September 13, 2008


Will Obama's Aggressive New Tone Work? (Chris Cillizza, 9/13/08, The Fix)

[Illinois Rep. Rahm] Emanuel, on the call this morning, argued that the new strategy "doesn't fundamentally alter that people see Barack as the candidate of the future," adding that "the American people know this is a big election."

Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, was out within minutes of the conclusion of the Obama conference call with a push back. "What is becoming clear to the American people is the fact that Barack Obama has no record of bipartisan legislative accomplishment, no history of bucking his party and no chance of bringing change," Bounds said.

One other potential complication that presents itself when considering the efficacy of Obama's new aggressive approach is that it is focused entirely on painting McCain as out of touch on the economy at a time when many Democrats are clearly itching for the Illinois senator to go at Palin in a meaningful way.

The liberal base of the Democratic party detests Palin in a visceral way and wants to destroy her, regardless of whether it is a sound political strategy or not. Several of the questions asked on today's conference call were centered not on the idea that McCain is out of touch on the economy but rather on why the Obama campaign wasn't hitting Palin more aggressively on some of her perceived weaknesses.

While it's clear that the economic message is the right one for Obama -- take a look at any recent national poll and you will see it as BY FAR the most pressing issue on the minds of voters -- in order to get that attack to stick, the Illinois senator probably needs the activist base as well as the party's chattering class on board. The question is whether anything other than a full frontal assault on Palin will energize the base in the way that can help Obama carry the fight to McCain.

Except that Senator Obama's economic message is: it's a really bad economy. No one thinks that the protectionism he gives at least rhetorical support to will improve the economy and he's had to backtrack on his own tax hikes because he admits they'll hurt it. Nor can he play up the increased government spending he favors at a time when his Party argues that deficits are a problem.

In the absence of any positive economic ideas, what can he run on but negatives?

Unfortunately for him, negative campaigning requires a deep reserve of past positive impressions, because even as you attack an opponent you drive up your own negatives. Thanks to his own personal history and the cynical support of the Democratic Party and the MSM, John McCain has a tremendous reserve to draw upon. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, is so little known that he makes voters feel uncomfortable. This is the time that most are drawing their first concrete impression of him. The danger that they'll associate him primarily with an "assault" on Sarah Palin and John McCain basically destroys the entire theory of his candidacy and renders him just a partisan hack. Even more dangerous is that there is ample support for that image in his rather meager record as a legislator and his past associations with the Reverend Wright's, Alinskyites ad William Ayres's of the Chicago political scene.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 13, 2008 8:20 AM
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