Let The General Election Begin!

Todd Domke, Republican analyst, and Dan Payne, Democratic analyst, discuss the political landscape — and how it looks after the close of both parties' national conventions.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

The bunting and balloons have been taken down. Now the final stretch of the long presidential campaign of 2008 begins, pitting a battle-tested veteran Washington insider against a fresh and promising voice from the heart of America. Wait, are we talking about the candidates for president or vice president, and if so which ones? We're pleased to be joined now by Todd Domke and Dan Payne. Mr. Domke is a Republican political analyst. Dan Payne is a political analyst for Democrats. Both gentlemen are based in Boston. They join us from the studios of member station WBUR. Gentlemen, nice to have you back.

Mr. TODD DOMKE (Republican Political Analyst): Good to be with you.

Mr. DAN PAYNE (Democratic Political Analyst): Nice to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: And if I can ask you to respond in turn - beginning with you, Todd - so has the addition of Governor Sarah Palin changed the chemistry of this whole campaign?

Mr. DOMKE: It really has, in surprising ways. I mean, things are more polarized. But after the two conventions, it's tied again, it's unpredictable. Some of those in the middle, the undecideds, might still be waiting, and probably waiting for the debates.

SIMON: Dan.

Mr. PAYNE: Well, the addition of Sarah Palin has injected risk into the campaign. She's a small town mayor, a former PTA member, and a hockey mom.

SIMON: She's the governor of Alaska.

Mr. PAYNE: Yeah, I was going to get to that. And she's been the governor of Alaska for 18 months. And we're now told that she's ready to be president should anything happen to John McCain. That, it seems to me, is a high-risk venture by John McCain.

Mr. DOMKE: I think Dan's reaction sort of underscores what I was saying as far as things being more polarized. Democrats did attack her very strongly and personally, which set her up for her speech so that she really was the underdog.

Mr. PAYNE: But I'd like to ask, Todd, name me the Democrat who attacked her personally.

Mr. DOMKE: Well, I think all sorts of Democratic pundits did. I think Obama was wise in saying that the children were off-limits.

SIMON: And Senator Biden has been extremely gracious and...

Mr. DOMKE: That's right. I think the two candidates wisely stayed above. But clearly their surrogates...

Mr. PAYNE: Give me a name, please.

Mr. DOMKE: Well, I think Barney Franks said that it was fair game to go after her daughter's pregnancy.

Mr. PAYNE: He said that the Republican Party has been so hypocritical on family planning, on abortion, etcetera, that having this raised seemed appropriate.

SIMON: Let me ask each of you a contrary question. And first, Dan Payne, what about the argument that although people might question Governor Palin's experience, at least the Republicans got the experience question in the right order on the ticket, that their experienced candidate's on the top, and the less experienced candidate is on the bottom. And Democrats are just the reverse.

Mr. PAYNE: Well, I think there's more to being a potential president than experience. There's judgment, there's qualifications, there's an ability to understand national and global problems. No one's ever questioned Barack Obama's ability on those things. You know, he's a person of substance. And I'm not saying Sarah Palin isn't, but we just don't know enough about her to give her the responsibility of being so close to the presidency.

SIMON: Well, and Todd Domke, let me ask you a question. Did - by making this choice, which may have galvanized his campaign, at least for a time, does Senator McCain essentially boot away the experience argument that he had over Senator Obama?

Mr. DOMKE: I don't think so. I think the arguments made by Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden during the Democratic primaries that Obama did not have the experience, and frankly he did not have the substance, Dan, in terms of accomplishment. Interestingly, though, just thinking in terms of strategy, McCain really has benefited in an unexpected way here, I think. Republicans who were not thrilled with McCain now don't really seem to care what he has to say. He can be as reformist, because they're so smitten with Palin.

SIMON: The Democrats right now enjoy a huge fundraising advantage. As much as we talk about how virtually as many people saw Governor Palin's speech as saw Senator Obama's speech, apparently the Obama campaign raised, I think, 10 million dollars in that 24-48 hour period. With that huge fundraising advantage, are we going to begin to feel that over the next few weeks?

Mr. PAYNE: Well, it depends on what state you live in. If you live in Michigan, Ohio, or Pennsylvania, you're going to feel it because both campaigns have targeted those states for heavy involvement by the candidates and by advertising expenditures. Both candidates are going to spend the max. And in some cases, it isn't just what you have in your own treasury, it's what your party has in its treasury. And it's what various so-called 527 groups have in their treasury. Democrats just don't have access to those kind of third-party resources that Republicans do.

Mr. DOMKE: It's hard for me to take that seriously.

SIMON: Wait, George Soros is a big funder of 527s, and nobody has more resources than he does.

Mr. DOMKE: Yeah, that's right. I mean, I don't think that's fair at all, especially when you think of the labor union money and their resources in terms of people. But then it's right when he says that the McCain forces will have a lot of money going to the Republican National Party. It won't be even. I mean, there will be an advantage for Obama. But I don't think money is going to decide this thing. People are so tuned in, there's so much coverage, there's so much debate, and among people, individually now, so much argument going on, that I really don't think a 30-second TV spot is going to be as powerful.

SIMON: Gentlemen, always a delight to be with you. Talk to you again soon. Thanks so much.

Mr. DOMKE: Good to be with you.

Mr. PAYNE: Always glad to help.

SIMON: In Boston, political consultants Todd Domke and Dan Payne.

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