Interesting article in today’s Washington Post. It encapsulates the angst many Democrats are starting to feel about the election, McCain’s increasingly negative attacks, and the Obama campaign’s responses to those attacks. Democrats we talk to are worried. They’re not just the chattering class on TV. It’s Democrats across the board. They’re worried because they want Obama to win, but more generally, they want our party to win. This election is about far more than Barack Obama. It’s about Democrats taking back the White House, taking back our country. All Democrats share ownership of that goal.
Here are a few of the key points in the article, and my thoughts:
1. “We are not going to base our campaign on the concerns of so-called campaign strategists on cable TV,” spokesman Bill Burton said.
In fact, lots of Democrats are expressing concern, including senior Hill staff, senior consultants, senior activists, and more.
2. “The price [McCain] paid for his party’s nomination has been to reverse himself on position after position,” Obama told a crowd of more than 1,000 at a high school gym in Elkhart. “That doesn’t meet my definition of a maverick. You can’t be a maverick when politically it’s important for you but not a maverick when it doesn’t work for you.”
This is great, seriously. Hit McCain on his strength, his “maverick” status. Guaranteed to tick him off.
3. [Y]ou have to counterattack. You don’t want to look like a whiner. You want to look tough.”
This is a point I’ve raised several times. I think John Kerry and Al Gore paid a high price for being intellectual pretty-boys who didn’t show enough of a tough-guy side (interestingly, I think Wesley Clark has the same PR problem – way too nice of a guy on TV, and never shows his inner general). The public knows Obama is smart and good looking, now they need to know that he can be an asshole too.
4. [M]ost of the independent groups that would have taken the lead in such an independent campaign have been sidelined by Obama’s insistence that Democratic donors channel their money to him, rather than outside groups…. But the surrogate groups remain dormant, Brazile said, because of Obama’s decision to cut them out.
5. So far, said Eli Pariser, MoveOn.org’s executive director, the best response to McCain’s celebrity attack has come from Paris Hilton herself, who released her own ad Tuesday calling McCain “the oldest celebrity in the world, like super old.”
Joe has complained about this, as have others.
6. Nearly half of respondents — including 51 percent of independents — said they have been hearing too much about Obama lately, and 22 percent said all that news has made them feel less favorable toward him.
Well that’s just dumb. Half say they’ve been hearing too much about Obama. What percentage of the population votes Republican in presidential elections of late? Half. Regardless, how many people said that all this news about Obama is actually making them like him less? A whopping 22%. That means that for 78%, the non-stop Obama news is either having a positive effect or no effect at all. So why is this a problem that only 22% of people are being turned off?
7. Because Obama opted out of public financing and the spending limits that come with it, he will be free to swamp McCain with television spots in the fall. If he needs to become more negative at that point, he can — knowing that McCain would be hard pressed to reply. .
With only 3 months to go to election day, I would disagree with this. Once (if) McCain successfully paints Obama as [insert smear here], it’s going to be very difficult to crawl out of that hole with only weeks to go.
8. Obama spokesman Burton said the campaign sees no reason to shift strategy. “This is a classic Washington story, anonymous quotes from armchair quarterbacks with no sense of our strategy, data or plan,” he said.
Actually, from friends who have worked on elections for years, I hear that the rumblings of Democratic discontent we’re hearing are not normal at all. As for Democrats on the Hill, in the private sector (consulting and media), and in the activist class (online and off) having no sense of Obama’s strategy, data or plan, isn’t that the problem? If Obama’s political allies were truly integrated into a coordinated and comprehensive campaign strategy, they’d know this stuff and wouldn’t be worried.