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McCain Redux

Inquiring minds want to know: John McCain's came-and-went visit to Santa Barbara, in which he thought it bright to tout the virtue of offshore oil drilling, raises intriguing questions about his future campaign itinerary: Will the soon-to-be GOP presidential nominee now parachute into Wisconsin in order to attack cheese? Travel to Fenway Park to confess a passion for the Yankees? Seek support in San Francisco by hailing heteronormativity?

At a time when bitter partisan schisms over taxes, spending, schools, prisons, gay marriage and pretty much everything else rule state politics, about the only issue that unifies California politicians is opposition to more offshore drilling. Montecito resident Don Sipple, a veteran Republican campaign operative, put it nicely when he said opposition to drilling is "not an issue here, it's a deeply held value" in an interview for a solid L.A. Times analysis [of the controversy.][1]

During his S.B. stopover, McCain did his best to downplay the offshore issue. Even without the hale band of protesters invoking the '69 oil spill outside his "energy roundtable" event at the Museum of Natural History, he got an earful in his campaign's own, screened venues. At the roundtable, Michael Feeney, executive director of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, an invited panelist, told the Arizonan that U.S. energy policy should focus on "reducing demand and improving efficiency" [not poking more holes in the ocean.][2]

Top local prize for speaking truth to power, however, goes to Dr. Dan Secord, who overcame his natural shyness to unload on McCain at a private fundraiser Monday night at the Hope Ranch home of vintner Bill Foley. Dr. Dan got barrels of national ink for piping up at the event to tell his party's leader: "We're really kind of goosey here about oil spills, and we're goosey here about federal drilling and oil lands, which are abundant offshore" [as Bloomberg News reports here.][3] To which McCain responded: "This gathering is adjourned."

Of course, Governor Terminator, a McCain supporter who heroically passed up the, uh, Capital Prayer Breakfast in Sacramento to be with his guy Tuesday [as the Sacramento Bee reported,][4] had already blasted the offshore idea, about eight seconds after McCain announced it a few days ago.

So why would McCain come to the birthplace of the environmental movement days after endorsing an unpopular president's renewed call for pockmarking three-fourths of the nation's perimeter (an endorsement, let us recall, that represents a reversal of McCain's previous offshore position)?

Three key factoids:

1-McCain's odds of winning California's 55 electoral votes are about as good as UCSB's odds of capturing the national collegiate football championship.

2-Energy issues, including gas prices, now tie the economy as the most crucial issue of the campaign for voters [according to a new USA Today-Gallup poll.][5]

3-Fifty-five percent of those surveyed favor drilling for oil in "environmentally important" areas with "proper controls" [ a new L.A. Times-Bloomberg survey shows.][6]

So here's a guess: At a time when Republicans are doing all they gain to portray Obama as an elitist, McCain has a Sister Souljah moment in Santa Barbara, telling Obama's decaf nonfat latte crowd what they don't want to hear on behalf of beer-swilling battleground state voters angry about paying $4.50 a gallon.

Or maybe he just came for the money.

Media Matters: No presidential campaign's disturbance of a community would be complete without self-important, national press corps members showing off how savvy they are by dropping choice bits of local color, lore or language into reports for their East Coast audiences. Best of the genre for McCain's stop came from Time magazine's The Page found here.

Run by the estimable Mark Halperin, the site is a must-read among the political cognoscenti, specializing in frequently updated, multi-media campaign news delivered in a quick and accessible style. But Tuesday morning's advance report on the Grand Canyon Stater's appearance here combined a groaner main headline "McCain Goes Green in Cali" (has a single person in the history of California ever referred to the state as "Cali?") with a deck hed saying he would speak at the "Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History" that ran directly above a lovely photo of:The Santa Barbara Mission.

There were no injuries.

[1]: http:// www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-na-offshore24-2008jun24,0,1535032.story [2]: http:// www.nytimes.com/2008/06/25/us/politics/25campaign.html?_r=1&ref=politics&oref=slogine [3]: http:// www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aWqfvBZ3bJ7I&refer=homefolp [4]: http:// www.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/capitolalertlatest/013468.html [5]: http:// www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-06-22-poll-edge_N.htm [6]: http:// www.latimes.com/news/custom/timespoll/

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