How John McCain Just Lost Florida…
…if the Obama camp engages in some smart, targeted politicking. It’s the Sarah Palin pick, and it might be the thing that pushes Florida into the Obama camp. Why? Follow my logic here, and you’ll see how simple it is.
In the 2000 Presidential election, Sarah Palin supported Pat Buchanan. Not Al Gore. Not George W. Bush, but Pat Buchanan:
Pat Buchanan brought his conservative message of a smaller government and an America First foreign policy to Fairbanks and Wasilla on Friday as he continued a campaign swing through Alaska. Buchanan’s strong message championing states rights resonated with the roughly 85 people gathered for an Interior Republican luncheon in Fairbanks. … Among those sporting Buchanan buttons were Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin and state Sen. Jerry Ward, R-Anchorage.
Now, political junkies such as ourselves can imagine the messaging: “Sarah Palin apparently didn’t think George W. Bush was extreme enough,” etc, etc. But, really, do most people know enough about Buchanan and his platform in 2000? Not most people…except in one place:
South Florida. And particularly Palm Beach County.
Accidentally voting for Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore is something that brings up a lot of emotion in South Florida. Not just because the people there feel disenfranchised and upset that their vote helped Bush, but also because instead of voting for the ticket with the first Jew (I know, we all know now about Lieberman), they voted for someone they perceived to be an anti-semite:
Several were distraught. There was something confusing about the ballot, they said. They weren’t sure if they had actually voted for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. In keeping with the demographics of Delray Beach, the town where the mall was located, virtually all of the volunteers were elderly and many were Jewish. They had been especially motivated to support Lieberman, who was the first Jew to be nominated by a major party for vice president. What made the problem especially upsetting was that some of the volunteers thought they had voted for Pat Buchanan, a man they regarded as an anti-Semite. What, they wondered, could they do?
And why would they think Pat Buchanan is anti-Semitic? Gee, I don’t know. Here are some samples:
In a 1977 column, Buchanan said that despite Hitler’s anti-Semitic and genocidal tendencies, he was “an individual of great courage…Hitler’s success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path.” (The Guardian, 1/14/92)
Writing of “group fantasies of martyrdom,” Buchanan challenged the historical record that thousands of Jews were gassed to death by diesel exhaust at Treblinka: “Diesel engines do not emit enough carbon monoxide to kill anybody.” (New Republic, 10/22/90) Buchanan’s columns have run in the Liberty Lobby’s Spotlight, the German-American National PAC newsletter and other publications that claim Nazi death camps are a Zionist concoction.
Buchanan was vehement in pushing President Reagan — despite protests — to visit Germany’s Bitburg cemetery, where Nazi SS troops were buried. At a White House meeting, Buchanan reportedly reminded Jewish leaders that they were “Americans first” — and repeatedly scrawled the phrase “Succumbing to the pressure of the Jews” in his notebook. Buchanan was credited with crafting Ronald Reagan’s line that the SS troops buried at Bitburg were “victims just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps.” (New York Times, 5/16/85; New Republic, 1/22/96)
And there is oh so much more (and not just about Jews).
So, put it all together. Pat Buchanan, extremist anti-Semite, ran for President in 2000. Many South Florida residents were disenfranchised because they accidentally voted for this anti-Semite, instead of their intended target. This memory is extremely painful. You have the perfect stew for a targeted outreach via advertising, direct mail, and surrogates. Imagine this message:
“2000. South Florida residents think they’re voting for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. Instead, the ballot structure forced many to accidentally vote for Pat Buchanan, a well-known anti-Semite who has praised Hitler and expressed doubt about the truth of the Holocaust. We all know how the 2000 election ended up. But John McCain just picked a running mate who didn’t support the Democrats in 2000, she didn’t support the Republicans. Instead, she supported and campaigned for…Pat Buchanan. What does this say about John McCain’s judgment picking this person to be a heartbeat from the Presidency? John McCain, wrong for Florida, wrong for America.”
Targeted. Intense marketing. Make sure everyone in South Florida knows the truth about Sarah Palin’s support for Pat Buchanan, remind them why he was an anti-Semite, and bring up the painful memory of what happened in 2000. Indeed, Robert Wexler may already be onto this strategy, hopefully the campaign backs him up.
It’s tough, it’s true, and John McCain may have just lost Florida if played correctly by the Obama camp.