What a treat! Friday night I was a guest on “This Week in Northern California,” hosted by the legendary Belva Davis on KQED-TV9, the equally legendary public TV station in San Francisco. Longtime KTVU cameraman Bill Moore was there, too! As a 15-year veteran of this TV market, I thought I had some chops; but I felt like a new pine tree in the shadow of the Redwoods! As I said, it was a real treat!
First, let me just say that I’m glad KQED exists, because the political coverage on some other local TV stations has waned in recent years to the point of being trite or nonexistent. Call me “old school,” but anyone licensed by the FCC still has a civic duty and a moral obligation to broadcast in the public interest. In plain English, that means more political coverage and less “ambulance chasing.” Enough said on that!
We had great fun discussing and debating the issues tonight. Speaking of debates, we talked a lot about the Vice-presidential contest between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. It was billed as being almost “Ali-Frazier IV,” in the tradition of the great boxing series. As I said on TV tonight, Biden won by showing his competence and experience; and “Palin won by not imploding on stage.” All the pre-debate fear mongering was bizarre; but given Palin's uneven interviews with Katie Couric and others, she had somehow lowered the bar. That’s a shame, because this lady is a dragon slayer. She took on, and beat, Governor Frank Murkowski, one of the Republican political giants of Alaska. That Joe Biden was such a hurdle seemed odd; but, again - given her weak recent interviews and the lack of more press access - many expected a Palin meltdown. It didn’t happen, and she stood fairly strong.
None of this may matter, however. Two weeks ago the tide of the national economy turned like a hurricane, and so may the tide of this election. As I mentioned to Belva tonight, the latest polls in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia have turned. Solid McCain states are now leaning toward Obama, albeit barely. If any one of those states goes Democrat on election night, just go to bed. Unless the McCain-Palin ticket wins ALL THREE, this race is over.
Bill Clinton won in 1992, when the nation was in a relatively mild recession, by saying, “It’s the economy, stupid!” That saying means the economy is always the number one issue among American voters, unless there is some violent, threatening turmoil lurking. The sudden meltdown and even more sudden “fix” of the past two weeks have jarred this election. Even though both Obama and McCain voted for the bailout plan, a sinking economy always hurts the incumbent party in the White House (though not the Congress, which is ironic).
John McCain’s fortunes will rise or fall depending on what the economy does in the next four and a half weeks and on what he plans to do about it. How Sarah Palin performed in the debate is almost irrelevant at this point.
“This Week in Northern California” repeats at 1:30 and 7:00 Saturday morning, and it airs again at 5:00 pm Sunday on KQED-TV9. You can also check it out at www.kqed.org. As always, more blogs and politics from me at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.