After a couple of weeks on unscheduled hiatus during MnIndy’s coverage of the Republican convention and its aftermath, David Schultz and the Schultz Report are back with us today. Schultz talks about Sarah Palin, evangelicals and swing voters, and he discusses a surprising turn in the Minnesota US Senate race: Independence Party endorsee Dean Barkley, who most observers expected to hurt Al Franken, seems to be peeling away Sen. Norm Coleman’s more tepid supporters and helping Franken.
On the Republican convention and the McCain/Palin poll surge:
“What was really fascinating about the convention that no one’s really talked about is the dramatic extent to which it really did pander to the religious right. On the first day of the convention, the Gustav day that featured no night-time performances, no night television, there was just a pro forma business [session]. I thought that was where the most significant moment of the convention occurred. They did the opening prayers–as Democrats did too–but what the Republicans did was to have a minister say, we want to thank God and we also want to thank Jesus Christ, our one and true savior–or something to that effect.
“They made very explicit reference to Jesus in a way that was very Protestant and evangelical. I thought that was important. You’re looking at a Republican convention that had the least number of African-Americans in recent history, the least number of Hispanics, the least number of non-Caucasians. It was a convention dominated by evangelicals, and that opening prayer set the tone for the entire Republican convention: This is a convention that’s not reaching out to others, only to the inner core.
“What I want to argue, and I realize this is an unusual interpretation of the Republican convention, is that this was a convention with Christ imagery throughout the entire convention. Watching it that week, I thought that speech after speech being a POW was literally [saying] that his time in the Hanoi Hilton was his time on the cross. I could see an image being built that John McCain basically died and was resurrected to do battle with the anti-Christ Obama. I think the describing of the world in terms of good and evil, and of John McCain as a Christ-like figure–all of this [arose from] the tone that was set by that first prayer on opening day.”
“I think it’s primarily an evangelical bounce [for McCain/Palin]. Up until recently, it looked like it was confined to enlivening the base and getting Republicans excited again. There was an article last week in the Wall Street Journal that suggested the Palin effect was limited in her impact on swing states like Ohio. But over the last couple of days, the Palin phenomenon has continued, and we’re seeing for the first time that McCain is not only ahead in the popular vote, but he’s now inching ahead in terms of electoral college matchups. The effect seems to be going beyond the evangelical base and capturing the broader group of swing voters at this point.”
On Coleman, Franken and Barkley:
I think it’s less Franken making progress than it is Coleman stalling. Looking at poll numbers over the past several weeks, you had Coleman around 50 percent and Franken hovering around 42, 43 percent. The latest SurveyUSA poll still has Franken around 40 percent, but Coleman is down to 41. What’s going on here? You have Dean Barkley in the race, and Barkley is now polling around 14 percent.
“I would argue that the dynamics of the race have changed significantly. A little bit [is] because Franken is a better candidate [now]. Maybe he’s doing a better job of messaging, getting out his views, talking about policy, doing attacks. But to a large extent, the tightening of the polls has been [a matter of] Dean Barkley increasing his percentage out of the hide of Senator Coleman. From about six weeks ago, when Dean Barkley entered the race, to today, the race has tightened.
“This is something none of us expected–that in fact, the third-party candidate Barkley, who many of us presumed would hurt Franken, is actually helping him in a strange way. [Barkley’s support] is literally coming out of Coleman’s hide. Why is that? The individuals who did not like Coleman but also did not like Franken now have someplace to go. The anti-incumbent, anti-Coleman vote is going toward Barkley instead of toward Franken. So Franken’s challenge at this point is to hope that Barkley support keeps eroding Coleman support.
“It suggests a possible perfect storm for Franken. If Barkley continues to eat at Coleman, and we have the 80 percent turnout in the state that a lot of people are predicting, with a lot of people coming out for Obama, one can now envision a scenario where Franken can actually win this race. I think it’s still a long shot, but compared to six weeks ago, he now has a chance.”