Playing to win: two weeks later

By Diego Del Campo

With the stakes high, and polls showing Barack Obama and John McCain in a dead heat, it was expected that each would make a “safe” VP choice, one that wouldn’t attract too much attention and wouldn’t detract too much from each campaign’s carefully crafted message. Barack Obama delivered, John McCain didn’t.

Whatever Obama campaign manager David Plouffe may have promised supporters, those who found out via text message were probably the last ones to find out who would be Obama’s VP nominee, as word leaked early in the evening (unofficially, earlier that week) that it would be Joe Biden. McCain played it wiser, sending mixed signals, and using Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty as smokescreens to keep his VP choice secret until the big reveal. And it paid off.

At first, those McCain ads featuring Hillary Clinton prominently after the Biden announcement didn’t make sense, but now it’s obvious that the McCain camp was priming the pump for his VP pick—all the while more surprising that McCain’s VP pick was shocking to most. While I don’t expect any self-respecting Democrat will vote for McCain solely because of Sarah Palin, McCain certainly made it rain on Obama’s parade by throwing the Obama camp off message—hitting Palin unusually hard for her lack of, get this, experience.
The media, of course, has been spinning it the other way—that McCain has undercut his own message of experience by tapping a newbie governor from a small state—while not mentioning how odd it is of the Obama camp (the “high road” camp) to demand a more lengthy resume from a candidate, one that has at least some governing experience, no less; and to resort to cheap, coded language to attack McCain while attacking Palin: a “heartbeat” away from the presidency?

At Invesco, it was clear that Obama sought to expand the Democratic “base”; before he spoke, a woman spoke about how the economic downturn had turned her life into a “nightmare,” and at the end of her speech, she pointedly remarked for whom she had voted for president her entire life: “Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Bush,” the woman said. Clearly, Obama was making a play to peel off Republican-leaning women away from McCain, something that may have helped him win states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. But now, the Palin pick has thrown a wrench into that, and the Obama camp may wind up using Hillary more than they would have wanted to, deploying her to states like Ohio and Pennsylvania to diminish any gains Palin may make with moderate/conservative women that voted for Hillary. (Or maybe not.)

The Palin pick has energized the right-wing base that had deserted McCain since the primaries; the GOP headed toward their Convention a more unified party than even the Democrats, and by the time both Conventions were over, the dynamics of the race changed with John McCain staying on the offensive ever since. (And I do mean offensive.)

Latest polls reportedly have independents and White women breaking for McCain—Obama had an 8-point lead with White women just before the DNC. The Democrats certainly aren’t in the position they imagined themselves to be in when Obama clinched the nomination—and the race has tightened even further, with McCain making significant inroads—they’re frustrated and going off message.
Now, more than two weeks into the general election homestretch, Obama needs to heed Karl Rove’s advice (!) and take the heat off Palin, which might reinvigorate lukewarm supporters like me about his chances of winning in November.

Which means not thinking coulda, shoulda, woulda:

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1 Comment

Filed under McCain, Vice-President

One response to “Playing to win: two weeks later

  1. Tony Robinson

    I am commenting on this post some time after you posted it Diego–but I really enjoyed it. You have a stylish way of writing, and do a great job weaving links seamlessly into your writing to support and enlarge your ideas. Yes, Hillary would have Palin-proofed the Dems–and though Obama may pull this thing out in the end, his campaign advisors needed to taken back to the wood shed for their near disastrous choice of dissing Hillary in favor of non-impact Biden. What were they thinking?

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