August 28, 2008


Avoiding A Long, Disappointing Fall: A thorough diagnosis of what's been ailing the Obama campaign. And suggestions for a cure. (John B. Judis, 8/28/08, The New Republic)

[T]his summer the Obama campaign has made the crucial error of conducting itself as it were on the verge of a landslide victory, comparable to Lyndon Johnson's win over Barry Goldwater in 1964. And it is still displaying the same overconfidence.

After securing the nomination in June, Obama's first priority had to be healing the rift between himself and Hillary Clinton. Candidates who can't put nomination battles behind them well before the convention usually lose. Think of Goldwater in 1964, Gerald Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980, and Walter Mondale in 1984. There are only two candidates I can remember who succeeded in overcoming intraparty rifts during the convention--John Kennedy in 1960 and Ronald Reagan in 1980--and they did it by nominating their primary opponents to be vice president.

Obama, who evidently did not see a nail-biting election looming, chose not to do that, and is reaping the consequences. I didn't think so last spring, but I realize now that Obama would have been better off had he chosen Hillary Clinton. Of course, he might have faced a nightmare in January 2009 with Bill and Hillary in the White House, but at least he would have been more assured of making it there. As it is, he may not be able to count on Clinton's fundraisers in the fall, he may not be able to count on all of her voters, and states that might have been in play with the two Clintons in tow--Florida, Arkansas, and Missouri--probably won't be.

Obama's pursuit of a 50-state strategy (now mercifully reduced to eighteen) is another sign of overconfidence. This summer, for instance, he spent money advertising and opening up field offices in Georgia. He has even appointed a coordinator for gay Georgians. That's fine, but Obama doesn't have a prayer of carrying Georgia in the presidential election. That's the kind of calculation you make if you think you're Johnson in 1964 and not Kennedy in 1960. Or if you think that field operations have the same effect in a general election that they do in a party caucus. From my experience, Obama's field operations were actually superior to those of Hillary Clinton in West Virginia, a state where he won 26 percent of the vote. They were superior in California, too, which Obama also lost. Field operations can be important, but as Karl Rove showed in 2004, they have to be carefully targeted.

Finally, Obama's rejection of McCain's proposal to hold weekly town meeting debates probably stemmed from overconfidence.

You bet--he ducked unscripted performances because he thinks he's great at them... Actually, there's one big reason Democrats should be scared about tonight's scripted appearance: supposedly Senator Obama is writing the speech himself. The last big set piece speech he gave that was purportedly self-authored was that catastrophic defense of the Reverend Wright. One assumes that this "I'm my own speech writer" shtick is an attempt to appear smart, but, in fact, it's just another decision that makes you question his judgment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 28, 2008 11:02 AM
blog comments powered by Disqus
« FOUR MORE YEARS!: | Main | MAY?: »