The chief pollster for John McCain's presidential campaign offered a candid diagnosis of how his candidate was done in, on occasion reserving harsh words for fellow Republicans.
Bill McInturff, speaking at a National Journal breakfast on Thursday, said the political environment for the GOP in 2008 was worse than anything he has seen in his time polling since former Soviet empires were breaking the shackles of communism.
"Reporters would call me up and say, 'have you ever seen this?'" McInturff said of George W. Bush's approval ratings. "And I say, 'yeah, Bulgaria 1992.'"
"We had a very unpopular war and the most unpopular president in American polling history," he explained, by way of summarizing the election. "We had a 70 percent wrong track and we were winning. We were winning. And what happened? We said that's not hard enough for John McCain. We should implode the financial markets. And what happens? We go from 70 percent wrong track to literally 90 percent."
Unrestrained by the formalities of the election, McInturff levied some sharps words at fellow GOPers who -- generally speaking -- never really were bullish on the idea of a McCain presidency. The most biting jabs were saved for communications guru Frank Luntz.
"I saw Frank Luntz," said McInturff, "who is a moron -- I want to make sure this is clearly on the record -- he was talking to Republican governors, making fun of John for not being able to use a BlackBerry. The man can't do it because he is much more disabled than people can imagine... I would like to take a hammer and start breaking bones in Frank's arms."
McInturff later noted that the Obama campaign ran an ad on this very topic, and vice presidential candidate Joe Biden criticized the spot because of its insensitivity.
In addition to going after Luntz, McInturff highlighted several factors that he credited with truly hurting the McCain candidacy. The first, and most obvious, was the crisis in the financial markets and the failure of the House of Representatives to quickly pass a bailout packaged.
"We had the House not voting for the bailout," he said, "which kept that story going for another seven days and helped implode the campaign."
The second was McCain's age, which was a huge handicap in a change election.
"When you have a 70-year-old nominee versus a new generation candidate," he said, "it is very hard."
The final, and most surprising, was the Hispanic vote, which trended heavily towards Obama. McInturff said that the most effective commercial of the campaign was the Spanish-language spot, put up by the now president-elect, which claimed that conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh was a McCain ally on immigration. Mainly, however, Obama had a huge financial advantage that allowed him to make great inroads within this and other minority communities.
"If the other team has 700 million and they are spending five times as much on Spanish language media saying that crap," he said, "it has an effect."
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