Strategy ’08

Obama vs. the other guy, 2008

Obama Needs To Retool His Media Strategy

I’m tired of how largely reactive the Obama campaign has been in controlling the media narrative of this race. I noticed the ineffectual nature of the Obama press shop during the primary season with Senator Hillary Clinton, particularly with Bill Burton, who remains the press secretary out of Chicago since the reported communications team revamp.

The responses were a bit slow, tepid, and poorly worded. Today, the responses continue to be tepid and poorly worded, which muddles the message they’re trying to get it out.

Let me introduce the acronym, K.I.S.S., to the Obama campaign press shop. Keep It Simple, Silly. Long missives do not an effective response make.

For example, take a look at the response by Obama spokesperson, Bill Burton, to Bush lifting the off-shore drilling ban:

“If offshore drilling would provide short-term relief at the pump or a long-term strategy for energy independence, it would be worthy of our consideration, regardless of the risks. But most experts, even within the Bush Administration, concede it would do neither. It would merely prolong the failed energy policies we have seen from Washington for thirty years. Senator Obama believes Americans need real short-term relief, which is why he has proposed a second round of stimulus with energy rebates for working families. And over the long-term, Senator Obama understands that our national security and the survival of the planet demand a real strategy to break our dependence on foreign oil by developing clean, new sources of energy and by vastly improving the energy efficiency of our cars, trucks and our economy. He is ready to lead such a transformation,” said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.

Say something like this instead:

“This is a calculated political ploy on part of the Republicans to play upon the very real economic pains of Americans. Offshore drilling won’t even bring in a drop of oil for the next seven years as many experts have said. And even Senator McCain has said that this proposal will bring “pyschological relief” even though it won’t bring real relief to Americans.

We don’t need mental relief. We need real relief. That’s why Senator Obama is running for President.”

Don’t take 30 sentences to explain what can be said in five or less sentences.

Also, Senator Obama, I strongly take issue when you say something like this below in response to your donor, Bill Walton, who said, “Well, I’m worried we Democrats — sometimes we get too soft. We’re always on the defensive, and these folks are going to play mean and they’re going to play nasty.”

And you said:

“Listen, I’m skinny but I’m tough,” Obama said. “We are going to be responding swiftly and forcefully but always truthfully to any attacks that are launched.”

That’s nice you’re going to respond swiftly and forcefully but always truthfully to any attacks that are launched, but the crux of the problem here is that it puts you in a defensive posture, Senator Obama. It puts your team in a reactive posture, and that’s not where you need to be. And Bill Walton was right when he said, “We’re always on the defensive.”

Offense, offense, offense, go on the offense, Senator Obama. Always launch the attacks first. Don’t wait for the Republicans to attack you and then to rebut these attacks. When they attack you back after you attack, attack them back. That’s how it works.

1. Set up early morning conference calls, like the Clinton team did, to put out the day’s message. Stress particular talking points that you’ll keep throughout the week.
2. Like McCain’s major weakness on the economy. There were so many gaffes last week that you could’ve capitalized on other than the Phil Gramm one, and why did you let the Phil Gramm story remain a one-day story?
3. Social Security gaffe, Carly Fiorina’s muddling McCain’s pro-choice record, the economy, taxes, and so on.
4. Beat McCain’s campaign team over the head on those talking points.
5. When the McCain team responds to your initial line of attack, keep them on the defensive.
6. And yes, play the part of concern troll. By this, I mean, “It’s too bad that Senator McCain doesn’t know anything about the economy, and that his most trusted economic adviser is Phil Gramm who says we’re in a mental recession. Maybe he should go see the real Dr. Phil.” Stuff like that.
7. Press conferences during the midday, particularly after Senator McCain speaks in a town hall meeting or whatever, and launch a direct line of attack at whatever he says in the town hall meeting.

You can’t afford to coast with your press team’s current strategy. It’s been a losing one in the past elections. Be strong, think of your press team as rabid wolves, which they should be, in dealing with the press. Make your team effective, and you’ll keep McCain on the defensive until Election Day in November.


July 15, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,


  1. Great points all Slink. The only thing I’ll add is even if Obama himself doesn’t get involved in these attacks, his campaign should have a coordinated surrogate strategy with talking points in order to attack.

    Comment by dansac | July 15, 2008 | Reply

  2. The candidate can take the higher road, but still veer off course with help from surrogates every once in a while to throw McCain off the cliff rhetorically 🙂 And help from a very effective press team can do that.

    Comment by slinkerwink | July 15, 2008 | Reply

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