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Chris Cillizza's Politics Blog -- The Fix's Politics Blog

Posted at 12:10 PM ET, 09/ 7/2008

Sunday Reading: Steve Schmidt Examined

The Fix continues to ease his way back into everyday life -- doing chores around the house, hitting the gym and reading the Sunday papers.

One particular story -- written by New York Timesmen Jim Rutenberg and Adam Nagourney -- that profiles Steve Schmidt, the man in charge of John McCain's presidential campaign, is a must-read for political junkies looking to understand the next 58 days.

Schmidt has risen rapidly in Republican politics. Schmidt's first high profile campaign role was a decade ago when he served as communications director for Matt Fong's unsuccessful Senate bid in California. Four years later he was the head of the communications department of the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2002 election season, which is where the paths of The Fix and Schmidt first crossed. He went on to serve as the head of rapid response in the 2004 Bush campaign and the campaign manager for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2006 re-election bid.

During that string of successes, Schmidt has established himself as a major strategic force in the party with a style heavily reliant on a rigorous management and a clear campaign hierarchy.

It's those characteristics that Schmidt has brought to McCain's operation in the few months since he has taken charge of it.

Write Rutenberg and Nagourney:

In the three months since that night in June, the McCain organization has become a campaign transformed: an elbows-out, risk-taking, disciplined machine that was on display here last week at the Republican convention that nominated Mr. McCain. And the catalyst for the change has largely been Mr. Schmidt, 37, a veteran of the winning 2002 Congressional and 2004 presidential campaigns, where he worked closely with Karl Rove, then Mr. Bush's senior strategist.

Rove himself praised Schmidt in the piece; "Since the elevation of Schmidt and his new responsibilities, he's given the campaign a new focus and energy and drive that's been very impressive," Rove said.

(For you conspiracy theorists out there who believe Rove is secretly running the McCain campaign through Schmidt, here's a piece of contrary evidence: after Rove told that McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was a "campaign decision" and not a "governing" one, Schmidt publicly castigated the former White House adviser.)

Schmidt even wins praise from another notoriously hard hitting political operative -- Howard Wolfson, former communications director for Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid. "He brings a single-minded intensity and focus to the campaigns he's involved in," said Wolfson of Schmidt. "He's the guy who knows the value of waking up every day and knowing what you are going to say at end of the day about your candidate and your opponent."

Love him or hate him (and there are plenty of people who do both), Schmidt will play an outsized role in determining the identity of the next president of the United States. Do yourself a favor and read this piece.

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Posted at 01:17 PM ET, 09/ 6/2008

Milbank, the Eastern Media Elite and a Fix Cameo

Washington Sketcher -- and all-around funny man and good guy -- Dana Milbank with the help of videographer extraordinaire Akira "Aki" Hakuta explores the inner workings of the Eastern Media Elite during the final days of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

Warning: What Dana finds may well shock you. Proceed with caution.

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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 09/ 5/2008

The Friday Line: The Best Speeches

Schweitzer, Thompson, Obama, Clinton, Palin

Stemwinding their way through the conventions: Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, former president Bill Clinton, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

ST. PAUL -- After 13 straight days on the road, The Fix is headed back to Washington today to celebrate the end of the two parties' national conventions and the hot start of the Catholic University field hockey team.

Friday Line

But, if it's Friday...well, you know the rest. And since we have spent the last two weeks reading, watching and analyzing dozens of speeches by scads of politicians, we thought a Line dedicated to the best of these addresses would make for good fodder for this Friday.

Our take on the five best speeches are below. Agree with our rankings? Disagree? The comments section is open for business.

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Posted at 11:10 PM ET, 09/ 4/2008

McCain's Speech: How Did He Do?

John McCain

Republican presidential candidate John McCain accepted his party's nomination for president and delivered a speech focused on reform and patriotism. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

ST. PAUL -- John McCain sought to reclaim the change mantle from Barack Obama in his acceptance speech tonight at the Republican National Convention, casting the choice in the fall presidential election between someone who has brought about reform and someone who simply talks about doing so.

"Again and again I've worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed," said McCain. "That's how I will govern as president. I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not."

Citing his selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, McCain insisted the Republican ticket was truly the ticket of change in the coming fall election. "I can't wait to introduce her to Washington," McCain said of Palin. "And let me offer an advance warning to the old, big spending, do nothing, me first, country second Washington crowd: change is coming."

Weaved amid his praise of Palin and his contrasts with Obama, McCain also leaned heavily on his personal story to show attendees in the hall and television viewers the sacrifices he has made for his country.

"I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's," said McCain, adding: "I loved it because it was not just a place but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn't my own man anymore. I was my country's."

So, did the speech work for you? Did McCain build on the momentum built by Palin last night? If so, why? If not, why not?

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Posted at 03:45 PM ET, 09/ 4/2008

McCain's Speech: What Does He Need To Do?

ST. PAUL -- For John McCain -- prisoner of war, congressman, senator and now the GOP presidential nominee -- his entire life has been building to his address tonight before the Republican National Convention.

The lead-in to his address could hardly have been more ideal. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain's choice for vice president, surpassed all expectations last night with a speech that established her as both a rising star on the national scene and, at least for now, a major asset for the Republican ticket.

With the Republican base energized for the first time in this general election race, McCain's job tonight is to keep the ball rolling, taking full advantage of his compelling life story and character traits that helped him through the roughest periods of his long drive for for the presidential nomination.

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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 09/ 4/2008

Convention Cheat Sheet: Palin's Coming Out Party

ST. PAUL -- When Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin stepped onto the stage at the Republican National Convention last night, all the pieces were in place for her to perform well.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani had warmed up the crowd with a polemic against Barack Obama -- painting the Illinois senator as too inexperienced, too elitist and too cocky to be president of the United States.

The audience -- packed with Republican activists -- was ready to love her, believing that the media coverage over the last few days was the result of the press' liberal bent and disdain for conservative principles.

And, Palin had spent the last several days sequestered from prying eyes -- working on the speech that could make or break her (and John McCain's) chances this fall.

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Posted at 11:11 PM ET, 09/ 3/2008

Palin Speaks: How Did She Do?

Sarah Palin

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin went on the attack tonight, going after the media and drawing sharp distinctions between John McCain and Barack Obama. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

ST. PAUL -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin took to the stage at the Republican National Convention tonight and delivered the most-anticipated speech of this gathering.

Palin, as expected, sought to turn her roots as a small-town mayor into an asset -- referring to herself as a "hockey mom" (expect to hear that phrase A LOT more this fall) and making note that her political career began on the PTA.

She also painted her lack of experience in Washington as a strength in this campaign.

"I'm not a member of the permanent political establishment," said Palin. "And I've learned quickly these past few days that if you're not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone."

The speech was received with wild applause inside the convention hall; the attendees were ready to explode for Palin and she did enough to let them.

But how did it play outside the Xcel Center? Did Palin clear the expectations bar set for her going into tonight? Or did she miss the mark?

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