Carly Fiorina at the DNC
Well, America, in case you've forgotten, there's a whole 'nother party out there vying for your attention, and while this Democratic National Convention might look very promising with its pastel backgrounds and its Edward Kennedy tributes that will eventually make everyone think he's already dead, John McCain is just waiting in the shadows for his turn. That's part of the reason that senior McCain adviser Carly Fiorina is holding court in Denver (the other part is that she, like so many of us, just like to sit back and watch the insanity from the bleacher seats).
In all seriousness, its not just about making fun of Democrats or pretending to want their votes. For Fiorina and her boss, there is a very real opportunity to reach out to a demographic that Republicans aren't used to picking up -- Democrats who don't feel as though they're being represented by their party's chosen candidate. According to Fiorina, " My purpose is to reach out to Democrats and to make sure that we convey the message to them that John McCain will work for every vote and that John McCain looks forward to receiving the support of not just Republicans but Democrats and Independents."
She, like so many other news networks and casual observers of the Denver event, have recognized that there's a certain percentage of Hillary Clinton voters who have still not admitted that the more liberal wing of their party won out, and -- particularly following a week of rumors that Hillary wasn't even vetted as a potential Vice President -- they're feeling understandably disenfranchised. Despite the best efforts of Democratic coalitions, special interest groups, other delegates and Diane Sawyer, many Clinton supporters who are pledged delegates are still unsure whether they're ready to throw in the towel.
McCain doesn't intend to leave this stone unturned. Its increasingly evident that McCain sees himself as a "compromise candidate," a possibility substantiated by a career of bipartisanship -- sometimes at the cost of his own popularity, and the Republican brand. With this in mind, he's courting moderate Democrats...and apparently succeeding. According to Carly Fiorina, several prominent Democrats are already defecting to the enemy camp. "I was pleased yesterday in a press conference to introduce four people who have been active in the Democratic party who are now supporting John McCain," Fiorina said. "While party is very important, the country comes first. They see John McCain as a man who puts his country first. They saw this person in Hillary Clinton, they saw judgment and experience in Hillary Clinton and they see those same things in John McCain."
So is Hillary Angst breeding a whole new generation of Republicans? According to Fiorina, its not about the parties, which have had a habit -- at least in the last eight years -- of pretending as though Americans fell into either the Red or Blue camp, rather than seeing them as individual voters. Fiorina says its not about pulling people in for a lifelong commitment; its about seeing each vote as something important to win. "Every American owns their own vote," she says. "A party doesn't own your vote, a candidate does not own your vote and as a citizen you can choose to place that vote wherever you feel will serve your country best. Its motivating people to move toward John McCain."
That is, of course, not to say that there isn't a voting bloc out there that isn't being served. "I think its particularly important for women to recognize that no one owns their vote but them they are now 52% of the voting public...they are not a contitutency, they are a majority." It appears that Fiorina and McCain share a very popular view with Hillary supporters -- that Hillary's ouster was a commentary on how deeply the Democratic party valued women's votes. Thinking that women would stay solidly in the Democratic camp because of the Democrats' firmer commitment to reproductive rights and other "womens' issues" seems to be a miscalculation. "[Women] cannot be categorized as going for a single issue only," says Fiorina. "Pro life and pro choice women are casting their vote...whatever you think about reproducive rights or life, that is only one issue among many.
"Women are a political force, economic force, they start small businesses at twice the rate of men. Women do, in fact care about the economy, national security, energy independence, education and health care." That combination of issues, Fiorina feels, puts many women solidly in the McCain camp. Perhaps with so much influence, some views on reproductive freedom could even change. "As a majority and as key leaders in the family and the nation, women need to stand up and cast their votes."
Carly Fiorina does not believe that even Biden is enough to bring Hillary Clinton supporters into Obama's camp. "The people who I have been talking to for many months are not swayed by the choice of Joe Biden to vote for Barack Obama." She and her boss actually seem relieved and seem to view Hillary as the tougher candidate. "You know, if you wanted a proven campaigner on the ticket, pick Hillary Clinton. If you want a proven vote getter, pick Hillary Clinton. A proven debater...her supporters are not particularly mollified by that choice although Biden is a good and honorable man and a fine choice."
In the end, though, Fiorina believes, rather conveniently, that Hillary Clinton was not given a fair shake, or really given much respect in the selection process. She believes that the Democratic party will lose supporters because of it, and believes that those supporters might find a home -- at least this time around, and if they can stand it -- in the welcoming arms of the Republican party.
Heaven knows, we could use a few more good women.