Archive for the ‘Political Strategy’ Category
For the second cycle in a row, the Presidential election feels decided before the leaves have even started to fall. I think there are obvious comparisons for Governor Romney to Governor Dukakis and Senator Kerry. (Maybe both parties should stay away from Massachusetts for a few decades.) However, if anything is to be learned from the current election, the next best comparison is usually the previous election. As losing provides far more lessons than winning, the lessons to be learned are for the Republicans. I have no hope they will learn them yet. They seems a stubborn bunch. They will get another moral victory at the midterms in ’14 to prove them “right” but unless they do something different, 2016 will play out like the previous two presidential elections.
The Republican nomination goes to a candidate that once appeared acceptable to independents and thus had a path to victory in a general election. However, over the course of the primaries, he is badly damaged from having to take so many extreme positions in order to shore up his right. Even after getting the nomination, he is viewed with skepticism on the right. So in a final bid for their support and in the only real and tangible way he can prove his fealty, he nominates a VP candidate the base can love. The problem is that the VP candidate loses them far more votes than it gains them. It’s not a game changer, it’s a game ender.
While it seemed obvious to me with the last two selections, you wouldn’t know it from the way they crowed over the picks in the right wing fever swamps. Senator McCain’s choice of Governor Sarah Palin was heralded. She was an instant hit on the right but to those not locked into the Republican brand, it became obvious she was completely out of her depth. I called her selection a disaster and loser within a day. McCain had failed the test. It took a little longer for others to get there but eventually it was clear she was more of a liability than an asset. With his selection of Representative Paul Ryan, Gov. Romney learned one lesson from the previous selection, don’t pick a blank slate, pick a serious person. But the main problem persisted, he still felt he needed to shore up his support on the right, he felt he needed a true believer. And he got one in Rep. Ryan, a serious ideologue, a true believer with a record. Once again the pick was heralded, another good looking, vibrant candidate to rally the base but this time, a smart one with a plan. While being a empty vessel was Gov. Palin’s vulnerability, Rep. Ryan is brimming over with ideas like turning Medicare into a voucher program. That’s why one of my first thoughts upon his selection was maybe his selection wins WI but it loses FL, and if Romney loses FL, he will lose this election. So while the right lapped up the selection, I waited patiently for things to play out. What they thought was a game changer was again a game loser. It’s taken a month or so but the numbers in Florida and specifically the polls on Medicare are heading in the wrong direction for Romney.
I am not actually suggesting the VP selections are the cause of losing these elections. They made close elections into significant losses and are the best evidence that the typical right wing, post-mortem on the election, “McCain/Romney wasn’t conservative enough,” misses the point. It’s not the candidates, it’s the extreme beliefs of the right that are the problem. Sen. McCain and Gov. Romney polled well enough prior to their party primaries. They seemed viable candidates in a general election and then the primaries began. Forced to tow a strict party line that essentially disavows science and is hostile to the growing latino population, their favorability among critical independents fell. That is, when forced to agree with and affirm what the far right base believes, they became less popular with everyone else. Then they both chose to saddle themselves with true believer VP candidates that best represented the far right beliefs. Positions that weakened the candidate by taking them during the primary. And the losses got deeper. I repeat. The more conservative they tried to be to win the nomination, the worse their chances got in the general election Then selecting a deeply conservative VP candidate made their November defeat worse that it would have been.
2012 did add two wrinkles but these only serve to prove my point further. Belief is one thing. When it is translated into policy, that’s when the rubber meets the road. In January – March 2011, the 2010 victories in statehouse across the country bore fruit as the GOP-dominated legislatures went into session. But then these sessions brought terms like “transvaginal untrasounds” and personhood amendments to the fore. Coming in the middle of the primary season, the stink of extreme right wing agendas from capitals around the country stuck to the candidates and none more than the leading candidate, Gov. Romney. His numbers took a dive. The other wrinkle was in Tampa. For days, the focus wasn’t just on Gov. Romney it was also on the Republican brand. The GOP had days to talk directly to Americans. The convention culminated with Governor Mitt Romney all wrapped up in Republicanism. The result, a bounce to be certain, but a first to my eyes, a negative bounce. After nearly a week of the Romney and the Republicans show, Romney was worse off.
But to the hardline right wing, the problem is still that Gov. Romney isn’t making the full throated case for conservatism. When the video emerged of Gov. Romney writing off 47% of the population as takers, the response from the hardliners was that he should be making this case, louder, every day in the public square. While that might be cathartic, how out of touch with reality do you have to be to suggest a political strategy that writes off nearly half the population? A part of the population that actually includes a good bit of your constituency liker seniors and veterans. If the aim is to win the election, that seems a pretty poor strategy.
Rep. Ryan suggested that this is a choice election and if so, maybe Gov. Romney isn’t the best one to represent that choice. Yet whenever, America gets a real glimpse of what the choice is, they choose the Democrat. The far right just refuses to see it or acknowledge it because their candidate wasn’t “conservative enough.”
The only way out of this cycle is for the far right to finally get their guy on the top of the ticket in 2016. As the Republican Party usually nominates the 2nd place finisher from the previous primary cycle, maybe 2016 will be their year as that would make Senator Santorium the standard bearer. Sen. Santorium would be the perfect candidate to represent true conservatives. He could take their message across the country from school gyms to meeting halls. From New Hampshire and Iowa to the GOP convention hall. His message could save the Republican Party… by leading them to their worst Presidential election loss since Barry Goldwater in ’64. Maybe then they’ll realize it’s not the candidates, it’s that the GOP has gotten too extreme and is out of step with the majority of Americans.
While I don’t fully buy the hyperbolic punditry Drew Westen put out there the week before last that suggested the President can, simply through speechifying, reignite the economy and magically force a taciturn and Tea-Party congress his way, it is getting to the stage where it is about the messaging because the results can’t be had with this Congress.
I have come to agree with those who suggest the Truman ’48 model provides guidance like Ornstein. Obama can turn the corner and I believe he will just like he did during 2008 — way too late for my preference but usually, given immediate hindsight, at just the right time for the American public.
I have come to learn that I’m a go-for-the-juggler-early type of campaign guy. If a GOPer pisses me off, I instinctively go for the can of whup-ass and the pictures of the candidate with the stripper, receiving briefcases full of cash from cigarette lobbyists, or pushing grandma out the way in the grocery express lane. Obama, on the other hand, is a big fan of the rope-a-dope. The trick to that tactic, in the dystopian, never-ending, “Max Headroom” news cycle, it that it takes time for the American people to catch up with the idiocy of their elected representatives in order to be effective. As much as I despised how things went down with the the debt deal, it did have the effect of tanking the GOP’s numbers. Across the board they came out much worse than they went in, despite winning the battle and appeasing the Tea Party maniacs running the asylum.
At some point, though, the long view becomes the short game by necessity of the sheer march of time. September feels about right. Here’s hoping the WH and Obama feels the urgency to punch these people in the face for their irresponsible and, on the face of it, insane actions and statements. The people, and the polls, would reward him for doing it.
I had the luck of being abroad this week so I had some time to collect my thoughts, avoiding the typical knee-jerk punditry I usually do, thanks to timezone differences with those calling me from the U.S. east coast and absurdly high roaming rates. (I haven’t paid $0.99/min for a call since I was 13 and convinced myself trying out 1-900 numbers would be a fun thing to do.)
As the election neared, friends, mainly of the conservative ilk, asked me what I thought was going to happen. Luckily, I hadn’t budged from my predictions posted here. Fair enough, the official unemployment rate in October was 9.6% and not 10% and the Dem’s lost the House so I didn’t quite nail the spread, but, overall, for a 6-month out prediction I think I fared pretty well. Certainly better than those who predicted a 100 seat win.
So, what the hell happened?
1. Unemployment matters. And the technical unemployment number has about as much to do with the real misery, pain, and fear going out there as does the formal designation of the close of a recession, which, by the way, economists told us was months ago. Feel better yet?
2. Congress missed a window. The House or Senate, mainly the latter, should have taken action on any number of items that could have made a difference between a 60 seat shellacking, to use the President’s descriptor, and a 50 or 45 seat bruising. DADT, Immigration Reform, keeping the middle-class portion of the Bush tax cuts; any or several of them, even better, would have reminded Dem or Dem-leaning voters why they voted for a Democratic Congress and White House in the first place. Instead, 29 million of Obama’s 2008 supporters simply stayed home. It’s not rocket science why. Yes, HCR was a significant improvement, but in today’s 24 hour news cycle, it’s what you did for me lately, not what you did for me last year that will take affect in 2014 provided certain conditions are met and implementation is handled correctly. The GOP is exceedingly skillful at manipulating the Congressional calendar for this (think back to the 2002 pre-election vote on the Iraq war authorization for one example) while the Democratic party seems only to use the calendar as an excuse for inaction.
3. Seats that are a reach will always be vulnerable. Fact is there were a solid 15 seats in Democratic hands that, given decent opposition and headwinds against them, wouldn’t be. Between 2006 and 2008, the party was effective at candidate recruitment in many districts that were not only GOP-leaning, but were double-digit McCain districts. It’s either naivete or political malpractice to think you’re going to keep those by dint of incumbency. So, those seats returned to their natural position on the spectrum. Almost all of them.
4. Tea Party is a mixed bag for the GOP. In the Senate races, not to mention several gubernatorial, the Tea Party-endorsed or supported candidate turned out to be an absolute disaster. Here’s the deal, GOP: You lost the Senate because of Tea Party candidates.
– Christine O’Donnell: You had the seat. Done. Signed, sealed, delivered. You primaried a gimme and ended up with a wholly unqualified candidate in a cycle that seemed to make that, in and of itself, a premiere qualification for office. Luckily, the Democrats didn’t put up a sacrificial lamb and, voila, one seat saved.
– Sharon Angle: Underestimate Reid at your own peril. Here, again, you had the seat. You could have nominated any one of several electable candidates, but, instead, went with a parochial candidate in a year when having power (and, yes, pork — get over it), mattered. Reid managed to climb out of incredible unfavorables to beat you because of it. Congrats. Another seat saved.
– Carlie Fiorina: No, not really a Tea Partier per se, but she certainly liked to play one on TV. This was the worst kind of “Tea Party” candidate, in my opinion. Not one who’s nuttiness and blatant anti-intellectualism made her a match for many Tea Party supporters, but one who came to it out of sheer opportunism. (Tea Party folks: Seriously, a former CEO who nearly crashed an American technology icon with tens of thousands of jobs outsourced in the process is your ideal candidate? Better check yourself before you wreck yourself.) Again, in the light of day, wasn’t a match for Boxer. Seat saved.
– Linda McMahon: This was a double strike for the GOP’s extreme elements. In the primary, you had a candidate who served in the Vietnam war. The party’s base goes for a multi-millionnaire founder of a wrestling league instead. The Democratic party switches out Dodd for Blumenthal, who, it turns out, wasn’t always absolutely clear about how he served during the Vietnam era. Hmmm: Maybe you should have rethought that nomination. Millions of dollars spent. Seat saved.
And that’s 4. Swing Lieberman your way and there you go. You have a majority.
In the House, though, I would submit it’s a different picture. For all the problems I have with the Tea Party, the participation of its supporters in the GOP nominating process has resulted in some, emphasis on some, legitimately fresh blood in the Congress. Some of their candidates come from truly different backgrounds than those who preceded them, Democrat or Republican, and will shake things up. The only question I have for all of them is this: Campaigning on overthrowing the system is one thing; what you do to actualize that when you get in office without burning the place down is another. It will be a tougher decision for many of these newly elected Representatives, and the GOP House leadership, to figure out than they think.
5. Can’t undo in 2 years what it took 50 to create: This nation faces many mammoth challenges. The American people displayed a stunning willingness to fall for a 6 minute workout-style ploy, supported by major financial interests in many cases (thank you SCOTUS and Citizens United) that have anything but the average American’s best interests in mind. No, you can’t eat what you want and lose weight. Losing weight takes time, lots of it. America needs to get on a diet. Pick your challenge: From the deficit, to foreign wars, to entitlements, to infrastructure, to education. Everyone of us is going to have to sacrifice to return this country to greatness. To those who felt voting the opposite direction universally from the way they voted the last election was somehow going to speed this process, please think of any great change in your life. Whether it was finding your way to a faith or overcoming addiction, none of those transformations happened overnight or without sacrifice.
6. The message matters, but so does fighting for it. The President needs to understand it’s one thing to legislate the right way, it’s another to explain to the American people, every waking minute if need be, why that legislation matters to them and matters now. That’s fighting for it. That’s calling out the opposition for obstructing it. That’s throwing down the gauntlet.
Real Washington isn’t Hollywood, but it seemed right to draw inspiration from it for the purposes of explaining exactly what this President needs to do. He needs an “American President” moment. This moment:
I believe this President can and will rise to the challenge. I ask him to do it soon. I ask him to make clear to the new House that he welcomes their input, as he has, but that there are certain things, such as repealing HCR, that will be DOA and will be vetoed. Pushing these priorities will, therefore, be a waste of the House’s time and, more importantly, that of the American people.
Minority Leader Boehner claimed today the GOP could net more than 100 seats this fall. Whoa, there, John. Might want to ease off on the instant tan for a few days, big fella. The always brilliant Nate Silver has suggested, however, that the Dems are in a rough spot and could lose upwards of 70, flipping the House. I think that’s a bit far-fetched, but I can’t take issue with the online oracle’s predictive capabilities and spreadsheet macro mastery. I do, however, have my own back-of the envelope math for this fall:
– First, assume the Dem’s lose 20 seats because (A) it’s the mid-terms in the first term of a particularly successful Democratic president (from a legislative perspective) and, perhaps more importantly, (B) there are at least 15 seats we shouldn’t by all reasonable measures be holding, and, as a donor, I frankly don’t want the DCCC spending limited resources to defend.
– Second, let’s assume there is significant progress on issues of import to the Democratic base, bolstering confidence and closing the all-important enthusiasm gap. With the passage of HCR, the party dodged a Titanic-like implosion of confidence. (Someone called that one a while ago. Hmmmm.) With Wall Street reform on a greased track, immigration reform on deck, and a helpful SCOTUS nomination fight reminding the base why elections do matter. Tough to say exactly the value in lose/gain seats out of these presumed legislative victories, but let’s say a win on all three ensures against complete wipe-out in November owing to Democratic base dissatisfaction.
– Third, these elements matter, but are trifling in significance compared to one metric: Unemployment. Yes, the economy, as judged by the market, GDP, productivity, and even the debt are all important figures and, sure, matter tremendously to slices of the electorate, but none have a greater impact on the baseline happiness quotient of the average American more than unemployment. Pure and simple: This number remains high and incumbents will lose. House, Senate, Governor, Mayor, I don’t care who you are — if you got an “I” next to your name on the ballot and unemployment is 10%+, you might want to brush up your LinkedIN profile and start eying resume paper. Want more specificity? Okay, here’s my handy-dandy Dem House loss benchmark chart based on unemployment (as of October):
10%+ – (Including the 20 mentioned in the first rule above) Dem Losses = 40+ ~ Lose House
Below 10% Dem Losses = 35 ~ Keep House (barely)
9% Dem Losses = 32
8.5 = 30
8 = <30
… And so on.
Main point is this, the elections are not tomorrow, but they ain’t happening in a separate dimension or a full year from now. If the mood of the electorate doesn’t demonstrably improve on the economy, the House Dem’s are in a world of hurt. If, however, we enjoy two consistent quarters of growth between now and election day, Dem’s will hold the House, albeit with a smaller margin.
And why that may be better for the caucus will be the subject of another column.
Yes, I’m a bona fide political dork: I’m at home on a Saturday night, enjoying the Correspondents Dinner on c-span. That’s right. If you must, judge me. If you’re reading this site, though, I can’t imagine you can judge me too harshly.
Having some British lineage, I track UK elections with some fascination. Given our interminable 2008 presidential election cycle, I have enviously watched the weeks involved in this round of parliamentary elections. The very moment TV debates between the three leading contenders for PM were announced, however, I knew this was going to be an even more intriguing run to the polls for the Brits. A first for the country, what would happen when their election was made all that much more “presidential” with the interruption of TV presence? Well, a lot, but, in the end I feel, very little.
Three months ago, Cameron, the Tories fresh-faced leader was the PM-in-waiting. Gordon Brown, Labour’s hapless standard-bearer since Tony Blair bequeathed the office to him with multiple wars raging on and an economy on the precipice of disaster, simply couldn’t get out of his way. More to the point, every single British voter I knew and asked, simply said they were tired of him and the whole Labour operation. It didn’t help that Brown’s Labour party was mired in internal strife, largely around members threatening to depose Brown and soon finding themselves on the wrong side of Downing Street, and multiple MP’s, both inside and outside Labour, were enmeshed in a seedy expenses scandal. (One would think “moat cleaning” a personal expense, but that’s just me.)
Then the inevitable pendulum swing. Cameron was suddenly viewed as an alien, somewhat uppity commodity. Friends across the pond started dropping the dreaded “posh” adjective; in American parlance a “double Izod collars-up, preppie, snob.” It appeared Brown’s dogged persistence, and the recognition that maybe he does deserve some credit for constructing a plan that managed to avoid America’s populist bailout blow-back and Greece’s inexorable slide into junk bond status, was finally bringing him some electoral momentum. A hung parliament, wherein no party has a majority and, therefore, has to form some sort of unity government with one of several smaller, regional parties or the heretofore not significant third-place player the Liberal-Democrats, was not only possible, but likely. And, with it, Gordon Brown would somehow cling to his office.
Cue the debates.
Nick Clegg, the young, new face (at least to most UK voters) at the helm of the Lib-Dem’s, played 1960’s Kennedy to Brown’s Nixon. You could feel the flop-sweat from the other side of the pond and oozing through YouTube. Brown righted the ship somewhat in the second and third debate. Finally, in the last, he took on Cameron, who basically managed to play the part of Neo in the prior sessions dodging the bullets that zinged around the room. What killed Brown, however, occurred outside the debate halls. Earlier in the week he disastrously left a hot mic on after meeting with a constituent complaining about the impact of immigration on the country. Here was an entirely innocent figure, an elderly, nice grandmotherly type getting picked upon by her PM, calling her “bigoted.” In the hothouse of tabloid-happy Britain with days to go to the election, the papers might as well have run an epitaph for poor Gordon. I have to say I’m a natural fan of the underdog, especially one who has been through as much as Brown. But, as a political realist, I have to admit he’s done.
So, now all analysis indicates the election Thursday will essentially end as it was predicted months ago: Cameron will be the new PM, likely with the help of a complicit, and rising, Lib-Dem party and Labour in the wilderness. One thing will be forever changed in UK politics: TV debates aren’t going away for better or, I fear, worse.
Current thoughts on the state of HCR as it wends its way through the legislative labyrinth:
1. The Admin misinterpreted the lessons of the Clinton round of health care reform and entrusted far too much to the legislative process.
2. Common misconception that Clinton couldn’t pass HCR when times were “good,” (’91-’92 recession is what helped get Clinton elected in the first place), but times are much worse now. People are freaked, jobs continue to disappear, and the deficit is becoming a legitimate concern. (Even I’m starting to get worried. No matter how we got here, we’re here. The American people, rightfully, allow a new President 6 months to blame the last guy before the problem is his to own.) This is a toxic environment in which to talk about any spending other than on jobs. And the Administration’s purported plans for an increase in Afghanistan isn’t going to help on that front; money we don’t have for a war many, if not a majority, of Americans don’t support. (Not saying that’s my opinion, necessarily; just that it is the commonly-held view out there.)
3. Obama may have campaigned on HCR, but D’s like Landrieu, Nelson, and certainly Lieberman didn’t. Of course Reid’s going to have to coax them with pork. All of them. That’s the way it works with big votes these days. (Did the GOP do any less to pass Medicare Part D? There was a lot of pork there, if memory serves.)
4. And this is the most important lesson I have drawn: HCR is so nasty an issue, so horrendously screwed up, impacts so many people that they only way to repair it may be to endanger the majority that attempts to do so, and, potentially, the President as well. This is one point upon which I agree with the Admin’s strategy entirely: Obama has said he will risk his reelection to pass it. He may well and that may be the only way to make any progress on this.
I think HCR will pass, if only because there’s a very real threat that to not do so will present more harm to incumbent D’s. If they don’t pass HCR, the Democrats may, rightfully, lose the House and suffer losses in the Senate. The Admin will be hobbled and will be left to passing parochial, trivial regulation and legislation a la Clinton post-HCR in his first term. Obama may well be reelected, but significant HCR will never be attempted again for a generation.
So, passing HCR is going to take a ton of pork and plenty of back-room dealing to boot, but those incumbents may well go down anyway, and I’ll take some pork and convoluted language that we can clean up later to claim a victory over nothing, losing even more seats and potentially electing a GOP demagogue cum populist pretender in 2012. The polls don’t necessarily reflect only fear on the part of voters of the eventual outcome, they reflect a lack of faith in the Congress to do anything right. And the most wrong thing would be to pass nothing. If you think approval ratings are low now, wait until the Democratic base abandons Congress entirely. No, the bill will pass because it has to. It won’t include the Public Option and that may not be such a bad thing, but it will pass and we (the American people), the party, the Congress and the Admin need it to pass.
What’s the difference between the McCain Campaign and the Titanic?
The Titanic had a band.
After the MI decision, I think it’s time to start watching for the rats jumping ship. That is a sure sign of a boat that’s going down. I know we’re not over the finish line yet but desperation has a way of feeding on itself and I think we’re approaching that point faster than we may realize, so it’s just a matter of looking for the tell tale signs.
Here is the video that inspired my post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWCGzS7E_IM
So pardon me for calling the election on September 2 but within the last day the first polls, showing Obama with 50%+, started showing up. I’ve long held that lots of America’s choose not to decide until after Labor Day. They can’t be bothered to, it’s just not in their blood like us partisan types. Every cycle just as the decidedly undecides starting tuning in to make their decision they use two events to judge the candidates – the convention acceptance speech and the Presidential candidate’s first executive decision on VP candidate. Some of the more serious undecides will watch and listen to everything, others will judge it by how others in and out of the media seems to perceive it. Depending on the year, the undecides may make the difference in a close election or simply pad the margin of victory. Ultimately, I believe turning out the base is the most important thing and by all measures the Democratic base is more enthusiastic this year than the Republican base so I’ve felt for awhile Obama would win and I’ve been looking to the undecides to provide the margin of victory. But that hasn’t been showing up in the polls yet so I’ve seen and heard a lot of hand wringing among Dems I know. It’s a natural reaction to how the last couple of elections have unfolded and I’m sure it will last until Obama takes the oath. But when the story of the 2008 Presidential Election is written, I believe the turning point will be fully encapsulated within less than 24 hours, the night of August 25th and the morning of August 26th.
More Americans tuned in for Barack Obama’s speech than tuned in for the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics and the American Idol finales. He spoke to those who could be convinced, the 70%+ who believe we’re heading in the wrong direction. And they got a speech that knocked down the patriotism attacks while making the attackers look petty, they got policy proposals and soaring and flawless rhetoric, and they got to see a man they could believe could be President. The expectations were high and he still managed to surpass them; he passed the test.
The very next morning, the other shoe dropped. McCain had named Sarah Palin as his running mate and across America a collective, “WHO?” rang out. Over the course of the next 2 days, it became obvious that McCain’s team hadn’t done the most basic of vetting. The choice was instinctual and a political sop to the base. In another year, that might have been okay but not considering recent history like the rush to war and the move to privatize social security, and recalling Republican appointments like Michael Brown, Harriet Meirs, and Alberto Gonzales, it was all too familiar and in 1 fell swoop it undercut McCain’s main argument against Obama and re-inforced Obama’s main line of attack on McCain, that a McCain Presidency would be more of the same.
There are only really two parts to the VP decision as far as the voting public is concerned. Number 1 is the heartbeat question. Are we comfortable with this person being a heartbeat from the Presidency? And number 2 and more importantly, what the choice says about the Presidential candidate. Context is very important. Quayle was an obvious sop to the right as the right was starting to really flex its muscles. But he had been in Congress for 12 years and the Senate for the previous 6 and Bush was a sporty, healthy WASP. McCain is a 72 year who has twice battled skin cancer and Palin is the 2 year governor of Alaska with prior experience as mayor of a town of 7,000. Barack Obama’s choice of Sen. Joe Biden was a serious choice who could easily step in to the Presidency at a moment’s notice. Barack passed. Outside the 28 Percenters, those that absolutely can’t see past their partisan blinders and still support Bush, John McCain’s choice was clearly questionable and no one believes she’s ready to be a heartbeat from the Presidency. So on the first test of a President McCain, McCain failed and he failed the same as Bush, playing to the base and playing politics with the future of America.
On the night of Thursday August 25th, Senator Barack Obama showed America a vision of its future. On the morning of Friday August 26th, Senator John McCain showed America a vision of its past, the past 8 years. Within that short time, John McCain lost the election and Barack Obama won it.
At least, that’s how I believe it will be remembered.
I saw a comment on TPM by KD that suggested that if Obama hadn’t stopped the 527s, he’d be in a better position and it got me thinking about whether that’s right. I think KD is wrong and we’re actually better off so far in 2008 without the 527s because it’s harder to fight a proxy battle.
McCain’s attacks are coming from McCain not some third party “Citizens Against Celebrity” group, which is actually comprised of 5 billionaire Republicans. It’s his attack ad not some citizens exercising their First Amendment right so he can’t disown the attacks while allowing the attack to continue. Thus, he can’t enjoy the benefit from going negative without taking the hit for having done it himself. This is why I think we’ve seen the polls return to about where they were before the celebrity ads started. There was an initial benefit but then the backlash balanced it back out after another week.
Also when the attacks come from McCain directly, Obama’s campaign has only to confront McCain to respond instead of trying to take on a faceless 527. And so they are able to respond with the ads they did which point out 2 hypocrisies – the hypocrisy of the celebrity charge from McCain, of all people,and his hypocrisy in going negative as he so often said he wouldn’t. And because Obama didn’t go negative first, he’s simply responding to McCain’s ads, I believe there will be less backlash for Obama than for McCain.
If that’s the case then this will work out to a net gain for Obama and it will be very much because it wasn’t a 527 group shooting from the woods but rather John McCain, himself, in broad daylight. So everyone knows who did it and Obama has a clear target for returning fire.
In light of the 4 polls out this week showing Barack re-establishing his lead in national polls, I’d like to thank Jesse Jackson. Far from cutting Barack’s nuts off, I say he has provide Obama with the Sista Soulja moment he’s been needing.
Hmmm Trying to pivot to the center? What better opportunity than having an icon of the left all pissed off at you. And better still, it was the kind of dirt Fox loves. So Fox and the rest of the MSN play in the dirt, which is job #1 at Fox, and help Obama pivot all at once and because it’s not a policy shift, there can be no flip flop charge. It’s just Barack Obama defending himself from the left for a full news cycle for all to see.
A special thanks to Jesse for his timing, right in the heart of the the post-primary, pre-convention center shift. Could hardly have been better.