Strategy ’08

Obama vs. the other guy, 2008

Mark Halperin, Time’s The Hack, Gives Unsolicited Advice

HALPERIN’S TAKE: Good and Bad Options for Barack Obama to Stop His Slide

But which ones are the good options, and which the bad?

Slinkerwink’s Take On Hacktucular Advice

–Challenge McCain to do a town meeting as soon as possible, with a format that would enable the two candidates to have a face-to-face hashing out about sex education, the Bridge to Nowhere, cosmetics and farm animals, readiness to lead, community service, the very definition of negative tone — and, then, real issues.

My sense is that if Obama were to give into McCain’s demands for a town hall meeting, it definitely would make Obama look weak, so a big ol’ “NO” on that hacktacular advice.

–Produce some hard-hitting negative ads against McCain that are tough but true.

Yep, it has to be done, and not like today’s so-called “negative” ads.

–Produce some hard-hitting negative ads against McCain that are tough and as “true” as McCain’s attacks on Obama have been lately.

I don’t want Obama to lie in his ads, I want him to tell the truth about the real dangers of a McCain presidency, and to define him negatively to the voters so they will find McCain unaccceptable. You can do that with truthful and hard-hitting ads that leave a serious mark like the “Education” ad, which Obama aired on Monday. In my opinion, that’s why the McCain team lashed out with the “sexual predator” ad.

–Stop talking about Sarah Palin.

I disagree that we should stop talking about her. I think that right now, she’s McCain’s strength, and as we all know in politics, a way of defining your opponent is to turn these strengths into major weaknesses. Sarah Palin can be turned into a major weakness that will be reflected upon John McCain.

–Devise some newsmaking events that focus on the economy and health care.

I do think that Obama can make his own news. Like, hype the hell out of an event, like inviting a bunch of sick patients to a press conference to talk about their lack of health insurance. And then do another major meeting with a very well-known economist–like Bloomberg, and do a joint announcement on the state of the economy along with an ad release showing the two together, with images of a failed American economy in the past eight years.

–Believe that it is impossible for a famous, white-haired septuagenarian with two decades in the Senate to successfully appropriate the mantle of change a mere two months before Election Day.’

Halperin’s right on this one. Obama shouldn’t be underestimating the ability of the McCain team to claim the mantle of “reform.”

–Continue to run standard-issue campaign ads.

These standard-issue campaign ads suck. There’s no emotional punch to them.

–Have faith in the phrase “the truth will out.”

The truth will not come out under a barrage of lies, so therefore, the offensive needs to be claimed by Obama. For every two negative ads that should be released on McCain, there should be a positive ad released.

–Keep attacking Sarah Palin.

–Never mention Sarah Palin again, ever.

It would be ludicrous to ignore her attacks on Obama.

–Keep presuming that Steve Schmidt gives a rip about what the New York Times, the Associated Press, or say about the McCain campaign’s tactics.

–Wait for the Commission on Presidential Debates sessions to shake things up.

Obama had all summer to define John McCain. We waited after the trip to Europe for things to shake up. We waited after the vacation to Hawaii in August to shake things up. We waited after the Olympics to shake things up. We waited after the DNC convention to shake things up. We waited after the RNC convention to shake things up. We’re now waiting after September 11th to shake things up. Quite honestly, were things shaken up today with this newfound “counterpunch” that the Obama team bragged about to the NYT?

–Assume that the American people are too smart — and the nation’s challenges too grave — to let another election be decided by the moral equivalent of flag factories, the Pledge of Allegiance, and ancient history.

You’ll never go broke in underestimating the average intelligence of the American populace. Where American Idol constantly brings in millions of viewers, is it any wonder that American voters are buying the shiny new object that is Sarah Palin?

–Assume that the American people are following the ins and outs of the final weeks—the truth squading, the analyses of readiness, the subtleties of discourse, the fairness factor–as carefully as those in the political-media world, and are weighing their votes accordingly.

Right now, what the American people are seeing is that McCain has a stronger media message, and they’re buying his message because he’s on the offensive. Obama isn’t, and has been reactive.

–Assume that the American people by now are fully familiar with the biographies, accomplishments, personal trials, financial assets, families, and idiosyncrasies of the four principals.

–Forget that Hillary Clinton was constrained by certain tactics and strategies by which the Republicans do not feel bound.

That part is true. While Hillary did help prepare Obama for the general election, the problem was in underestimating the intelligence of the American voters and believing they vote logically, not emotionally.

–Assume that Republican entities won’t go after Obama on a range of issues that have been used effectively against African-American candidates in the past, including crime, drugs, and general distrust.

Looks like they’re already doing that now.

–Imagine that the game has not completely changed since August.

Oh, it has, now.


September 12, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. A lot of good analysis, but I have to say that I disagree about attacking Sarah Palin. She’s starting to implode on her own and within a few weeks no one will take her very seriously.

    The right-wing evangelical base is fired up and will love her no matter what, just as they loved Bush. There’s nothing we can do about that.

    But in time she will start to lose moderates. But Obama personally going after her is the wrong answer. Let surrogates like Debbie Wasserman Schultz (who gave a great answer to Palin today) do the dirty work.

    Obama’s had to adjust his overall strategy, but it hasn’t been because of a need to attack Palin.

    Comment by dansac | September 13, 2008 | Reply

  2. I think that you can define McCain negatively by attacking Sarah Palin. Right now, she’s their biggest “perceived” strength, and that can be turned into a major weakness by using her to question McCain’s judgement in ads.

    Comment by slinkerwink | September 13, 2008 | Reply

  3. I’m not opposed to taking her down, just think it should be done via surrogates. After the ABC debacle, I’m not sure you’ll see Palin in front of any real journalists again until the debate

    Comment by dansac | September 13, 2008 | Reply

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