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NEW YORK — All ears were listening to US President-elect Barack Obama’s victory speech this week but fashion-watchers were looking closely at his wife Michelle’s dress — and the verdict was not so good.

Michelle Obama, wife of US president-elect Barack Obama, and Jill Biden, wife of US vice-president-elect Joe Biden, walk on stage during their election night victory rally. — AFP Despite comparisons during the campaign to stylish 1960s first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Michelle Obama was derided in opinion polls for her choice of a black and neon-red dress from Narciso Rodriguez’s spring 2009 ready-to-wear collection.

In an online poll by USA Today, 65% of more than 10,000 readers believed the Harvard-educated corporate lawyer and future first lady “had an off day” and 35% said “She looks fantastic as always.” An online poll by People magazine mirrored those results, while a Los Angeles Times online poll found 45% hated the dress and 34% loved it.

“The normally impeccable Michelle O made a questionable choice for her husband’s historic election night victory,” wrote Lesley Scott, editor of fashion and lifestyle blog www.fashiontribes.com. “It’s less than flattering.”

“However, every fashionista worth her salt takes risks,” Ms. Scott said, “which means the occasional misstep.”

Not everyone disliked Ms. Obama’s choice, which was shown on the catwalk only two months ago and is not yet available in stores. New York magazine hailed Ms. Obama for being able to hold her own against France’s first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a former supermodel.

“We have a feeling she’ll continue to mix affordable pieces with designer pieces as First Lady, but this wardrobe choice proves this woman knows fashion and we have an exciting four years of political fashion ahead of us,” the magazine said. “What will she choose for the inaugural ball? The suspense is so exciting! And you know what else is great about this? We don’t have to envy France for Carla Bruni anymore!”

Michelle Obama, wife of US president-elect Barack Obama, and Jill Biden, wife of US vice-president-elect Joe Biden, walk on stage during their election night victory rally. — AFP

Michelle Obama, wife of US president-elect Barack Obama, and Jill Biden, wife of US vice-president-elect Joe Biden, walk on stage during their election night victory rally. — AFP

“That dress was unpretentious,” Julie Gilhart, fashion director of New York’s top-price Barneys clothing store, told the Times. “It said, ’Be who you are — don’t let someone else tell you how to be.’”

The Italian daily La Stampa dubbed the dress “the look of victory” and said the black symbolized mourning for Obama’s grandmother, who died on the eve of the election, while the red was for passion.

A contributor to the Web site of the German newsweekly Focus also suggested there was hidden meaning in the colors, perhaps red for the political left and black for the first African-American to win the US presidency.

“It is more about the symbolic effect of the color combination red/black. Because the daughters were also in red or black. Very unusual and surely no accident,” the reader said.

Narciso Rodriguez’s spring 2009 ready-to-wear collection.

Narciso Rodriguez’s spring 2009 ready-to-wear collection.

Others were dismissive, describing the subject as superficial besides the historic importance of Barack Obama’s election win.

“The USA must be doing pretty well if it is worrying about the First Lady’s dress!” one typical Focus posting said.

Interest in Obama’s fashion has soared since she won particular praise for the purple sheath dress and black belt she wore in June when her husband clinched the nomination as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate.

While Republican candidate John McCain’s wife Cindy and his vice-presidential running mate Sarah Palin drew criticism for their high-end wardrobes, Ms. Obama won fans for affordable style. Ms. Obama wore a $150 dress on The View talk show, which became an instant hit. For The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, she donned an outfit from chain store J.Crew.

She has even inspired a Web site — http://www.mrs-o.org — dedicated to taking “a regular look at what and who she’s wearing” and encouraging enthusiasm for “the budding style icon, Mrs O.”

Ms. Obama already has a fashion track record, appearing in Vogue and being named twice on Vanity Fair’s international best-dressed list.

Reuters/AFP

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John McCain’s chaotic operation may well rank among recent history’s least successful efforts.

The GOP presidential campaign of 2008 will certainly be one that historians discuss for years to come. But not in the way that some Republicans had hoped for when they selected an experienced maverick, loved by the media, to face off against an inexperienced African-American who had trouble vanquishing his opponent in the primaries.

To be fair, the odds were stacked against any Republican. The economy has suffered while the incumbent president was phenomenally unpopular. Democrats were well organized and well financed. They found, in Barack Obama, an exceedingly charismatic and dynamic candidate.

But nothing is inevitable in American politics. A strong campaign, combined with the issue of race and fears about Obama’s inexperience, could have produced a different outcome.

History is filled with examples of campaigns marked by bad decisions and poor performances that undermined their chances of victory. In 1964, Republican Barry Goldwater made statements that allowed President Lyndon Johnson to depict him as a candidate too far out of the American mainstream. Eight years later, Richard Nixon returned the favor to Democratic Sen. George McGovern, who had put together a campaign that appealed to the New Left and other activists inspired by 1960s activism but failed to bring in traditional Democratic constituencies such as organized labor. In 1988, Democrat Michael Dukakis was the proverbial deer in the headlights when Republican Vice President George H.W. Bush and his team redefined the technocratic Massachusetts Democrat into an extreme card-carrying ACLU liberal who let out murderers on weekend furloughs. Bush then stumbled in 1992 with his tin ear about the economic recession. In 1996, Republican Robert Dole ran a lethargic campaign that emphasized nostalgia and suspicion while President Bill Clinton ran around the country boasting about peace and prosperity. During the last election, Sen. John Kerry didn’t adequately defend himself against “Swift-Boat” attacks.

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But Team McCain ran a campaign that ranks on the bottom of this list. This was an aimless and chaotic operation made worse by poor choices at key moments. Their first mistake was picking Gov. Sarah Palin. Though in the first week following her selection, Palin energized the conservative base of the GOP, she became a serious drag on the ticket. This turned into one of the worst picks since McGovern selected Thomas Eagleton, a Missouri senator who withdrew after revealing that he had gone through electroshock therapy and suffered from “nervous exhaustion.” By picking Palin, McCain simultaneously eliminated his own best argument against Senator Obama—the limited experience of his opponent—while compounding his own most negative image, that of someone who was erratic and out of control. The pick also fueled the feeling that grew throughout September and October that the Republican candidate was willing to take any step necessary to win the campaign. The Palin pick made every decision that followed seem purely political.

The second mistake was going dark. McCain missed the biggest lesson of the Reagan Revolution: conservatives usually do best when they appeal to America’s optimism and develop a positive campaign around a vision for the country. President George W. Bush understood this in 2000, stressing compassionate conservatism, and in 2004 he couched his candidacy in an optimistic argument about how the Bush Doctrine could strengthen America against terrorism and restore the kind of security that seemed lost after 9/11.

McCain and Palin rejected this approach, instead putting together a campaign that was almost entirely negative and focused on attacking their opponents. They sounded much more like Goldwater in 1964 than Reagan in 1980, opening themselves up to Obama’s charge that they were willing to divide the nation for the purpose of winning the election. They called Obama a socialist, an extremist and even linked him to a terrorist. The campaign got so out of control that a man at one Palin rally yelled “Kill him!”. McCain had to restore order at a town meeting when one woman explained how scared she was of having an “Arab” in office. Still, the McCain campaign continued to run advertisements connecting Obama to 1960s radical Bill Ayers.

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The third mistake was the “no-state” strategy. In contrast to Obama’s “50-state” strategy whereby Democrats hoped to win support in red states, the Republican ticket moved from one state to the next without any clear rationale. Just as the Republicans lacked a broader vision, they also lacked a clear electoral strategy. From the start, they were playing catch-up and allowing Democrats to drive their decisions. The goal seemed to be courting support only when polls were narrowing rather than deciding in which states to focus their efforts. While Democrats systematically laid out their organizational and financial efforts, Republicans scrambled from one place to the other.

The fourth mistake was the way McCain handled the crisis on Wall Street. McCain’s decision to temporarily stop the campaign and possibly call off the debate at the start of the Wall Street crisis in September looked terrible. McCain often looked a lot like President Bush in 1992: uncertain about what to do about the economy and at many moments not seeming to care. In contrast, Obama’s decisions and performance seemed presidential.

McCain’s final mistake was to leave his most politically powerful argument until it was too late. While there were many problems with Joe the Plumber, the argument could have been used much more effectively against Senator Obama: that the Democratic ticket was too left of center, especially on the issue of taxes. Toward the end of the campaign, McCain picked up some steam in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. But the argument came much too late and at a point when many Americans had become so cynical, and turned off, by the Republican campaign that McCain could not restore his strength.

Now, the McCain-Palin campaign will be added to the list of devastated losers. The odds against the Republican ticket were formidable as any political scientist will tell you. But McCain could have put up a more effective fight. Perhaps the best outcome for Republicans would be if they took the campaign to heart, learned from their mistakes, and figured out for the next time around how to put together a campaign that looks more like 1980 than 1964. At the same time the next GOP candidate needs to look toward the future, realizing that at least when it comes to the economy, the conservative era has finally come to an end.

Julian E. Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. He is the co-editor of “Rightward Bound: Making America Conservative in the 1970s” and is completing a book on the history of national-secu rity politics since World War II, to be published by Basic Books.

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On Saturday Night Live, as in campaign rallies, John McCain gets outdrawn by Sarah Palin.

Last night’s show, featuring a QVC-pitching McCain, pulled a 9.0 rating in the overnight ratings, per Nielsen stats, about 15 percent off last month’s Palin-powered SNL.

Overall, the McCain show was another winner for SNL, which saw the combination of the presidential candidate, wife Cindy McCain, faux running mate Tina Fey (as, natch, Palin) and host Ben Affleck (as Keith Olbermann, among others) boost ratings 27 percent over last week’s show.

Total viewer figures were not available, although, using last week’s numbers as a guide, a guess could be made that as many as 12 million tuned in. (About 14 million watched the Palin SNL.)

For the season, SNL is up nearly 70 percent over last season.

Source: E! Online

WASHINGTON – In the final weekend of a long race for the White House, Barack Obama promised to heal America’s political divisions while rival John McCain fought to hold on to Republican-leaning states and pledged to score an upset.

For Obama, buoyed by record campaign donations and encouraging poll numbers, it was a time for soaring rhetoric and forays into Republican territory. “We have a righteous wind at our back,” the Democrat said Saturday.

McCain saw the weekend as a final opportunity to persuade voters to prove the polls and pundits wrong and sweep him into office.

“We’re a few points down but we’re coming back,” he told supporters in Virginia.

Obama campaigned Saturday in Nevada, Colorado and Missouri, all states that voted for President Bush four years ago, while McCain struggled to keep Virginia from voting for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1964.

McCain also made a quick sidetrip to New York City and an appearance on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” where he joked about his campaign and his latest plan to win over voters.

“I thought I might try a strategy called the reverse maverick. That’s where I’d do whatever anybody tells me,” McCain said. If that failed, he quipped, “I’d go to the double maverick. I’d just go totally berserk and freak everybody out.”

Both men appealed to supporters to turn out on Election Day, saying the stakes could scarcely be higher.

“If you give me your vote on Tuesday, we won’t just win this election — together, we will change this country and change the world,” Obama said in a nationwide Democratic radio address.

Vice President Dick Cheney endorsed McCain, saying Americans “cannot afford the high tax liberalism of Barack Obama and Joe Biden.”

Obama, campaigning in Colorado, pounced on the remark, saying McCain had earned the endorsement through supporting the Bush administration’s failed social and economic policies.

“Bush and Cheney have dug a deep hole,” Obama said. “Now they’re trying to hand the shovel to McCain.”

An Associated Press-Yahoo News national poll of likely voters showed Obama ahead, 51 to 43, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. McCain’s campaign says its internal polling shows the gap closing.

John McCain poked fun at his presidential campaign’s financial shortcomings in an appearance on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” He appeared on the show with Tina Fey reprising her memorable impersonation of Sarah Palin. (Nov. 2) AP

From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE…

McCain House #6—Sunday Night

    “John, would you please go in the kitchen and fix me a ham sandwich?”

    “Let me say this, Cindy. I know how to fix a ham sandwich, and I will fix a ham sandwich when I’m elected president. For starters, I know where the kitchen is and I know how to find it. I know where the plates are. I know where the bread is, and I will be the one to pull out the right number of slices and place them on the plate in such a way that the mustard can be spread.

    Yes, my friends, I know where the mustard is and as president I will have a plan to spread it effectively. I know this stuff because I am a maverick. I can do it and I will do it. Let’s talk about lettuce. My opponent is inexperienced on this issue. I’ve been around long enough to know about Romaine, butter, iceberg, bib, Boston and celtuce, as well as loose greens like mesclun. But I promise you this: I will fight every day against the advancing red tide of commie cabbage and I’m not afraid to use force if necessary.

    I know how to lead this nation in these dangerous leafy times, my friends. Now, I see the yellow light on my lectern is blinking, but if I may for a moment address another critical issue facing this country today, and that is the thickness of domestic pre-packaged ham slices. When I was a POW, we didn’t have ham, my friends, or even a chair…”

    “Oh fer god’s sake, never mind. I’ll have the butler do it.”

Source: Daily Kos

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