Strategy ’08

Obama vs. the other guy, 2008

On The Obama Press Strategy

I don’t find much to quibble with on Slinkerwink’s post critical of the Obama press machine (though I think the calls to fire Burton are premature). To my mind, the Obama Camp has been suffering though a number of missteps since returning from his overseas trip:

Celebrity: It’s clear to me that the Obama campaign was caught totally off-guard by the effectiveness of this attack. There wasn’t a coherent response to this at all; it was ignored basically at first, then there was outrage, and finally a response ad that got no traction at all. The McCain camp hit a jackpot on this, which has served to define Obama in devastating fashion (with a nice assist from the media). Which leads me to…

Defining: While McCain now has his main frame of attack for the remainder of this cycle, Obama has yet to come up with a frame that has captured the imagination of the Media, and therefore the American people. The ‘Celebrity’ frame may be immature, but it has clearly worked. Nearly every McCain ad opens with some variation. Which leads me to…

Poor Ads: More specifically, Obama’s attack/response ads. None of them are particularly memorable to me. Not that it would be a huge problem if Obama had a consistent frame of attacking McCain, but he doesn’t. A particularly memorable/controversial ad that gets the media talking would be very beneficial. Which leads me to…

Going negative: McCain has long since abandoned his pledge to wage a positive campaign. I see no reason why the Obama campaign should restrain itself. Now, while he has begun to really make a contrast on the issues, and by and large I’m satisfied with his targeted state ads, the campaign could really be doing more on McCain’s personal flaws. Lieberman’s odious claim that McCain has always put ‘Country First’ is just completely false. Was McCain putting country first when he was involved with the Keating Five? No, and Obama should hammer him. And when McCain inevitably complains about it (likely issuing an over the top response), Obama should question whether his temperament is suited for the presidency. McCain’s temper issues are well-documented, and this would be a great way to frame attacks on him. This would also have the benefit, if they are creative, of being able to create an ad that would get the media talking and create a narrative, which would rectify all of the concerns I’ve outlined above.

So that’s where I see the race as of this point as far as media strategy is concerned. Now, by this time next Friday, we’ll have just completed the Convention and have a VP. And, it’s entirely possible that the Obama camp knows about all of these concerns, and wants to hold off on an explicitly negative campaign until after the convention. Fair enough, as we are only a week off from the end of it. But hopefully they have a strategy going forward to deal with these things, because to this point, they certainly haven’t.

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August 20, 2008 - Posted by | Battleground States, Media Strategy, talking points | , ,

10 Comments »

  1. Great points turner – I’d add that McCain was an enthusiastic supporter of the worst foreign policy decision in modern history, a fundamental judgement issue that Obama should hammer home daily.

    Comment by dansac | August 20, 2008 | Reply

  2. Finally a less than hyperbolic take on Obama’s campaign…I still don’t see the “Celebrity” ads as the defining message that is hurting Obama’s numbers over the past month…I think it’s more likely the consolidation of McCain’s base i.e. voters who would choose McCain eventually anyway…Obama’s strategy is so tied to each targeted state’s ground organization/media focus and GOTV that his real polling numbers are more difficult for the normal national polling firms, like Rasmussen, to ascertain (assuming the firms really want to)…I see the traditional media and national polling firms wanting to keep this race as close as possible and are tweaking their coverage to maximize any impact they can make.
    Obama needs to be more direct in attacking McCain and less diplomatic…and he needs more daily surrogates on the key cable and network shows.

    Comment by jonore | August 20, 2008 | Reply

  3. Your last point on the surrogates is especially key, jonore

    Comment by dansac | August 20, 2008 | Reply

  4. McCain has morphed himself into being Krusty the Clown,not Grampa Simpson. Time to point that out Barack or surrogates.

    Hopefully Obama will tie Bush,the Republican party and McCain as the party of the class clowns for the last 8 years versus the new A+ students working for the vast majority of Americans.

    Regardless how low an info voter is few people want to vote for the stupid guy,if you can phrase it they are being the wise one by not voting for the clown.

    Gore and Kerry both did a poor job in this area

    Framing it in a way like Mediocre Republicans, excellence Democrats, Bluster vs. Substance might be helpful.

    Side point when phoning or registering voters to keep in mind.

    There are very few people who consider themselves low info voters regardless to what extent they follow the campaigns.

    Letting them feel smart after speaking with a Democratic supporter means a very likely vote on election day.

    Comment by P.B. | August 20, 2008 | Reply

  5. Since the theme of the Republican Convention is Country First, I proposed that we start a
    John”sell out country first” McCain
    campaign. Using their convention theme; hit the ways that McSame has sold out the country:
    GI Bill votes
    lobbyists (Georgia, Boeing/Eads mess, 1996 Sentate POW/MIA committee hearings)
    IRAQ war vote, Free trade, etc.
    Time to hit back and hit hard!

    Comment by MariaWr | August 20, 2008 | Reply

  6. From here in the UK, it seems crystal-clear that the Republicans are going to run their campaign on national security… they’ve got nothing else. The news that Rudy Giuliani is delivering a keynote at the convention slots perfectly into that theme.

    My real worry is that the Corsi hooha and the expected and expensive 527 stuff still to come is a massive diversion, intended to tie Obama down and make him look shifty and unreliable. In other words, the much-vaunted 50 state strategy intended to tie down McCain’s resources will be efficiently reversed but played out in the media. This is what the entire ‘experience’ and ‘celebrity’ meme is building up to.

    The timing of the Georgian adventure, the news from Pakistan about Musharraf, increasing Taliban attacks in Afghanistan, suicide attacks in Algeria… reports of key players in the White House seriously considering false flag operations in the past.

    Bin Laden ‘captured’ in September or October? An atrocity but not on national soil? Watch carefully (and not through the US media) for news about Iran and Russia. The over-arching theme will be: it’s a dangerous world. And it will prove a winning hand, I fear. Health care, the economy, lobbyists… all suddenly and swiftly relegated to the back seat, and there will be little that any press strategy can do.

    Comment by UKAnon | August 20, 2008 | Reply

  7. Did you all see this: http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/08/20/wake_up_obama_camp/

    it’s a pretty powerful wake up call.

    Comment by ksh01 | August 20, 2008 | Reply

  8. Micheal Tomasky is not impressed either.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/michaeltomasky/2008/aug/21/barackobama.johnmccain

    Comment by UKAnon | August 21, 2008 | Reply

  9. If this thing goes full-out negative, I think Obama stands to lose the most. We’ll see Wright marrying him with his bombastic sermons playing in the background, Rezko in handcuffs trotting in front of Obama’s palatial (by most standards) home, and pictures of Ayers’ bombings while we’re told about Obama’s political coming out party. McCain has kept this thing far more civil than he might (and than GWB would have for sure).

    Comment by Lancaster | August 21, 2008 | Reply

  10. Does it concern you that the Obama’s sat in a church for 20 yrs that was based on the writings of James Cone, the founder of Black Theology?

    Comment by E M | August 21, 2008 | Reply


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