Strategy ’08

Obama vs. the other guy, 2008

Benefit of the doubt

Sorry, Dan, but I’m completely with Obama on this one. One of the things I hated most about the past two Democratic campaigns was the constant drumbeat of stories quoting “Democratic strategists” telling the campaign what it should be doing. It’s not that they were wrong — both campaigns were horribly run — but that this type of “management by anonymous committee” only served to reinforce just how inept the campaigns were. And when the candidates did finally take the advice, it felt like they had been pushed into it. Remember Gore’s second debate performance, or his public agonizing over whether to allow Clinton to campaign for him? I know crowdsourcing is all the rage these days, but when applied to a campaign it makes everything seem rote and telegraphed.

For the most part, we’ve seen a welcome reversal of roles this year. The papers have been full of anonymous Republican sniping over McCain’s strategy, while the Dems have largely remained silent. I hope it stays that way.

But the main reason I hate to see this kind of armchair quarterbacking of the Obama campaign is because I think they’ve done more than enough to earn our trust. I certainly wouldn’t argue that Obama’s run a perfect campaign, but I can’t think of a single big strategic mistake he’s made, and whenever it seemed to me like he was floundering — late ’07, before the SC primary, during the Wright kerfuffle — he managed to not only assuage my doubts, but to demonstrate that he knew what he was doing the entire time (or at least fool me into believing that). That confidence is the exact opposite of how I felt with the Gore and Kerry campaigns.

So yes, I would like to see the Obama campaign doing more to control the media narrative. And yes, I think they should have done more with the Gramm gaffe. Then again, I wasn’t going around a year ago saying the way to win the Democratic primary was to raise lots of money online, mobilize new voters and run up huge delegate margins in the caucus states. And I think the people who were saying that have proven they’re better political strategists than I am, so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they know what they’re doing.

P.S. If we are going to see these types of articles, I hope the campaign responds exactly the way Burton did here. Because even if Obama ends up taking these people’s advice, it’s to his advantage to not appear to be doing so.

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August 7, 2008 - Posted by | Media Strategy | , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-romm/obamas-self-defeating-rhe_b_117463.html

    “Obama’s Self-Defeating Rhetoric”

    More thought on the Obama campaign strategy. Just another read, but felt it had some merit. I do have total faith in the Obama campaign. They are well aware of what they need to do. I know it’s really hard to see negative media attack Barack, but keep praying things will get better. We MUST win this election!

    Comment by SharonAustinTX | August 7, 2008 | Reply

  2. Greg, you make great points and I hear what you’re saying. Obama’s campaign has certainly proven to be the best we’ve seen thus far – and I think they themselves would know through polling and other evidence whether or not they should sharpen differences.

    However, one of the things I’d like to be careful about is the notion that running a great primary campaign = running a great general election campaign. I think a lot of people are throwing that around (although you fleshed your thoughts out much more than most), but I still think these are apples and oranges.

    If running a great primary campaign was the same as a general election, then we’d have had a lot of victorious Democrats in past years. Then again, this was an unusually tough primary.

    Nevertheless, I think your points are well taken, and I do especially appreciate how little “drama” there has been.

    I suppose I’m comforted in knowing that at least the Obama campaign has heard the feedback about going on offense and is considering it.

    Comment by dansac | August 7, 2008 | Reply


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