How Obama Must Win

So Hillary has gone above and beyond and given an unequivocal speech to bring the warring strands of the Democratic Party together for November. By most accounts it was well received, and calculated to bring her wayward ‘flock’ back under control. She also (finally) started the formal party process of attacking John McCain saying:

“John McCain says the economy is fundamentally sound. John McCain doesn’t think that 47m people without health insurance is a crisis. John McCain wants to privatise social security. And in 2008, he still thinks it is okay when women don’t earn equal pay for equal work,” she said.

It was appropriate that Bush and McCain should appear together at the Republican convention in Minneapolis-St Paul next week “because these days they’re awfully hard to tell apart”.

It’s quite right to say there hasn’t been enough of this in recent weeks. The choice of Biden as VP candidate was not just telling in terms of his experience in foreign policy, with a new Cold War looming with Russia, but in bringing to the top table his ability and willingness to attack the GOP and their lamentable record on, well, everything. But this will be far from enough to defeat the resurgent McCain. Baratunde Thurston is entirely right when he says:

First, define Obama in a way that’s understandable by those who haven’t gotten his life story engraved on to their iPods. Second, redefine McCain. Tell the story of how he’s no longer the straight-talking “maverick” many thought they knew. Third, go on the offensive and respond swiftly to attacks.

The Democrats must wipe out the advantage of McCain’s ‘maverick’ narrative. Yes it apes the Idiot Bush’s past ability to speak huge amounts of garbage, yet remain popular for being a ‘straight talker’ who humanly ‘made mistakes’. But despite Bush’s huge unpopularity now, they haven’t yet shown how disastrous those characteristics have been under him, and how much worse they would be under John McCain. And Michael Tomasky points out that, as good as Hillary’s speech was, it neglected to close the damaging questions of Obama’s suitability to be Commander-in-Chief, which she left open during the primaries (which McCain’s now exploiting to the hilt):

she didn’t say anything about Obama’s ability as Commander-in-Chief. I’d argue she was under a special obligation to do this, at the very moment when McCain is running an ad using her famous quote from February in which she said that she and McCain brought a lifetime of experience to the job of leading America in the world, while Obama had a speech he gave in 2002. I honestly thought that she would reference that ad specifically and say something like, “Well, I’m Hillary Clinton, and I do not approve that message.”

Well she has said just that in the last days, but interestingly only in response to the McCain attack ad which tried to poach those supporters of hers who were aggrieved at her not having been vetted for the VP role.

I remain convinced however that the aggrieved Clinton voters are so disprate in their reasons for objecting to Obama, yet at the same time so eager to get rid of the Republican stranglehold on the White House, that this issue really isn’t going to be key in getting enough votes for Obama in November. I simply don’t believe that so many millions of people will actually prove to be outright stupid – I suspect most of them are merely bitching to pollsters, but time will tell. Instead the chief risk remains McCain’s false image as a ‘maverick’ (read: liberal when he feels like it) remaining intact, with enough doubt getting painted about Obama’s character and suitability to be President. It’s largely the same game as 2004, and the risk is enormous:

As in 2004, a smear campaign is being led by a conservative Texas billionaire, Harold Simmons, who has paid for a campaign that seeks to link Obama to the Weather Underground, which was behind riots and bombings in the 60s and 70s.

One of its co-founders, Bill Ayers, now a university professor in Chicago, was an early supporter of Obama.

Simmons spent close to $3m (£1.5m) in 2004 on adverts which cast doubt on Kerry’s record while serving in Vietnam with the US navy.

The solution is simple on paper: go on the attack, as Thurston advocates earlier in this post, whilst being mindful of the hidden dangers of doing so. There is every indication that Biden should be very effective as Obama’s Cheney-esque ‘attack dog’. But at the same time Jonathan Freedland is right when he suggests the Democrats use the narrative Obama himself used so effectively in 2004 to characterise the campaign decisively and positively:

Democrats can simply refuse to fight on these Republican terms. That is what Obama did when he burst into the national consciousness at the 2004 convention, declaring that the culture war of red states and blue states had gone on too long. “We coach little league in the blue states and have gay friends in the red states,” he declared, so insisting on the legitimacy of all Americans. Restating that message is surely part of his task when he accepts his nomination before a stadium crowd of 70,000 tomorrow. He needs to change the terms of trade in this election, to reframe it so that he’s no longer answering, “Is he one of us?” – but persuading his fellow Americans that it’s time, at long last, to put that question behind them.


13 responses to “How Obama Must Win

  1. There are many that say Hillary wants Obama to fail so she can run in 2012, so far theres little evidence against that despite her speech last night.

    The problem with Ayers is that he really did do those things so unless they want to leave that narrative to the republicans they have to find a way to respond. Ignoring a fight in politics can be deadly…unless you control all the media. Plus as a major contributor to Obama, his failed school program attempts, (where Obama’s team wasted 100 million dollars and the school quality went down) do not look so good.

    Obama’s platform is popular because americans WANT to put partisanship behind us, however many think a different candidate may be more effective, simply because Obama has no record to run on and no platform to stand for, which is why his message is simply “hope and change” sadly he has little else to run with : \

    McCain on the other hand is called a Maverick because he consistently went over to the democrats in the Senate and worked out plan with them. They weren’t always the best but both sides were always represented. Obama on the other hand never voted with conservatives over anything so his message of change is weak, he’s the single most liberal voting senator on the floor and he’s trying to cover over the very sparse record that he does have. If you want him to have a strong attack message but I suggest a much softer approach one of humility and trying to connect with the voters while pledging to work with republicans. Those are the votes he’s got to win, the democrats would already vote for him but they still don’t have enough votes to win unless he can get enough swing votes in the key states.

    I don’t like McCain but i have strong misgivings over Obama’s long term choice of friends and performance record. Plus he has done little to show that he can work with both parties. Picking a 30 year senator from a blue state was not smart if he wants to continue the “hope and change” message. In fact i have heard more sarcasm about that than anything else.

  2. Hi Cosmo

    PUMAs meet child psychologists

    Oh god y’gotta laugh.

    The alternative? He might lose ;{{{{

    Watching from a distance, no vote and comment actually being a big thing (they don’t like us Brits, shutting up might help) but stuff like global warming action, ending the war depending on it … er, LAUGH!

    The meme about the convention is where’s the teeth and – absolutely – they have to get dirty, but the word I’ve read is they’re saving it up, literally, along with all the money for ads (raised online). They’ve learnt something from Kerry’s swiftboating. McCain is full of gaffes – the ‘seven kitchens’ is a start on a rich vein.

    I still think theyll’ win:

    1. don’t forget the base organisation for O’bama – because of the web. This was Karl Rove’s real genius, turning out the base for Bush. + There’s record numbers registering Dem.
    2. no guarantee the anti-choice evangelists will turn out – McCain’s in a bind with them, as the vicepres choice is showing.
    3. Bush is a lead weight, Dems need to hang it on McCain, which shouldn’t be difficult.

    The real counterweights are:

    1. racism not showing up in polls
    2. Repubs are evil, they will do anything to retain power (Iran invasion? not just a scenario)

    It is bound to be nail bitingly close – just as it was in the West Wing when Jimmy Smits won.

    So laughing is a good option.

  3. @Paul that’s some horrible grammar, I can’t really follow half of that.

    ugh, if we wanted to invade iran we would have done it when they captured your troops…

    Obama is pretty full of his own gaffes, he’s getting to be known as unable to speak without a teleprompter, that’s why he flubbed his first debate with McCain so badly.

  4. I would tend to agree that an Iran invasion is incredibly unlikely to happen in the runup to January. Anything can happen, but again I get the feeling that Ahmadinejad is on the back foot and that needs to be fostered, not undermined. The neocons really aren’t anywhere near as dominant as they were in Bush’s first term.

    I also don’t believe lessons have been learned by the Swiftboat fiasco in 2004, because the same foundations are being allowed to be laid. Obama/Biden remain 2% behind in the polls for a reason – they aren’t projecting the authority which McCain does (although its success is being underpinned by the media).

  5. “(although its success is being underpinned by the media” ??

    The american Media is firmly in the Obama court but even they are starting to be flanked by online media, and those stories are more dangerous typically because they are less researched.

    The Swiftboat was an independent movement against John Kerry, not a campaign planned event. Like I said previously the problem with Ayers is that he really did all those things and his relationship with Obama was masked for a considerable amount of time. Had it been exposed earlier Obama could have thrown him under the bus with all his previous friends. Now it’s getting a bit late for that.

  6. #Tim: “he flubbed his first debate with McCain so badly.”

    sez who? did you actually watch it – I didn’t either, but I understand the filter it went through and who ‘called’ it.

    ‘squse the grammar. will. try. harder.

    re: Tim – *watch some of the US media or at least read the independent observers”. ‘the ‘media is in Obama’s camp’ is a repub talking point. demonstratively not true. see + Olbermann’s nightly demolition. + Olbermann/Matthews is not ‘the media’.

    #Cosmo: “Obama/Biden remain 2% behind in the polls for a reason”

    It was always going to be close. ”Hope’ and distance can make you think it’s in the bag. Never was. A lot of Americans’ – face it – are mislead/pathological ‘conservatives’/idiots/go for the ‘likeability’/ etc. (relevant history: JFK won over Nixon by 500k – which came courtesy the Mob).

    Tim put it neatly: “Had it been exposed earlier Obama could have thrown [Ayers] under the bus with all his previous friends. Now it’s getting a bit late for that.” is exactly the sort of repub meme/lie which runs (and pays out at polling day, including more fool gays). Tim –

    Recall 14% of yanks (and growing) think O’bama’s a muslim …this mob will just ignore all the McCain stuff – 7+ kitchens! cindy is a c++t! and not just ‘cos it suits MSM which just goes ‘POW’/’maverick’ whenever the ditz ‘misspeaks’.

    Tim, if UR a queen tell me why you’d vote for a supreme justice suggesting person like McCain? ‘Good for the gays’? How? I wanna know.

    But I still think theyll’ edge it because Bush is such a proven deadweight and McCain is just more Bush/repug incompetence/sleaze. My observation is of a cool (level headed() campaign just warming up its guns and not the slightest bit nervous. I havva some hoppea.

    Remember, they have way more organisers on the ground than Karl Rove could ever dream of.

    When they truly start banging on McCain’s nagatives (as Kerry stood above/ignored Bush’s + the ROVEIAN swiftboat attacks), + start slamming on that huge financial advantage (thanks to the web) they’ll get there. I truly hoppea.

    re: Iran – I put *nothing past the repugs – power is all to them and they’ll do what they perceive it takes. we shall see. I just don’t think – from all my observations, independents (Tim!) etal , that fear carries the weight it once did with Americans.

    time to pick sides. this is important.

  7. Hiya Paul! : )
    Several nice points, but I think you bring up the crux of the problem with your perspective,

    “It was always going to be close. ”Hope’ and distance can make you think it’s in the bag. Never was. A lot of Americans’ – face it – are mislead/pathological ‘conservatives’/idiots/go for the ‘likability’/ etc. (relevant history: JFK won over Nixon by 500k – which came courtesy the Mob).
    Okay here is my problem with your position, You are seeing these things from a distance and they get heavily distorted, You say that Obama is the best thing for the world and the US but what do you back it up with? Obama supports more tarrifs and less free trade deal, a fact that would hurt the world’s economy, McCain supports these things and has an extensive friend network world wide. Obama does not. Obama would raise federal spending by as much as a trillion dollars, McCain’s only 500 billion, (ugh to both) Obama has no experience in working thru bipartisanship, McCain does. You say Americans are stupid and choose candidates based on likability while picking the only canadiate running on charisma alone. You claim McCain is a second Bush when in fact he has opposed many of the Bush’s programs.

    You want Obama to run a negative campaign pushing hard at McCain, yet the more he does that the more he exposes his own weakness’s, better for him to come out and state that his candidacy is based on the faith that we want to make a change. Not get mired down in the politics of our fathers. I say keep it positive, come up with an energy plan, and a realistic plan to phase the rich off of Medicare. Shore up Social Security and reign in government spending and more importantly government borrowing.
    Obama is slipping because the more he compares himself to McCain the better McCain looks.
    Facts foreigners don’t know,
    – It was democrats that started the meme about Obama being muslim, it started circulating on the web at the beginning of the democratic primaries, well before he showed any chance of beating Hillary.
    -The democratic party have been negotiating with FARC in Columbia in an effort to get them to release hostages in exchange for long term funding and support. Syria as well.
    -Obama does not support gay marriage, merely civil unions. Their support of gay issues is lip service at best and lies at worst. I’d trust republicans with personal freedoms more than them.
    Tim, if UR a queen tell me why you’d vote for a supreme justice suggesting person like McCain? ‘Good for the gays’? How? I wanna know.
    -It was republican selected courts that have advanced gay rights the most over the last 8 years. Striking down anti-sodomy laws, and stating that gay marriage was a fundamental right not a privilege to be meted out.
    -The democrats have no interest is stopping either war, (neither do I honestly) they are merely pandering to the internet left.
    -Socialism and communism have killed more people over the last century than all the wars combined.

    Bush’s policies, though chaotic, are beginning to bear fruit and that actually puts McCain on better standing, as much as they want to link them together it’s not that easy. Obama’s choice of a second senator on his ticket was a profound mistake in my judgment, most americans hate congress, so putting two members on the ticket was not a smart move.

    Obama’s problems stem from his inexperience, you seem to think it a good thing that JFK became president, you have no idea how close he came to starting a real nuclear exchange, that thought frightens me immensely. i think in 8 years he will be a great president but I’m not sold on his current ability. I like the way he ran his primary fight , but I’m hating what he’s done on the real campaign

    on the local level I vote for gay rights and strong supporters, on the national level I try to vote for people that won’t bring the world crashing down around all of us. Labor has just about destroyed your infrastructure, leaving you painfully at the mercy of Russia’s oil and gas supplies. Would you support them again if they promised gay rights? all the anti hate crime bills and anti gun bills haven’t made you safer, why should I expect them to make me safer? Better to have money to run with or a better job to buy security and votes with in the future, than a gay ghetto surrounded by a fence.

    Have you read up on Ayers yet Paul? I suspect he’ll be the next Rev. Wright for Obama

  8. Tim – I’m enjoying this too :}

    you kindof inspired me to transpire something huffpost did [], which was to list all the stuff Bush has done in single words and put it on a poster and a t-shirt. Here [events list] t is:

    Abu Gharib, Halliburton, climate change, Blackwater, executive power, body armor, Katrina, Guantanamo, green zone, waterboarding, duct tape, the surge, undisclosed location, Fallujah, military tribunals, no-bid contracts, Kellogg, Brown & Root, triple canopy, vote caging, Kyoto, threat level orange, faith-based initiatives, recount, redeployment, 5 million missing emails, preemptive war, warrantless wiretapping, Tora Bora, quail hunting, fired US attorneys, secret enrgy taskforce, Pat Tillman, wide stance, clear skies, habeus corpus, mobile weapons lab, IEDs, Walter Reed, the pet goat, extended tours, signing statements, Downing Street memo, Jessica Lynch, hanging chads, rendition, patriot act, FEMA trailers, gas prices, Texas Air National Guard, Plamegate, budget deficit, plummeting dollar, rolling blackouts, recess appointments, unilateralism, Terri Shiavo, Swiftboat, aluminum tubes, war profiteering, deficit spending, Putin’s soul, Carlyle Group, red states, Diebold Corp, rubber stamp Congress, yellowcake, curveball.

    There’s a reason he’s one of the lowest rated President’s and a joke around the word – and it’s not just the word mangling.

    As Kerry said at the convention and as Arianna has been underlining – there is a difference between McCain then and now, McCain the candidate is proposing to reverse roe vs wade, had voted for torture, supports tax cuts for the rich and 90% voted in favour of Bush’s agenda.

    Obama=Muslim – here’s the sole real research on the actual source

    Obama put out PR on Del Martin’s death today, opposes prop 8. which would overturn Californian marriage equality and has a hard record (I have blogged the detail) of speaking to straight audiences in red states about gay equality. McCain? Seriously. McCain?

    Ayers is already something a repug billionaire is attempting to swiftboat Barry with. Unlike Kerry though, Barry’s people are coming out swinging. etc. (and Jon Stewart) have already nailed this nonsense.

    Barry’s people not letting it lie (like the muslim stuff, the ‘not a natural born citizen’ stuff etc. etc.) is going to push him over the top (we can but hope).

    I have no illusions Tim, Barrack is not the messiah. But the alternative?

  9. re: Labour – the [Labour] Home Office’s willingness to send GLBT back to torture/death gives me the greatest pause, Tim

    All the rest you cite is pretty much RedTop hype. Our right-wing advances no policy only ‘positioning’.

    Frankly, my vote ATM is most likely Green.

  10. we don’t really have a green party here so that’s not an option, you can call it Redhop hype but that’s now how I see it, I could cite sources but i figured you could look them up if you wanted to, politics is a dirty business and neither party if very friendly to gays here. It’s just the reality we live in. Like you may support the democratic party but here in oklahoma it was the democrats that passed the last anti gay amendment, and the national party did nothing. Pass judgment all you want from over seas but i have no reason to be loyal to the republicans or the democrats

  11. Re: oklahomo I can believe it — the ‘conservative dem’ i s a new strategy I’ve picked up on.

    rea;lly though Tim
    “It was republican selected courts that have advanced gay rights the most over the last 8 years. Striking down anti-sodomy laws, and stating that gay marriage was a fundamental right not a privilege to be meted out.”

    was this because that was the intent? Do you think that’s McCain’s intent? seems to me that repug nominees end up veering ‘liberal’ (/constitutional) and we end up with striking Texas anti-gay laws (which Bush wouldn’t repeal) .

  12. No executive candidate is going to try and repeal morality laws, it just doesn’t happen in the states. You might do something like that if you were prime minister but roles are different here.

    @conservative democrats aren’t a new thing, fiscally conservative democrats are. It’s easy to get confused by the terms we use, sorry about that.

    As for the Courts yes that was the intent in both of those cases, a liberal court might have overturned the sodomy laws but the California court was the first to state that marriage is a right, it’s an important difference, legally speaking.

    Um this was a bit I posted over at CitizenCrane site, i think it sums up where I am at mentally speaking “Look this is what I’ve been saying for years, monolithic voting blocs have left us bereft of political partners willing to work for our votes. By villanizing all republicans as stone age monsters we have left half our choices on the table. This is a strategy that has failed for 20 years, and hopefully people are starting to rethink it.”

  13. Pingback: Bubba to the Rescue! « Cosmodaddy

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