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All this talk about Bush and his daddy is hogwash. The man he really wants to outdo is John McCain. How else do you explain Bush’s belated admission that global warming is real, following so closely a big speech by McCain on the same subject?

McCain won kudos for breaking with Bush and his own party way back on Monday. But it seems that Bush doesn’t want McCain to top him in the history books any more now than he did during the South Carolina primary in 2000. The pair have walked hand in hand on Iraq, with McCain lending an air of authority to Bush’s decisions. Maybe Bush is a little hurt that McCain is seen as abandoning him on global warming.

Why would Bush be more obsessed with McCain than with his own dad? Consider first that the elder Bush probably wasn’t around much during the younger’s childhood. It would have been natural for W. to look outside for a father-figure. McCain probably isn’t the first to fill that role.

Much has been made of Bush the son following in his dad’s Air Force footsteps. But McCain also was a pilot — who made a name for himself in the very war Bush avoided.

Maybe it’s all just psychobabble, but I can’t help scratching my head about these two Republican leaders both acknowledging the reality of global warming in the same week. It has to be more than coincidence. I can understand why McCain did it — he’s been a consistent supporter of climate-change legislation. Bush has had seven years to think about it. Why now?

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If polls show that Barack Obama has trouble winning over working-class, less-educated whites, that’s science. But if Hillary Clinton mentions it, that’s playing the race card.

I managed to convince myself at one point that the dragging Democratic primary wouldn’t be harmful. Now I’m not so sure, but don’t blame Clinton. As was pointed out last weekend, the Democratic party is an odd mishmash. Republicans are, too, I suppose. That’s what happens when you try to cram tens of millions of political views into two opposing camps.

The continuing battle seems worse for Obama, in that it diminishes his ability to attract swing voters if he’s defined as the candidate of young people, African Americans and the college-educated (who, contrary to their own self-image, are a minority).

Sure, Obama is popular online, the Web somehow predicted his victory and he has won more votes in the Democratic primaries. But anyone who thinks the Democratic primary process — or the Internet — is the best way to pick a general-election winner should think again. The Internet may simply be replicating the losing touch of the primary electorate itself.

At any rate, it’s no accident that the only Democrat to win a presidential election since 1968 is Bill Clinton, and he was anything but a front-runner in the beginning. He lost Iowa in ’92, if anyone cares to remember. And he probably wouldn’t have been too popular among the netroots, what with all his compromises, political and otherwise. OK, Gore won in 2000 — but he was vice president to a popular two-term candidate who couldn’t run again and probably would have been disowned by the party even if he had been able. (A friendly reader reminded me I left out Jimmy Carter, but pointed out that he was a long shot, too.)

The chief talking point against McCain is that he represents a third Bush term. Given Bush’s poor standing, that line of attack makes sense. But I don’t see it sticking. It just doesn’t ring true, certainly not as true as Obama’s supposed elitism. That bowling score (37, but in seven frames. So be fair: he could have rolled a 127 if every other ball were a strike) — and this picture — is going to come back to haunt him. Couldn’t he at least have unbuttoned his collar and loosened the tie? He must have been pretty uncomfortable with all that fabric tugging at his neck.

Plus, the far right will be contradicting the Dem’s attack on McCain’s behalf. Could it be the ultimate sucker punch? Conservatives hound McCain from the right knowing it will help him with independents and thereby paving his way to the White House? But let’s face it. Bush and McCain are very different men, have lived very different lives and have occasionally disagreed. Bush also won TWO TERMS. Let me go out on a limb and suggest that the polls showing low approval ratings have less to do with Bush and more to do with the way we expect people to perceive him, and the answers people believe they should be giving to the pollsters.

It’s also a tidy way to sweep him off the stage so the cameras can focus on the sequel rather than the pressing issues facing this country. Who wouldn’t want to watch a beauty contest — however ugly it gets — rather than a food shortage or a housing crisis?

A friend of mine in a state that voted before PA warned me that I’d be burned out on the presidential race after the primary. He was right. It’s not worth following right now. It’s all about the horse race and the strategery, and I guess it will be for the next six months. Barack Obama has failed, in some respects, to move the media conversation off its sinking foundation in poll numbers, public gaffes and explosive preachers. Oh well.

I can’t complain too much, since I engaged in a little horse-racery myself. But we seem to have suffused the entire presidential process in a cynical brew. When John McCain denounces a negative ad, he’s seen as employing a backhanded trick to keep the ad in the news while keeping his own distance from it.

It’s probably ever been thus. Politicians are human and humans aren’t exactly the noblest of breeds, though we fight pretty hard sometimes to do good things. However, the crises do seem to be piling up pretty thick at the moment, from high fuel prices to food shortages to global warming to an unfinished war to nuclear terrorism (this site graciously lets you imagine the consequences of a bomb in your own hometown!).

Maybe it would be too much to ask people to pay significant attention to the bad stuff. Still, it’s no accident that the stories dominating headlines before 9/11 were about shark attacks and Gary Condit. We want to hear about a disaster only as long as it’s happening to other people, not to ourselves. The major media, safe in their NY/DC bubbles, are as insulated as our politicians, but not any more prone to seeking insulation than the rest of us.

I doubt that people whose homes have been hit by a tornado turn on the TV news to watch the aftermath — at least for now.

Give John McCain credit for a healthcare plan that goes beyond the traditional conservative mantra of “tort reform.” It’s actually a decent plan if you agree a free market is a good prescription for our healthcare woes. I for one would love a tax credit for buying my own health insurance, which I have to do because I’m self-employed. Too bad the market fails in reality.

It’s fun to dream of consumer power over healthcare decisions. But it’s ultimately a fantasy. I know this firsthand. My second son — who’s looked perfectly healthy on the outside during his 11 months so far — has a suspicious heartbeat that requires occasional and expensive tests to make sure it’s still not a problem.

We have a health-savings account, so we pay most of this stuff out-of-pocket. We could decide to forgo these tests, considering there appears to be little wrong with our son and he’s otherwise perfectly healthy. But, the doctors tell us there’s an outside chance of something bad cropping up. Do we really have a choice in spending the money? I guess. I do often suspect the doctors are being overly cautious and the tests may not really be necessary.

I could get a second opinion — for another couple hundred dollars. Or I could decide I’d rather spend all the money on iTunes and Amazon. What if I spurned the tests simply because I didn’t have the extra couple hundred dollars to spare? What’s good for the bank account may not always be good for the heart.

I know money should play a role somewhere in the healthcare equation, and something has to happen to rein in spending. But I can’t imagine complicating already-excruciating decisions for parents by forcing them to weigh family finances against a child’s health. Maybe the advocates of free-market healthcare think that’s a good thing, and they may even have a rational argument to support it. But the argument needs to be at or near the center of debate.

That’s the unspoken straight talk about consumer-driven healthcare.

The more I think about this “Democratic dogfight is good for John McCain” analysis, the more I balk. How can it be good when you’re running for president and no one pays any attention to you? Isn’t getting attention one of the chief benefits of being a presidential candidate?

Sure, this analysis freaks out Democrats concerned about a drawn-out primary. But it also has another effect: it frees the media from having to focus on McCain while simultaneously allowing reporters to stay on his good side.

It also lets McCain sneak in extra naps — see how easy it is to play the age card?

Apparently I wasn’t the only one parsing GOP primary returns from PA and their harbingers for John McCain. So was Frank Rich at the NY Times

The conventional wisdom suggests John McCain is the winner of the continuing fight between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. But is all this downtime really such a good thing? Sure McCain’ll be able to raise tons of money, but if money voted, Mitt Romney would be the GOP nominee and Obama would have swept Clinton offstage a long time ago.

We hear a lot about Obama’s seeming inability to connect with the white working class. I wonder if McCain will have the same problem. I don’t think his primary victories really healed the rift over immigration and other issues between him and more conservative Republicans. Those disagreements have been lost in the media’s focus on the Obama-Clinton fight, but they’re likely to return, especially if a conservative third party mounts a challenge.

The numbers from yesterday’s primary bear out the potential for an independent candidate to make inroads among disaffected Republicans (and perhaps among Democrats disaffected by whomever they ultimately choose).

I suspected Ron Paul, though fighting a hopeless cause, would do pretty well in PA.  Alas, my prediction that he could win fell flat. But he did pull down nearly 16 percent of the vote statewide. Paul did even better in York and Adams counties, winning nearly 19 percent and 18 percent of the vote, respectively. With Mike Huckabee also in the mix, McCain didn’t reach 70 percent in either county. Huckabee — who isn’t even pretending to run — came in third, with 11.6 percent in York and 12.9 percent in Adams

McCain got about 73 percent in Franklin County, but Huckabee got nearly 16 percent. Paul came in third with 11.2 percent.

In short, more than one in four Republican voters in PA cast a ballot for someone other than McCain. Maybe they’ll close ranks in November and they were all just exercising their right to disagree. But if general-election unity is so in doubt for Democrats, why doesn’t the same question hang over Republicans? The answer may be different, but it’s still worth asking.

The sign-posters were busy on primary eve along the Lincoln Highway. Hillary Clinton racked up nine signs, more than doubling her previous total. Barack Obama tripled his haul, coming in at three signs. Two new ones appeared on the square in Abbottstown. John McCain even had a sign off the square in New Oxford. So, with less than seven hours until the polls close, Clinton leads the “Count of Presidential Yard Signs along Route 30 between York and Gettysburg, Pa.

Does this mean she’ll win tonight? Who knows. But if I were her, I would try to avoid saying anything nice about anybody no matter what happens. Look how it got Obama in trouble…We wouldn’t want our politicians doing anything but tearing each other down.

If I were Barack Obama there’s one thing I’d be worried about from last night’s debate in Philadelphia. Yes, he deflected questions about Pastor Wright and “bitter-gate” with dexterity and he was relatively forthright in addressing them. Obama’s been fairly successful at insisting on a new kind of politics that doesn’t tar people with guilt by association. It’s an admirable stand and it’s been effective.

But, to my mind (and I can’t be the only one who noticed), he seemed far less confident, and even appeared to stumble, in addressing questions about Iran.

Now, I was assembling a child’s wagon while I watched the debate, so take this with a grain of salt. But Obama’s response to the Iran question caught my attention. He didn’t seem as forthright or as together in his answer as did Hillary Clinton. Sure, there were holes in her logic (we could barely get France under the security umbrella of NATO. How will we ever convince Iran and countries like it to do anything similar?). But she at least seemed to have a coherent, well-considered position.  No one doubts John McCain will offer the same . I didn’t get the same impression from Obama from last night’s debate.

Why does this even matter? Isn’t this election about the economy, about the war in Iraq, about change, blah blah blab? I guess. But unforeseen foreign-policy crises are often what define a presidency. Hardly anyone was discussing Iraq or terrorism in 2000 but they’ve dominated the last seven years and affected practically everything else we do.

Iran might not present a crisis for the next president, but Obama’s stumble on it tells me he either isn’t thinking seriously about foreign policy or doesn’t have very good advisers on those issues. It’s one area where a short, largely domestic resume, might haunt him.

The main thing missing in the ongoing debate over Barack Obama’s comments about small-town PA are voices of actual Pennsylvanians (other than Ed Rendell). I’ve seen quotes from consultants, politicians and pollsters, but next to nothing from people who live in our small towns. So for your edification, here’s a particularly perceptive op-ed from a young reporter in York who’s a native. Athough it ran a few weeks ago, it shows why Obama wasn’t far off the mark.

Yes, Obama’s comments were a tad condescending. How would it sound if John McCain said urbanites cling to their lattes and their fear of the suburbs because they’re bitter and frustrated that health insurance isn’t universal? Someone should just say that anyway, I suppose.

But rather than discuss the issues affecting small towns in Pennsylvania, we’re going to get an argument about who’s an elitist. It seems Obama’s biggest crime was uttering words that anyone with the slightest interest in tearing him down could spin quickly and easily. If only politicians could move as quickly when they had an actual problem to solve.

Pennsylvanians aren’t entirely silent in all this. We’ve seen a mayor trotted out in favor of Obama, a guy called John Fetterman from a town called Braddock, near Pittsburgh. But look at this web site and tell me if it seems typical of small towns in any state. Rick Gray of Lancaster also has been making cameos, but Lancaster also is fairly atypical when it comes to PA towns (but aren’t they all and isn’t that part of the point about not clinging to stereotypes?)

Hillary Clinton has been running ads showing her bucolic childhood days in Scranton,. She also assembled a mayors’ conference call, but the only one quoted that I’ve read is Mayor Stephen Reed of Harrisburg. Look at the Harrisburg skyline below and tell me if this is a small town:

[UPDATE: Here are the voices of the bitter themselves]

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