are the two great pillars of the American idea. To have rocked one of those pillars may be regarded as a misfortune. To have damaged the reputation of both, at home and abroad, is a pretty stunning achievement for an American president.

Via Andrew. The onslaught of Bush legacy articles and books that come out in 2009 are going to be positively brutal.

Earlier today, Sarah Palin introduced us to Joe the Plumber's replacement. And he's a man we met over the weekend: Tito Munoz, aka "Tito the Builder".

Speaking to supporters in Grand Junction, Colorado, Palin said, "Tito is not pleased with how the Barack Obama campaign and some of the media friends there have been roughing up Joe the Plumber." "Not pleased" is putting it mildly. Our David Corn was at the center of the Tito maelstrom on Saturday, when Munoz intentionally drew a crowd after a McCain rally in order to berate the press. David posed questions to Munoz and the crowd of unhappy McCain supporters surrounding Munoz — the result was the video we posted yesterday, titled "Mad for McCain."

Today, Palin said of Munoz, "Tito wants to know, and I quote, he asked, 'Why the heck are you going after Joe the Plumber? Joe the Plumber has an idea. He has a future. He wants to be something greater. He wants to be something else. Why is that so wrong?'" (For the record, Tito's question was "Why the hell are you going after Joe the Plumber?" but we won't quibble.)

Tito the Builder isn't exactly Joe the Plumber. Joe refuses to tell the press who he is voting for. He displays no anger. Munoz is a serious step up: he's passionately anti-media and anti-Obama. (If you watch the video linked to above, you'll note that he is also passionately anti-socialism.) Perhaps his chutzpah makes him a better surrogate for the McCain campaign. Welcome to your 15 minutes of fame, Tito.

This was first posted at at

The latest neocon to turn tail on John McCain is Kenneth Adelman, a former foreign policy official in the Reagan administration. Adelman is most famous--or infamous--for having predicted in February 2002, 13 months before the invasion of Iraq, that "demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk." Explaining his decision to vote for Obama, Adelman recently told The New Yorker:

"When the economic crisis broke, I found John McCain bouncing all over the place. In those first few crisis days, he was impetuous, inconsistent, and imprudent; ending up just plain weird. Having worked with Ronald Reagan for seven years, and been with him in his critical three summits with Gorbachev, I've concluded that that's no way a president can act under pressure."

And he said of the Sarah Palin pick:

"That decision showed appalling lack of judgment. Not only is Sarah Palin not close to being acceptable in high office -- I would not have hired her for even a mid-level post in the arms-control agency. But that selection contradicted McCain's main two, and best two, themes for his campaign -- Country First, and experience counts. Neither can he credibly claim, post-Palin pick."

He sounds so reasonable, right? But I remember the days when Adelman sounded more like the mad McCainiacs I recently encountered at a McCain rally. In fact, I once wrote about Adelman's use of extremist rhetoric, and that kept him from obtaining a spot on the board of a prominent Washington advocacy group.

From a Nation magazine column (not on-line) I penned in 1988:

The nation was introduced to Michele Bachmann's special kind of crazy last week, a fact that (surprise!) is bad for Bachmann's electoral prospects. According to CQ Politics, her McCarthy-esque appearance on Hardball (video below) has put her in jeopardy of losing her seat, a previously unthinkable outcome in her deep red district. It helps that, because of Bachmann's screed, her opponent El Tinklenberg has nearly doubled his fundraising for the entire race. Here's CQ:

Tinklenberg, a former state Transportation secretary, had collected more than $810,000 between Friday night and Monday afternoon, after raising $1 million for the entire election cycle through the end of September.
"It's hard to give a completely accurate number because the money keeps rolling in," said Tinklenberg spokeswoman Kate Monson.
"We're in the middle of a political earthquake here," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, said on Hardball Monday evening.
CQ Politics is moving its rating of the contest from Republican Favored to Leans Republican, a more competitive category.

The DCCC plans on going on the air in the district this week, with the goal of spending $1 million in TV advertising that it hopes will unseat Bachmann. "She effectively put the race into play by herself," says one Republican consultant. Video of her appearance is below.

If you need any more proof that the GOP's cries of voter fraud are a coordinated attempt to cast doubt on potential Republican losses and to suppress the vote, you absolutely must click this link.