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Obama’s Convention

Andy Busch has some advice for Obama and his team: Don’t use your convention to try to connect McCain with Bush. Rather, use it to define Obama and what he stands for. Andy is right, of course.

Do note that all the polls (see realclearpolitics) are showing that McCain has gained on Obama during the last week. In most polls Obama has been ahead by six or seven points, but now he is down to only three or four. Also note that Reuters/Zogby has McCain up by five points (in July he was down by seven). Despite the Obama hype in some quarters--he appears on the front of Time magazine for the seventh time in a year--he is not gaining any voters. This is a bad love affair: the more folks see of him, the less they are inclined to vote for him. He is not as pretty as they thought on first sight.

This would indicate to any serious Democratic actor that Obama needs to re-define himself, while throwing a lot more substance around than he has thus far (and also he should stop changing his mind on issues). The convention is the best place to start talking about the new, substantive, aggressive, no-more-mind-changing-on-major-issues Obama. This is it. He has to pull in the Hillary supporters because of what he says and does. If he can’t do that, he will never be able to attract any independents. In short, he will lose, and not by a small margin, if he keeps up what he has been doing.

So Andy Busch is right: The question mark around Obama has to be removed, and he is the only one that can remove it. Further, if he thinks that a great speech at the convention will do that, or the so-called perfect VP nominee, he is wrong. In short, he is now at the tail-end of a collapsed longest campaign already, and the convention is his great opportunity to crawl out of the whole he has dug for himself and start a brand new campaign. He is now at a massive disadvantage and his people know this. They are near panic. This is not the position they expected to be in just before their convention.

Discussions - 14 Comments

How do you know that Obama's people are "near panic"?

I have to agree with Steve here. Panic is not the experience that comes just because you're not as far ahead as you'd thought you'd be. I still think (don't hate me, please) that Obama's situation is roughly comparable to Reagan's in 1980. People really do want "change," but they think he might be a nutty extremist. All he has to do is show he's not. That's not such a high standard, although he apparently hasn't met it yet. And so far he's out-organized Mac. McCain is going to have to run a disciplined and skillful campaign to remain a contender. I agree completely with Peter and Andy that the convention has to be more substantial than change and more change, and Barack, to come away with a substantial lead, is going to have to do more than look good and sound good. But I got a feeling he has a good instinct for doing what it takes, even if it takes picking Hillary. Nobody should misunderestimate this guy.

Peter, you wrote that Obama should have "no-more-mind-changing-on-major-issues."

Well and good, but if Obama did not change on major issues (the war on terror; abortion; drilling for oil) he would still be running for the Illinois state senate from Hyde Park.

In other words, Obama's extreme lefty positions may fly in the rarefied air of Hyde Park, but in the rest of America they simply don't work.

So, as we discover the man behind the Obama mask, we find he isn't quite so pretty. Which will help defeat him in win in November.

PWS's advice about not linking McCain with Bush isn't going to go anywhere, and for the simple reason that ALL the Democrat success in '06 was attributable to successfully linking any Republican with Bush.

Far too recently the Democrats enjoyed incredible gains by tarring Republicans with Bush, ------------- moreover, they're overflowing with so much venom for Bush that they're physically and emotionally unable to stop themselves from making this election a referendum on the Bush administration.

They've invested far too much of their own ego in bashing Bush, which prevents them from surveying the overall political landscape.

And PWS, lesser politicos are able to "re-define" themselves. Not Messiahs however. One is either a TRUE messiah, or a fradulent one. Obama hasn't a prayer of dampening down expectations this late date in the campaign season; he's stuck with his false messianism. He rose with it; defeated the Clintons by it, and is going to go down to ignominious defeat because of his false messianism.

It's Karmic, or Biblical, depending on your mood.

STEVE, if you were an Obama supporter, and you noticed that your guy has effectively been bleeding a point every other day for the last 30 to 40 days, and that every Democrat who has gone on to win The White House since 1968 has enjoyed a significant lead at this point in the race, ------------------ knowing all of that, and seeing McCain slowly gaining, ------------------- wouldn't you be in a flat-out panic.

The Democrats are on the verge of blowing as sure a thing as one is likely to see in the realm of politics. And since the Dems have done so badly for The White House since '68, don't you think they are ALREADY projecting and imagining defeat. Don't you think it's more than likely they're already hearing the footsteps of doom creeping up on them.

Peter, I generally agree with your post but with one caveat. There is nothing pushing domestic economic politics leftward in the way that the late 70s tax revolt pushed politics rightward. Neither candidate seems to be able to get much traction on healthcare. Energy prices should be helping the Democrat, but Obama's featly to enviormental dogmas (which he has clung to with admirable consistency - he closed his Rick Warren appearance with a virtual promise to impose high energy prices)has turned the issue into a McCain advantage if anything.

The worries over Reagan were personal. Was he going to start a nuclear war? Was he stupid? But he had a popular policy agenda (tax cuts and higher defense spending) in contrast to the policy exhaustion of Jimmy Carter. The worries over Obama are partly personal at the moment, but he has shown real trouble in dealing with issues (especially energy policy and abortion lately). The inability to connect on substance makes the personality questions that much more dangerous, because personality is such a bigger part of his appeal.

And there are good reasons not to get too optimistic. Things have gotten so bad for Obama that he is leading or tied in every poll but one. The trend line isn't good but a candidate that has several straight bad weeks and is in Obama's current position has staying power. The country's mood is still sour. If Obama can sell not just himself, but a plausible plan for improving people's economic well being, he is a strong favorite (it doesn't have to be a good plan, just a plausible one). Also, expectations for Obama are going down for the first time since Iowa. He is now in a postion to overperform.

PETER, since '68, two Democrats have won. The first was Carter, who wouldn't have done it were he not running against Ford, who pardoned Nixon, with Watergate as a backdrop, AND with the help of Ford's pathetic debate performance. And even with all of that as a tailwind, Ford was still closing late. That race, which should have been a blow-out, ended up being razor thin.

Then there was Clinton, who ran when the Cold War was finished, and GHWB didn't seem overly concerned about domestic issues. Additionally, Clinton came off more of the everyman in comparison to the Blue Blood.

So the Dems have won but three races since 1968. Just three races!

Don't you think that fact is playing on them, don't you think with that recent track record they're apt to see reasons for defeat that are more imaginary than actual. Not to mention they're already prone to be a pack of head cases.............

I disagree.

I think people know very well what Obama is and have rejected him. I've often heard around election time, from the left side, that if only they stayed true to their liberal ideals that more people would vote for them. That is a fantasy. The reality is that people understand fully what the left stands for, and most Americans do not thinkt he way that they do. They absolutely refuse to accept this simple truth.

The Democrats keep nominating unlikeable men of the same vein. Snobby, arrogant, self-righteous, wimpy. These are not the kind of men one thinks of as POTUS material. Say what you want about Bill Clinton - but he was NOT one of those typical liberal men. He wasn't preachy (back then). He was fun. Likeable. Human.

Obama cannot reinvent himself. He is who he is. Far from being a mystery man, I believe Americans have a very good take on who Obama is - and will choose to not vote for him. I think it's clear that he has had the most media exposure of any candidate in the history of the USA!

When only a far-left candidate can become the nominee, and the country is way to the right of that, what would you expect to be the outcome? In contrast, McCain is a moderate and the public knows it. No matter how hard the Dems might try to associate McCain with Bush, it's not going to stick.

p.s. It's hole (not "whole", crawl out of his)


In economic times such as these, how does a liberal who wants to raise taxes, increase expenses, and leans toward protectionism sell America on that being a winning formula? It would be disastrous. McCain has the much better message and is more credible on this - STOP SPENDING.

Also, McCain is now for drilling, which most Americans support. Another plus for him versus Obama and the Dems.

A fiscal conservative is much more of what is needed now in IOUSA. These are not the times for a liberal - it is obvious. These are certainyl not the right times for a Dem congress especially. And in 2012, unless Pelosi and Reid smarten up, we will see a repeat of 1994.

Obama can't run on cutting out govt waste or limiting govt programs - that's not the liberal way. All he has is "we'll tax the "rich" " - which is just about everyone. And in this day and age, the wealthy can park their money anywhere in the world with the click of a mouse. The exact wrong isntincts are taking place. The USA needs to CUT taxes - not raise them. Especially corporate taxes.

When times are good, closer to the PEAK of a strong growth cycle, fiscal liberalism is far more palatable. When the coffers are full, people are more willing to be charitable with their tax dollars. But given current economic conditions, a fiscal conservative should easily do much better with the masses versus a liberal in terms of votes, and from an economic viewpoint it is much more of what the USA needs. I don't know why McCain's camp hasn't been much louder about cutting government waste/pork AND lowering taxes.

It is August. No conventions yet. No VPs. Little attention paid by normal people. Some people seem to think the daily ups and downs matter. No. And "near panic" does not mean the same as "Gee, I'd be near panic if I were them."

Slick, I don't think Obama WILL be better on policy, its just that general public disasisfaction with the ecnonomy tends to work in the favor of the out party. I submit 1992 as an example. But it doesn't always work that way. In France, Sarkozy managed to win even though the public was unhappy with the economy and Sarkozy's party was in charge. He did that by presenting himself as the real reformist and his opponent as the representative of the staus quo. The example might give McCain some hope if only he can make economic reformism a passion.

On Obama, he is, unfortunatly for conservatives, a good deal more likeable than Kerry or Gore. Can you imagine John Kerry at the Rick Warren forum? And Kerry lost by less than three percent in a stronger economy, against a stronger Republican party brand and against the stongest Republican GOTV operation ever.

STEVE, this isn't a case of "daily ebb and flow," it's a case of a guy who is taking as certain a thing as anything can be in politics, ------------------ and blowing it. Over the last 40 days, he's been bleeding a point every other day. It's one long, gradual decline.

And so far, McCain has just been tapping him, prodding him, ------- finding range so to speak.

The breakfast discussion this morning was over Obama's choice of VP - Biden is neutral, boring but likeable, I suppose. He's not dynamic or interesting enough to hold people's attention. With this choice in hand, McCain has the most daunting task - choose someone that oozes that dynamic personality to create a balance and a challenge to Obama's "change agenda". He needs someone to bring charisma to the campaign but not to the point of outshining McCain. Sarah Palin is still my choice for VP since I doubt Condi will want it.

McCain needs to play upon the broadness of the GOP base - that Dems who do not tow the partyline are marginalized to the point of being flattened into their corner. I think the GOP is (and always has been) more inclusive and tolerates more diversity in opinion and ideas than the Dems especially in the last 20 years. It's not something we often talk about, folks.

In any case, McCain needs to find that one person who will create a stir in a positive sense, someone connected and saavy but not perceived as an "insider". We'll see what happens.

This is not and never was a certain thing, the economic models to the contrary notwithstanding. This is not an election between a generic Democrat and a generic Republican. On both sides, we are on new ground. My only point is, we'll see - as ordinary voters do what ordinary voters do.

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