Alan Greenblatt is a GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
If John McCain is to win over the millions who remain skeptical about Barack Obama -- but still remember their disapproval of President Bush, and why -- he's going to have to deliver a more substantive speech than we heard from Gov. Sarah Palin or any of the other featured speakers last night.
During the Democratic convention, I was disappointed by the lack of "beef" in most of the speeches. They had praise for Obama and maybe some criticism of Bush (and, more or less by extension, McCain), but they said very little about policy or what the Democrats intend to do once in the White House. Obama came through on some of that, giving what was criticized as a laundry list of proposals as part of his acceptance speech.
For all their complaints about the media picking on Palin's family, the GOP convention has been one long episode of "Biography" -- some about Palin and her family, but more about McCain and his experiences in Vietnam (the torture that most Republican speakers dare not speak its name).
Palin assured us that McCain has used his career to bring about change, but she didn't say how. She mentioned his disdain for earmarks (again willfully forgetting her former love of same), but that was about it. There'll be more drilling, baby. Oh -- and he was right about the surge.
But this is a crowd that wouldn't have so lustily cheered mention of McCain-Feingold. Or his leadership in the bipartisan effort to preserve filibusters of judicial nominees. Or specifics about his investigation of Jack Abramoff. Or his championing of a massive increase in tobacco taxes. Certainly not his self-disowned immigration bill.
Forget about Bush's record -- where was McCain's? And where is the economic message?
Republicans recognize the need to talk about change despite their own incumbency in the White House. They've accepted the fact that their own "maverick" needs to be branded as such to succeed this year. But they haven't wanted to talk specifics.
What will McCain himself want to talk about tonight? Aside from honor and duty, I mean.
GOVERNING Politics is the place for news and analysis on campaigns and elections. If there's a ballot measure in California, a legislative election in Alabama, a mayoral election in Anchorage or a governor's race in Rhode Island, GOVERNING Politics probably is writing about it. We love everything about state and local politics, from polls and campaign ads to policy debates and demographic trends.