In - Politics Of Contrast, Out - Politics Of Change

It turns out that the rest of the political world has caught up to me and Paul Krugman:

The central fact of this year’s election is that voters are fed up with Republican rule. The only way Mr. McCain can win the presidential race is if it becomes a contest of personalities rather than parties . . .

The Obama campaign, on the other hand, doesn’t need to convince voters either that he’s the awesomest candidate ever or that Mr. McCain is a villain. All it has to do is tarnish Mr. McCain’s image enough so that voters see this as a race between a Democrat and a Republican. And that’s a race the Democrat will easily win.

(Emphasis supplied.) You hear this from everyone now, including David Axelrod on ABC's This Week yesterday. So it is out with the Politics of Change, the Post Partisan Unity Schtick, in with the Politics of Contrast. About time.

By Big Tent Democrat, speaking for me only

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    Who controls the message on Team Obama? (5.00 / 11) (#2)
    by Maria Garcia on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 06:15:46 AM EST
    I'm watching the Today show right now and Matt Lauer was hammering Obama's communications director about who it was that "warned" Joe Biden to stay on message. Somebody on Team Obama keeps saying power-tripping, arrogant stuff to NBC team. As long as they keep doing this and titilating the gossip queens in the media, any other message is going to get drowned out.

    It just has a real condescending tone to it...that you have to "warn" your VP pick. It's as if anyone who wasn't in the inner circle from day one is the enemy. So its still a race between Democrats, even as we go into the convention. You are either on the bus or under it. And even if your on the bus, you are on warning. They've got to stop this and start going after Republicans.

    Ya see (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Ga6thDem on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 06:43:10 AM EST
    this is how stupid Team Obama has become. If you are worried about having a VP candidate "stay on message" then you don't pick one that has a verbal gaffe problem.

    Or at the very least you don't (5.00 / 3) (#9)
    by Maria Garcia on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 06:47:57 AM EST
    ..magnify the problem by whispering in reporters ears that Obama staffers have issued a warning to their own VP pick. Just so silly and so typical of Washington. Somebody was trying to aggrandize themselves at Biden's expense. That staffer is the one who needs the warning.

    There is an endemic lack of respect for (5.00 / 4) (#12)
    by andrys on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 06:59:58 AM EST
    older members of the party with that crew.  That does worry me.  The ageist attacks on McCain will increase McCain's votes.  Technically adept but immature campaign staff.

    Biden is the wrong guy to mess with in that way (or in any way).


    I recall Biden making an eloquent speech (none / 0) (#86)
    by hairspray on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 11:32:06 AM EST
    about how inept Condoleeza Rice was as national security advisor, during her confirmation hearings for SOS. The way Joe Biden loquaciously told it, she had no business being Secretary of State and I fully expected him to vote against her.  Did he? NO he did not.  I called his office and told his staffer that Biden speaks out of both sides of his mouth.

    And what exactly... (none / 0) (#88)
    by sj on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 01:15:07 PM EST
    ... was that message he is supposed to stay on?

    Making the campaign about personalities (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by myiq2xu on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 06:36:54 AM EST
    is playing the GOP's game.

    Their rules, their field.

    Using Rove's playbook isn't very bright when they have Rove as their coach.

    Besides, do we really want to be like them?

    I don't

    Primary Strategy has backfired (5.00 / 5) (#36)
    by mmc9431 on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:18:39 AM EST
    By campaigning with his change and unity message he's boxed himself in to where he has nothing to campaign on other than personalities.

    He's spent to last 9 months criticizing Washington. In doing so, he's painted the Democrat's with the same brush. The performance of Democratic leadership since the 2006 election hasn't helped either.

    His attacks on the WJC admin and praise of Reagan isn't going to help either!

    My only hope in November will be that no one has been paying any attention to all of this so far.


    On the other hand... (5.00 / 1) (#83)
    by kredwyn on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 10:07:12 AM EST
    McCain's got a track record of working with the most liberal and the most conservative of Dems when it comes to co-authoring legislation.

    Obama's media darling status (none / 0) (#63)
    by Demi Moaned on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:07:37 AM EST
    And as I said yesterday, Obama's media darling status is entirely personality based.

    Since Sen. Obama acts like he's (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by zfran on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 06:42:29 AM EST
    the "awsomeist candidate evah" then the "conventional" wisdom of this election year will go unheard. Sen. McCain, altho' having some questionable policies, is not a villain. Isn't that what Obama was preaching to us about. Change, change in washington politics, change in attitude, change in direction. If it continues to be broken down into good vs. evil (awesome vs. villain), then not only do we have politics as usual, but it puts Obama, not McCain, in the same league as GWB!

    I will believe it when I see it (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by Democratic Cat on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 06:43:51 AM EST
    I admit that I didn't catch the Axelrod interview, but I don't see evidence that Sen. Obama is adopting the politics of contrast. He seems to be willing to risk losing rather than run strongly as a Democrat, as someone who will restore and then build on the Clinton successes. That strategy didn't work out so well for Al Gore.

    Convention is the change in tactics (none / 0) (#81)
    by waldenpond on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 10:02:54 AM EST
    The nights have specific themes.  It will partly depend on Obama's speech.  He talked it down so I am wondering if it's not as inspirational/rhetorical and will target the Repubs.

    McCain went through a nasty campaign with Bush and he learned or he's going down again.

    Obama switching tactics has the disadvantage of backfiring as people may feel they still don't know him... 'I thought he gave uplifting speeches'...  I think the campaign should have switched once they felt the nomination was secure.  JMO but they coasted and they have used up quite a bit of time.

    I will keep saying... voters are disgusted with BOTH parties.  This Dem Congress has passed the least legislation in 20 years.  I'm not convinces us v them is going to work.

    70 days - tick tock, tick tock


    Krugman's right. (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Ga6thDem on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 06:47:51 AM EST
    And it's why I said the "houses" ad from Obama was such a huuuuge mistake. Obama's campaign needs to stay away from personal issues and personality but it seems that they just can't help it.

    Axelrod may NOW realize it but it's the eleventh hour. McCain has been able to define himself in a positive way to the voters while Obama has been taking preemptive victory laps overseas.

    The convention, at least from what I've read, will be doing NONE of the things Krugman has recommended. Better hope that no one watches it.

    So, the message is what, now? (5.00 / 10) (#13)
    by Anne on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 07:02:32 AM EST
    "Forget About All that Coming Together Cr@p; Blue America is Better, and Here's Why?"

    Okay.  I'll go along with that meme - many of us have been saying for a long time that if we have the best ideas, and the best policies, and most Americans seem to be in agreement, why aren't we pushing that?  Why aren't we trying to convince the rest of America that not only is life better with Dems in charge, but the democracy is stronger and healthier, and your rights and privileges more secure?

    Sadly, I don't see Barack - FISA is your Friend, Bill Who?, Love that Reagan Guy, Let Us Pray - Obama taking that tack - not in time to win, and not in time to convince people that this is the real Obama.  

    So, how long before the "Obama campaign in disarray" reports start?  

    We're going to have to read..... (5.00 / 3) (#14)
    by Maria Garcia on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 07:05:32 AM EST
    ...between the tea leaves because those reports will never come. If the media could spin the VP selection process as brilliant, they can make lemonade out of anything.

    The Democrats with the best ideas (5.00 / 4) (#25)
    by joanneleon on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 07:53:16 AM EST
    and the best policies are not closely tied with this campaign.  That would be people like Al Gore, the Clintons, Wes Clark, Russ Feingold, John and Elizabeth Edwards, and others who either have chosen not to get too close to the campaign, have been thrown under the bus or are out of the picture for other reasons.  They aren't part of this new machine.

    So perhaps it's hard to use that argument now, since Obama has chosen to compromise and move to the right on so many issues, and because Biden is known for his "go along to get along" record in Washington.


    Gore.... (none / 0) (#32)
    by Fabian on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:11:36 AM EST
    Even Gore in a nominal role in the campaign would be worth a lot.  Of course, that would mean recognizing and respecting Gore's own views and goals wrt energy and environment.

    I would be disappointed but unsurprised if Gore doesn't show at the convention.  The Obama campaign seems intent on not tying themselves to the most prominent Democrats, instead preferring to be free of such entanglements.  


    I read here that he will speak (none / 0) (#43)
    by mmc9431 on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:31:21 AM EST
    I'm interested in what he'll say. Obama has waivered on off shore drilling. (He isn't ruling it out). I wonder if Gore will call the party out on this? That doesn't seem to fit the unity theme very well.

    I expect a recap of Gore's (none / 0) (#51)
    by Fabian on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:40:45 AM EST
    little stump speech for Obama:  The Democrats are the best chance we have to deal with Climate Change.

    It may be the truth in that the Democrats are better than the Republicans, but Obama hasn't come near embracing Gore's plans.


    I think the convention is very important ... (5.00 / 4) (#15)
    by Robot Porter on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 07:05:57 AM EST
    and I hope Obama and others become more outwardly focused.

    I know the media and parts of the Obama camp want to play up the history making aspect of this candidacy.  And there is some value to talking about this.  You can even make it into a point of contrast.  

    "Republicans make mistakes, Democrats make history."

    But to me more important than contrast is that Obama shows that he's running to help others, not to help himself.  That he's outwardly, rather than inwardly focused.

    He's been very bad at this so far.  The convention gives him a perfect chance to turn this around.

    They are too enamored of Obama's (5.00 / 3) (#16)
    by Maria Garcia on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 07:12:20 AM EST
    .."story." While it's a great thing that we have an African American nominee and it is historic, its foolish to ask people to cast a vote for history when we have so many problems. Furthermore, the convention might have a "mission accomplished" aspect to it if they focus too much on that.

    I'm watching the convention coverage (5.00 / 9) (#30)
    by joanneleon on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:09:16 AM EST
    this morning.  I watched some of it late last night.

    The convention hasn't even started yet, and it's already so far over the top that it's ridiculous.

    I'm having a really hard time with the magnitude of it all, considering the situation this country is in at this very moment.  The media is absolutely gluttonous in their coverage.  Wolf Blitzer said the coverage would start at 6am today, and would go through the nights, etc.  MSNBC is a one big party already.  Willy was interviewing women at a strip club this morning and taking shots at Bill Clinton and Hillary supporters.  The Pepsi center stage, with its multiple staircases and lighting looks like the set of an Oscar awards ceremony or a Miss America pageant.

    Meanwhile, people are losing their homes, losing their jobs, having a hard time finding enough money for food and gas.  Our troops are stuck in the hellhole that is Iraq and Afghanistan, and we're flexing our muscles with two other countries.  The polar ice cap is melted and we really don't know what's going to happen with the environment, or when.

    These aren't just little problems -- these are catastrophic problems.  But all they can talk about is the glam and the petty personal battles.

    We're so far in debt that we are drowning, yet tens and hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on these campaigns and these conventions.  Protesters are ridiculed.  Superstar candidates are lauded.

    Watching the news coverage and the Democratic party, you'd think we were at the height of prosperity.  I'm just looking at it all, and wondering where the heck we are going with all of this.  It's fantasyland.  A dangerous fantasyland.


    Democrats are spenders (5.00 / 1) (#84)
    by waldenpond on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 10:12:57 AM EST
    OK, here's a bad thought... what if the Repubs tone it down.... the country is hurting and the Dem over the top waste of money is how they will run the country, blah, blah, blah  Waste of energy, hypocrites blah, blah, blah...

    Oh, let me say, I can't remember seeing an event so over the top.  Seems like the speakers will just drown in that stage.

    If they do the 'O' thing with their hands, I will be disgusted.  Not only is it NOT original (google holding the sun), it reminds me of 'hand in the shape of an L on the forehead'


    Did you happen to see the (none / 0) (#42)
    by inclusiveheart on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:29:15 AM EST
    dust up between John King and Paul Begala last night?  I turned on the TV just as they came back from commercial after it happened.  Apparently, King accused Begala of "fomenting discontent" over Senator Clinton's treatment.  King sort of made the point in the part I saw when they cooled down that there were a lot of other things that Democrats might focus on than that rivalry - but I didn't really get a complete understanding of what King was talking about.  The various hosts and guests were all referencing "the fight" they had in a teasing sort of way.  It must have been a fireworks moment given the attention they gave to it.

    I missed it (none / 0) (#50)
    by joanneleon on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:38:51 AM EST
    but I've heard them reference it multiple times this morning.  They're talking about it like it was a physical fight or something.

    Right now, I see that Dan Rather is on MSNBC.  That's interesting.


    I have said it before and I will say it again (5.00 / 6) (#33)
    by MMW on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:12:40 AM EST
    The true racism, is expecting so little from a black man. The focus on history is solely based on color, not on ability or policy.

    This is not directed to you: but so many people keep talking about Obama speaking to policy, rather than in vague, nebulous whatevers. Where is this ability supposed to come from? Where is the action, experience, or know how for the implementation of these policies to come from? Who is supposed to trust in a candidate whose message changes with the wind? Who is supposed to believe him?

    The quickness of McCain's responses aren't luck - it's because all the info is there, the ads have all been cut - there is NOTHING beyond the celebrity.

    The left nominated BUSH III. And now we're supposed to hope that people are still slumbering.

    Once is a mistake, twice is a fashion, three times is habit. Are we hoping for the habit?


    Actually, it is not so much that they (5.00 / 8) (#37)
    by inclusiveheart on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:21:56 AM EST
    are enamoured of his story - I think that they find themselves in the stunningly poor position of having to tell his story; and have chosen to do so rather than concentrating on what he is going to do for America.  

    He did neither over the past two months and made it even worse by running hard to the right which confused people and then he went to Europe, on vacation, created hype about texting, fought with the Clintons and all of a sudden ten weeks from election day they've done nothing meaningful in the minds of the American people.  

    Camp Obama frittered away two months counting on this week being the big moment for our young debutante to make his debut.  They made a decision to wait on both the life story and the issues - and I do think they have been fool enough to assume that the contrasts between the parties were a given and not all that important to winning up until this point.  They also totally under estimated John McCain's skill as a politician as well as the Republican's very keen ability to zero in on and co-opt the public's discontent.  Now they are totally behind the eight ball.  

    Everything I am hearing is that this convention is going to be about Barack Obama's story - which will further alienate him from the public who really doesn't care that much about his story - they care about their story and at the moment their story is grim - they want someone who appears to care about what's going on with them.  

    The reality is that people are so desperate for relief that that if Obama actually made a good case to them about the things he will do to make their lives and America better - I don't think they would give a damn if he really was a muslim.

    Meanwhile, the Democratic Party - tone deaf as always - plans on telling Barack Obama's story ad nauseum.


    Reminds me of my husband. (5.00 / 5) (#48)
    by Fabian on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:36:02 AM EST
    He's one of those guys who thinks that weeks of neglect can be swept away with a really nice dinner one night.  (He has a tendency to over commit.)  

    It feels like the Obama campaign is counting on one week in Denver to make up for weeks or months of slacking.  One whiz bang production will make us all forget our petty quarrels!  Once the convention is over, all the problems that existed before it will probably still be there.  It takes constant effort.

    My motivational mantra is: Perseverance furthers.


    The American People (5.00 / 2) (#55)
    by ccpup on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:53:24 AM EST
    care about his story insofar as it educates them about what, exactly, is in that history which makes him capable of leading this Country out of the mess it's in.

    Single mother, Ivy League school, childhood in Indonesia (for a spell, anyway), community organizer, State legislator, Junior Senator in his first Term ...

    Okay.  Sounds nice.  But when they contrast and compare with his opponent (famous POW from a military family, long serving Senator, widely accepted as a "maverick" who offers "straight talk"), it pales in comparison.  It's embarrassing.

    Nothing about the thumbnail sketch bio most Americans will retain about Obama indicates he has the strength, political skill and experience to handle the problems this country faces.

    And that's BEFORE the negative redefining of him shifts from the C Game into the B Game.  (I doubt they'll need the A Game as Barack seems quite happy to shoot himself in the foot on a weekly basis)


    They don't need 12 hours of (5.00 / 4) (#60)
    by inclusiveheart on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:03:34 AM EST
    his story.  As you point out, it isn't all that fantastic and the reality is that most people are self-interested.  Most people want to know what he is going to do for them.  If you asked me for a succinct three point list of what Obama is going to do for you to make your life and this country better - I could NOT give it to you - I've been paying attention and I can't come up with that list.

    I would really like to be able to say something like "Barack Obama is going to get a solar panel on every roof".  That has change, it is specific and it speaks to the individual.  I've got nothin' like that.  All they've given me are lofty phrases like "Energy Independence".  What does that mean to me?  I don't really have a clue.  They aren't connecting the dots and they have to if they want anyone to care about what they are saying.


    Not to mention (5.00 / 5) (#58)
    by joanneleon on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:00:30 AM EST
    the glamour and excess that is pouring through the TV screen day after day, and the reports of how many millions of dollars Obama raised during a particular week or month, or Biden saying we need to send a billion dollars to Georgia while New Orleans remains in ruins.

    I can't be the only one saying Jeezus, what are they thinking?  Do they have a clue what we're going through out here?

    Incredible, incredible stupidity and I hate to say it, but... hubris.  We have learned nothing.


    Yes, and when the words ... (5.00 / 1) (#67)
    by Robot Porter on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:15:55 AM EST
    glamor and excess can be applied to the Democratic party ... it's never a good thing.

    Who's 'we?' (none / 0) (#89)
    by oldpro on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 01:39:47 PM EST
    Damn near every Democrat was slow on the uptake this year but now everyone has learned something.

    'They' learned how to take over a party.

    'We' learned that caucuses are destructive to the party but pay off for certain candidates.


    BTD - thought you would want to know (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by Anne on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 07:18:01 AM EST
    that on C-SPAN's Convention Coverage page, your post on the "No Biden Bounce" is at the top of their "Blog Headlines" section.

    Draw a line in the sand (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by mmc9431 on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 07:19:04 AM EST
    I hope Obama starts to control the message. Democrat's have allowed the Republican's to control the message and define the middle for years now.

    So far, Obama has allowed them to continue this strategy whether it be FISA and national security or religion's place in government. If he doesn't take control of the message soon, we're liable to be subjected to another 4 years of a Republican in the WH.

    Just because (5.00 / 5) (#19)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 07:22:09 AM EST
    you heard this from Axelrod doesn't mean that his candidate will actually do it.

    If Obama had run on 'being a Democrat -- the politics of contrast' maybe he wouldn't have lost a good chunk of the base early on, who, frankly, don't trust him enough to go back (I'm one of those).

    In addition, if they're running on contrast, it will be easy for McCain to run on experience versus inexperience.  Shoot, Obama even admits on tape to his inexperience.  Choosing Biden put a spotlight on Obama's inexperience.  (Choosing Clinton could have been covered up as 'unity').

    And oh, gawd, if you bring out contrast, Obama might have to admit and mention that there was one large blip on the loser Democratic presidential ticket over the last 40 years -- that was Clinton.  He'd have to swallow a fierce chunk of pride to do that.  He expects such swallowing from everyone else, not from himself.

    And, really, at the end of the day, I think Obama actually believes what he says.  

    I should also mention (5.00 / 5) (#21)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 07:41:16 AM EST
    that at the end of the day Obama isn't dedicated to winning -- otherwise, he would have chosen Clinton, they would have come out with a unity speech, he would have asked his supporters/followers to set aside their differences like he had, and they would have won.

    Since he isn't dedicated to winning if it requires such personal sacrifice, he probably isn't dedicated to changing himself enough to win.


    ...or to govern? (5.00 / 5) (#26)
    by Maria Garcia on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 07:54:08 AM EST
    ...that's the potentially scary part. I would actually like to see Obama in a bit more trouble this election cycle...enough trouble that he has to reach deep down inside instead of relying on his enablers. I want to see him have a moment like Hillary had after Iowa. Like Bill Clinton had in 1992. It's important to see how he responds to real political adversity. I know that some will say that the Rev. Wright kerfuffle was such a moment, but I think he sort of botched that by following it up with bittergate. I want him to win, but I also want to believe that he will be better than just not-Bush.

    ...yes, or to govern (5.00 / 3) (#38)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:23:24 AM EST
    That is why I prefer divided government to Obama's win.  Inexperience, petulance and ego, been there, done that.  Don't need another 8 years of that.

    we saw that already... (5.00 / 5) (#56)
    by p lukasiak on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:56:56 AM EST
    After the notorious Philadelphia debate.  

    And what we saw was someone who doesn't know how to deal with adversity appropriately.

    The long primary season should have been a net positive for Obama if he could have dealt with that debate properly.   It gave Obama a chance to introduce himself to voters in a positive way -- even if they decided to vote for Clinton, Obama could leave a positive first impression on a lot of voters.

    Instead, Obama decided to ignore states that he knew he couldn't win in (and send a message to the voters that he didn't care about people who didn't support him), refuse additional debates (missing the chance to redeem himself, and gain stature -- it didn't matter if he "lost" the debates as long as he left an overall positive impression), and saying how "bored" he was.

    Obama didn't get his way, so he took his toys and went home, whining all the way.  

    Obama's inexperience isn't that big a problem, its hubris and willfulness combined with inexperience that is his downfall.  


    What (none / 0) (#39)
    by joanneleon on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:24:21 AM EST
    phrase was that?  I must have missed that one, or I don't recall.

    This one (5.00 / 2) (#44)
    by misspeach2008 on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:32:11 AM EST
     "I have to say that John Edwards is very beautiful, and my husband is very smart."

    Listened to news radio (5.00 / 6) (#23)
    by sister of ye on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 07:50:51 AM EST
    this a.m. going to work and it was all about the rift in the Dem party because of unsatisfied Clinton supporters disappointed she didn't get the nod. It had that "those unreasonable women are going to spoil it for the poor Obama" tone. So the blame set-up is in place.

    The McCain houses attack might have worked as part of a "Republicans are fat cats just pretending to be regular guys to cheat you" meme. Otherwise it's just trashing a guy's rich wife ala Teresa Heinz Kerry. It comes off bad because supposedly we're the party that shouldn't mind a woman having her own money. [snort] Well, we know where that stuff went this year.

    Yet there's Biden in the audio clips, pushing compromise again. "Let me fight to run over to the Republicans to give away your civil rights and prosperity." Oh, yeah, that's a great reason to vote for you.

    It's a mistake to pre-blame people.... (5.00 / 9) (#28)
    by Maria Garcia on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 07:57:12 AM EST
    ...it means they have nothing left to lose.

    half-brother stuck in 3rd world (none / 0) (#79)
    by Fen on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:52:01 AM EST
    The McCain houses attack might have worked as part of a "Republicans are fat cats just pretending to be regular guys to cheat you" meme.

    And it doesn't help that Obama's own brother lives on a dollar a day in some 3rd world hell-hole. Trying to paint McCain as selfish and greedy was not the birghtest move. It will come back to bite him.


    its already about personalities.... (5.00 / 7) (#29)
    by p lukasiak on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:00:57 AM EST
    Or actually, one personality -- Obama's.

    Obama made the biggest rookie mistake possible -- not only allowing his opposition to define him, but facilitating that process.

    Obama was able to get away with the 'blank slate' routine against Clinton for so long because she made no effort to define him --- she was concentrating on (re)defining herself, and trying to run a positive campaign.  And the moment that Clinton made any effort to define Obama (starting with the 3AM ad) Obama started fading -- but Team Obama ignored what was happening.

    The GOP has taken full advantage of this, and Obama is in big trouble.   This campaign is about him, and him alone -- and he can't do a makeover of who he is in 70 days times -- all he can do is hope to contain/control that damage sufficiently to win.  (regardless of the consequences)

    So expect to see an extremely negative campaign here -- it won't be the "politics of contrast" because that implies "GOP bad, Dems good".  This is gonna be "GOP bad, Bad, BAD!", because people don't trust Obama -- and all that Team Obama can do is make the prospect of a McCain presidency more frightening to people than the prospect of an Obama candidacy.

    Funny thing (5.00 / 6) (#34)
    by Ga6thDem on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:14:57 AM EST
    is that has been McCain's MO for the last several months. Looks like Obama's going to be a day late and a dollar short. McCain has spent months defining himself and Obama. Obama has failed to do either. Obama has also failed to get out in front of the Chicago baggage and has allowed himself to be smacked upside the head with it. Is his campaign so clueless that they didn't think all this stuff was going to come up? I KNEW it was going to come up.

    Somewhere between (5.00 / 2) (#40)
    by Fabian on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:26:45 AM EST
    clueless and believing their own press.

    Enough smart people have written about the GOP/Rove play book that a moderately competent political strategist should know the broad themes and strategies by heart.  GOP defines the Dem candidates themselves in negative terms and tends to ignore the issues.  The best defense is to define the candidate in strong positive terms AND to push the issues in populist terms.  Negative attacks on the GOP candidate are good, but they are NOT key.  People keep seeming to misunderstand what a "good offense" looks like.  They often seem to think reacting to GOP attacks is a good offense.  Wrong.  It's giving the opponent the advantage of setting (negative) frames.

    In the post mortem of this election, my question will be:  Did the Democrats learn anything from the Gore and Kerry campaigns?

    Right now, the answer appears to be "no".


    Populist terms (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by joanneleon on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:33:09 AM EST
    One of the biggest mysteries to me is why the dems are not taking the populist theme and running with it.  This is the way to get votes from all sides.

    Because they yielded that territory (5.00 / 4) (#53)
    by inclusiveheart on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:43:38 AM EST
    to the Republicans.  Confounding to me.

    They are afraid of being accused of starting "class warfare".

    Ironically, the Republicans have been institutionalizing class warfare and they've taken serious tolls on the working and middle class folks - but the Democrats are too afraid to really stick up for them when it counts.

    So Obama tells people to keep their tire pressure in check completely ignoring the behemouth threats from the energy corporations.  McCain always a friend to big oil cleverly spins off shore drilling as a big government solution and ends up looking like he cares enough to actually do something for them.

    Shaking head.  

    Aside from my theory about the Dem Party's fears about what Republicans will say about them there is another possibility which is that maybe the reality is that Democrats wouldn't lift a finger to help Americans afterall.  That is possible too.


    If you haven't already read Greenwald's (5.00 / 1) (#64)
    by joanneleon on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:09:26 AM EST
    article from yesterday, I'd recommend it:
    "Joe Biden and the political establishment's overriding goal"

    It's really sobering.  Not that I needed any more sobering.


    I read the excerpt you posted. (5.00 / 1) (#69)
    by inclusiveheart on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:17:27 AM EST
    Honestly, when Teddy Kennedy stepped in and anointed Obama I basically thought that meant that he believed that he could control Obama.  When all the old establishment guys line up behind a new guy, it usually means that that new guy is one of them.  But few people picked up on that who were caught up in the Hope/Change mythology.

    I agree (5.00 / 3) (#76)
    by joanneleon on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:35:41 AM EST
    From the start I knew that Daschle was behind the curtain and I figured that others were too.  Daschle definitely has grudges.

    When Obama started getting the big endorsements, and when Pelosi said the "unity ticket" wasn't going to happen, I knew that the reason they were fighting so hard against Clinton was because they couldn't control her, and they felt that they could control Obama.

    The other thing that set off a ton of red flags for me was that the media was clearly favoring Obama.  That always makes me want to run the other way.

    One good thing about this primary is that it has exposed where the real problems are in the party.  And despite all the CW in the blogosphere about the Clintons being the root of the problem, I'm finding that the truth is quite a different story.

    I hope he gets his head on straight, gets his priorities straight, starts listening to the people instead of the lame Democratic leaders, and throws them off if he gets elected.  It's our only hope right now, I think.  

    I used to have the highest respect for the Congressional Black Caucus and I thought they had their priorities straight and they had the guts to stand up for what is right.  Really, for the last two decades they were who I looked to for leadership in Congress.  Lately, I've had my doubts about them.  But my hope is that once things settle down, they can influence Obama.

    P.S. Oh, how cute.  Mika and Joe are demonstrating a stuffed donkey that laughs, with a recording of Hillary's "cackle".


    comfort = "have a beer with" (none / 0) (#59)
    by Fabian on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:01:25 AM EST
    Comfort level is not key.  Comfort level will get people to listen to a candidate more readily, but any competent politician should be able to reach out to most voters.  Comfort is not really about "values" because frankly the personal values of many Republicans should turn most people off.  Comfort is why the GOP's best negative frame is that Democrats are "effete(weak), out of touch elitists".  

    I actually heard someone on the news (none / 0) (#65)
    by joanneleon on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:11:08 AM EST
    yesterday talking about what a great guy Biden is and how he's the type of guy you'd like to sit and have a beer with.

    that's nice (5.00 / 1) (#68)
    by ccpup on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:17:01 AM EST
    but unless it's said about the guy at the top of the ticket, it's almost meaningless.

    Biden will be seen in a debate setting only once this campaign season.  Obama will be seen in three debates plus any town halls he agrees to do with McCain.  Obama performance during these debates will be what helps to define the ticket for many Americans, good or bad.

    Wanting to have a beer with the VP may get a vote or two, but winning still rests squarely in the lap of the guy in the #1 spot.  

    And, so far, many Americans just aren't that into him.  They better get a move on, though, as the clock is ticking.

    Just keep him away from bowling alleys.


    The smart thing to do (none / 0) (#78)
    by joanneleon on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:51:05 AM EST
    is to never use that phrase about any Democrat, IMHO.  It immediately conjures up images of Bush.

    It shouldn't be a mystery (none / 0) (#87)
    by hairspray on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 11:51:58 AM EST
    to anyone why the obama campaign has lost its way.  The younguns' running his campaign are suffering from youngitis.  You know, they are so damm smart and have all the answers.  They don't need no stinkin' advice from the old foggies.

    But how do you hammer how bad the GOP is, (5.00 / 10) (#35)
    by Anne on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:17:26 AM EST
    and also keep talking about religion and faith-based initiatives, and hedging on abortion (when you start attaching qualifiers, you're hedging), and voting for George Bush's FISA bill, and not talking about universal health care, and on and on and on?  For crying out loud - this is the Democratic Convention that is infused top to bottom with religion - religion.  How do you turn on the Democrats without turning off the independents and Republicans you've been attempting to convince that you're not that kind of Democrat - you know, the ultra-liberal, really-hates-America kind?

    And who is going to see it as genuine and authentic, coming now?  It's craven political posturing and he's going to get it all thrown back in his face by a gleeful GOP, which will paint him as someone America can't trust because he has no idea what he thinks or believes from day to day or week to week.

    Slow motion train wreck, picking up spped.


    In all honesty, (5.00 / 4) (#49)
    by ccpup on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:38:29 AM EST
    I think that the Politics of Personal Destruction -- to dig up an old phrase from the 90s -- is Obama's comfort zone.  He's never had a fight like this before and, during the Primary when the going got tough, he personally nuked his opponent with the "they're racist" brush.

    In looking over his past races, he's never had to define himself or to offer up a laundry list of specifics in policy-speak.  All he had to do was destroy his opponents with personal attacks in the Primary and then coast to an easy win on Election Day.  That's how the Chicago system is set up, it's what he and Axelrod know and, Lord help them, fully expected would happen this time around.

    But John McCain isn't Alan Keyes or any other Chicago pol.  

    So now, what you have is the Democrat flailing away from a position of weakness as he falls further in the Polls.  And, not being known for his ability to carry it off in the home stretch even with an underfunded opponent getting hammered in the Press, he'll have to do so now going up against a well-oiled, well-practiced, ruthless machine that KNOWS how to win elections.

    And how fired up are the Republicans?  They can see the Finish Line and the celebratory champagne whereas, several months ago, they had resigned themselves to certain defeat.

    I don't anticipate a post-Convention bounce for Barack although I do for McCain.  As I wrote recently, once people link his POW experience with actual pictures and powerful footage, he'll be a much more difficult candidate.

    Kinda sad that McCain might win this thing without every having to blast Obama with his A Game, you know?  Just step back and let Obama do it himself.


    EXACTLY! (none / 0) (#75)
    by blcc on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:29:45 AM EST
    THANK YOU, Hope, for laying it out that way.  

    All the criticism Hillary took for the 3 A.M. ad was SO over the top.  And yet here are Democrats calling other Democrats racists and playing the race card and everyone just clucks and stares like a bunch of chickens in a barnyard.  In fact, they made light of Bill calling them out on it.  

    And you're right that the GOP won't care - they get it all them time.  They're immune now.


    I didn't hear this from axlrod (5.00 / 2) (#31)
    by Edgar08 on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:09:36 AM EST
    but maybe I missed it.

    What I do know is Obama still thinks half the Dem party is bad.  That's contrasty.  McCain doesn't think half the republican party is bad.

    It really makes my blood boil... (5.00 / 3) (#41)
    by bmc on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:29:06 AM EST
    When I read things like this:


    Obama has made this election about change and judgment. Then he picks Biden; and the "judgment" thing turns out to be not all that great, in light of Rezko, Wright, Farakhan, and his longtime associations with Ayers and Phleger. Oh, and then there's his support for Cheney's Energy Bill, and Bush's Class Action Fairness Act. And, his admiration for Reagan, ferchrisesakes.

    I'm not voting Republican; but I won't collude in disparaging the only 2-term successful Democratic party President in the past 40 years. And, that is what Obama has done, and continues to do. The Clintons are racist? Wow. Who knew?! Coulda fooled me!

    The hideous and ongoing attempt to dismiss and degrade the 8 years of the Clinton administration makes me sick. How many times can I watch Barack Obama twist the knife into Sen and former President Clinton's back? Honestly, I don't know how liberals can stomach it, but many are embracing it in the most breathtaking self-annihilation ever imagined.

    This is not my Democratic Party, thanks, but no thanks.

    Now, it's all about forcing me to vote for Obama because, if I don't, I'm a racist. That is the most offensive, disgusting, demeaning argument that has emerged in this election.

    Some of us on the left refuse to be insulted into voting for a man who has shown enormous capacity for boldfaced lying, and petty vindictiveness, while trying to claim the high ground on "character."

    If he wins the White House, it will be without my support. Because of the actions of the Democratic Party, this time I'm voting with my values. Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party has my vote. At least, they don't insult and offend me by calling me a racist.

    The problem with people like Weisberg.... (none / 0) (#77)
    by p lukasiak on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:36:56 AM EST
    ....is that they treat support of Obama as "obvious", making "racism" the only explanation for not supporting Obama.

    Its a disasterous strategy, because it sends the message to every voter who has doubts about Obama (including those who are inclined to support Obama anyway) that they are racist -- Weisberg presents Obama as so obvious that only a racist would even have doubts.

    This kind of thinking makes the voters focus on the legitimate reasons to have doubts -- race probably plays a role in how intense those doubts are, but there is no question that those doubts aer legitimate.   And once they confirm the fact that their doubts are legitimate, they will actually look for more legitimate reasons to doubt Obama, in order to justify those doubts even more.

    If the 'race card' is going to be played successfully by Obama's supporters, it has to be far more subtle -- first and foremost, Obama's supporters have to acknowledge that their candidate is flawed, and that doubts about him are legitimate.  At that point, you can raise the issue of whether voters doubts are somewhat more intense because of unconscious bias.   By emphasizing that biases over which they have no control may be playing a role, Obama might get some extra votes because people will wind up "overcompensating" rather than think that their decision is based on unconscious racism.


    Another problem is that people like (none / 0) (#85)
    by Maria Garcia on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 10:15:37 AM EST
    Weisberg really overestimate the amount of time most voters spend anquishing over whether or not they are racists....that's one of the reasons why racism exists.

    What contrast? (5.00 / 4) (#46)
    by Redshoes on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:34:07 AM EST
    In this morning's NYTimes there's the story about Biden's son's $100K per year retainer from MBNA (2001 - 2005) -- remind me again how Biden (whose support of the bankruptcy bill alone ought to disqualify him as the working man's hero) represents the working and middle class -- his values seem pretty Republican to me -- he kept it all in the family.  

    My take on why: (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by inclusiveheart on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 08:34:47 AM EST
    They totally under estimated McCain; took their advantage for granted; and bought into their own good PR.

    Someone mighty want to remind (5.00 / 2) (#62)
    by cawaltz on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:07:31 AM EST
    Senator Obama which policical party he will need provide contrast to. He is very good at picking apart the Democratic party flaws and its leaders. I have yet to see him do anything other than schmooze up to the opposition party though.

    He's doing it (5.00 / 2) (#73)
    by joanneleon on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:23:25 AM EST
    but it's not coming through clearly.  The things he says about the opposition party are not getting through the noise about his epic battle with the Clintons.  Leaking things about her never being vetted, sending out his infamous text message at 3am, and such, two months after the primary is over, is not helping.  It certainly seems like the Obama campaign remains focused (should we say obsessed?) with Hillary and Bill Clinton, rather than being focused on the real "enemy".  And it shows.  And the people in this country seem to be getting it.

    The fact that the Obama campaign has been so paranoid about the Clintons and this convention puts a big crack in his veneer of confidence, and people are sensing it.  I think that really hurts a presidential candidate, perhaps more than anything else.  It's especially damaging after eight years of an insecure president like George Bush.  More than anything, I think the American people, of all political stripes, are looking for someone with the confidence and strength and good judgement to take hold of our biggest problems and start getting us back on track.  We want someone who has their priorities straight.  


    Krugman is right as always (5.00 / 3) (#72)
    by Notyoursweetie 0 on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:21:52 AM EST
    This is a summary of my - now missing - post #1:

    The line between the parties has been blurred this election cycle. Obama praises Reagan, bashes Clinton. The media gives him the Bush treatment and McCain the Gore treatment.
    The personalities contest  shapes up as a mirror image of the 2004 race: the frat boy vs the war hero.

    This statement is so true (5.00 / 4) (#74)
    by BarnBabe on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 09:26:33 AM EST
    several months ago, they had resigned themselves to certain defeat.
    Back in June, a very very Republican friend said this same thing. Then he said, very happily when Obama won, "I thought we were doomed but I now think we can take this one afterall."

    The DNC Convention. So this is what they have been waiting for to unite the party. Obama wasted so much time so far. The thing is, and this is not Hillary's fault, us women were so trampled on this primary that we are willing to take a stand and say: Enough. You don't take us for granted and expect us to be there once again.

    Krugman is right as always (4.80 / 10) (#1)
    by Notyoursweetie 0 on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 05:48:04 AM EST
    Unfortunately, it's hard for Obama to convince me he is the Democrat in this race. Ever since he started to praise Reagan while bashing Bill Clinton, I had a feeling that the old party alignment is over in this election.
    The media giving Hillary the "Gore treatment" and Obama the Bush treatment has obscured the boundaries further (I am using Krugman terms here too).
        This was reinforced by Obama's rapid move further to the right- not center (FISA, war, FBI)

    The fact that many of my fellow progressives, his supporters started acting like the ol' freepers completed the transformation.(a Fox poll finds 41% would still support Obama if he starts a war with Iran)
         Obama can try to pretend he's the democrat in this race till the cows come home. To me he looks more like W every day.
         And McCain looks less than his ilk with every media slight he gets.
         When the New York Times refused to publish a McCain editorial and sent him back to the drawing board - to revise it to be "up to snuff" - the boundaries melted completely.
         The parties are gone. The race is between an  inexperienced, arrogant, vindictive spoiled frat boy and a war veteran. Kinda like 2004 upside down.

    The contrast steadily decreases (5.00 / 12) (#10)
    by joanneleon on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 06:49:47 AM EST
    If they are going to use the contrast between the parties as the basis for the campaign, they'd better hurry up before everyone figures out that there's hardly any contrast left.

    Glenn Greenwald hits the mark again:

    Since Pelosi and Reid took over Congress... It has done nothing to reverse the radical executive power theories and has done much to institutionalize them. If there is one predominant trait of the Congress over the past several years, it has been a willingness to grant every item on the the President's wish list regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans are in control.

    And after the Obama campaign and the media spent the last year painting the Clintons as the power hungry leaders of the entrenched party machine, we are seeing that the truth is just the opposite:

    The most entrenched establishment spokespeople are cheering the selection of Joe Biden because, in their minds, that selection confirms the most important fact for them: that in this election, the prevailing orthodoxies of our political system won't be meaningfully challenged.


    Ever since it became clear that Obama would be the likely nominee, the political establishment has been demanding of him more and more proof that his "change" rhetoric is just that -- rhetoric, and not anything meant as a genuine threat to the prevailing order of things. Obama, arguably out of political necessity, has repeatedly obliged, eagerly trying to offer proof that he is no threat to them, and the Biden selection is but the latest step in that campaign of reassurance.

    Change you can believe in?  Well, that's so yesterday.  It never meant a thing.  It was a lie.


    Correction (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by joanneleon on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 07:36:03 AM EST
    Well, I botched that post above.

    First, I forgot the link to Greenwald's article:
    "Joe Biden and the political establishment's overriding goal"

    Second, I incorrectly included some of my words inside a blockquote.  Everything in the blockquotes is from Glenn's article except this part, which is mine:
    "And after the Obama campaign and the media spent the last year painting the Clintons as the power hungry leaders of the entrenched party machine, we are seeing that the truth is just the opposite:"


    Just to complete your last thought (5.00 / 5) (#11)
    by andrys on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 06:57:54 AM EST
    and a currently VERY DANGEROUS war veteran.

    But I am certainly in agreement with your description of Obama.  However, we're not supposed to be talking like that.  

    The Chicago DNC has extended further its long arm to encourage the quieting by its attitudes, where possible, of wrong thoughts in even this favorite forum, but if they succeed (because of Toobin and others watching the blogs?), then it's not the TalkLeft I knew (last words inspired by Barack).

    I hope that warning was an aberration but am not encouraged.  With the treatment of Clark, whose PAC THEME and website name were taken for VP night but he was told there was no need for him at the convention, I hardly will be a supportive poster for the sacred week.  

      It's not Hillary who must move supporters toward Obama; it's Obama who must do something to CAUSE the movement toward him, and that does not include pranks like the 3am cellphone call, the timing of which was more important to ObamaTeam than the promise to supporters of timely  notice.

      That also doesn't include the carefully placed statements that Clinton was never under consideration for VP (even when knowing 11-15% of Democrats are "Undecided" and are mostly older women) and it was not the hiring of Patty Solis-Doyle to manage the VP-to-be's campaign and staffing that showed early on he would not be considering Clinton or he was considering her but would stick her with someone she had fired, who would then report to Obama.

      All these things show a mindset that is not focused on unity but resentment and payback despite all the pretty words about unity.  Not even everyday courtesy or respectful treatment.  THIS will affect the convention this week, and it's OBAMA who must change that.  He has taught his followers to blame Clinton ever since the lie of the Kenya photo and the 60 minutes statements, and he continues to this day and they love to do it.

      Maybe the Denver bloggers and reporters might even be interested in the whys of "the protesters" who are long-time Democrats but w/o the money and time or passes for the convention but who will be voting in November.

      What Obama missed was the easy and landslide win he would have had with the duo ticket.  That Clinton has decided against the roll-call (as opposed to history of these things in the last decades)  may seem a 'victory' for the DNC (when they telegraphed they'd blame his loss on her), but it won't be unless Obama does anything to cause any faith in him or reason to support him beyond the fact he's A Democrat.  With the way he's handled things, the outlook is not good.  

      Only he can change that.  It was not a good start by nixing short speaking slots for people like Clark or Rangel or even Sharpton, who electrified the convention in 2004, but doesn't fit into ObamaWorld, apparently.



    Who controls the message on Team Obama? (none / 0) (#3)
    by johnsmth on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 06:25:38 AM EST
    yes, warm controversies are common in any party that is either in Democrats or in Republicans and for every conversation there is a sense of meaning. John South Carolina Drug Addiction