There’s a lot to like in Sen. Obama’s unusual, new two minute ad. It’s thoughtful, direct, and affirmative. It says as clearly as possible in 120 seconds what his administration would do on the economy, with a little Iraq exodus thrown in for good measure.
Of course, Obama also has another front open in this battle–his effort to define what’s wrong with the other guy. And as David Plouffe has made clear, the campaign’s plan is simple: to pound home again and again the idea that a McCain administration would be an extension of the failed Presidency of George W. Bush.
I suppose that’s fine so far as it goes, but I don’t think it goes far enough. What exactly would an extended Bush tenure look like? More importantly, what would it feel like? Obama has ceded the real feelers among voters to McCain (whodda thunk it?), and in doing so risks becoming this election’s Stevenson to McCain’s Eisenhower.
Even for all Obama’s head versus heart tendencies, I believe he still has a golden opportnunity to connect with the guts of undecided voters on the economy. This was true even before the U.S. financial sector started its Chernobyl impression two weeks ago–it’s doubly true today. The following Obama spiel might just work. And, as I posted after reading a piece of Congressional Budget Office testimony in June, it would have the added benefit of being true:
John McCain will set this country on the road to bankruptcy. He will do this because he has no new ideas to reduce wasteful spending. And most of all, he will bankrupt this country because he refuses to ask people making over $250,000 per year to pay their fair share of taxes. Under John McCain’s plan for the economy, America will pay more in interest in 20 years than we pay for Social Security today. You can’t afford for John McCain to be President. And your kids really can’t.
I am reduced to football analogies to describe one of the supreme ironies of this campaign. Against all odds, Obama is the football purist, running the old-fashioned Power-I, three yards and a cloud of dust right up the middle, over and over. None of his ads gets any real msm comment or achieves much virality in less mainstream forums.
McCain, on the other hand, only needs to fart to get on the tube and then say, “Haaaaaa! It was her!!!! His campaign is all Run-n-Shoot, a West Coast Offense supremely confident after having connected on a side-arm Hail Mary to Barracuda Palin in the Blue end zone. Not surprisingly, Steve Schmidt reminds me a lot of Mike Leach of Texas Tech: he makes it up as he goes along, and then dismissively sneers at anyone who doesn’t like his tactics. Oh, and he works the living s–t out of the refs.
On its face, there’s not a damn thing wrong with the Power-I. It took Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne into the College Football Hall of Fame and then to Congress, for instance. And among the immortally incontrovertible statements of the great Darrell Royal was this, wrt to the forward pass: “only three things can happen, and two of them are bad.” Let’s hope that Royal or somebody like him is advising the Obama campaign, now that they’ve decided to run the ground game.
(I’m also reminded of the famous–at least in Texas–exchange between LBJ and his mentor, Speaker Sam Rayburn, after LBJ had become Vice President.
LBJ: Mister Sam, these Kennedy advisors are about the smartest bunch of guys I’ve ever met.
Rayburn: Yup. But I wish just one of ’em had run for sherrif.)
One would think and hope that something (anything?!) bad will happen to the McCain campaign–a critical gaffe, a strategic blunder–as they wing their way down the field. But while hope may be a lot of things in this election season, it is no more viable a strategy than it ever has been.
The problem is that th Power-I is not a finessee game plan, and Obama heretofore has been the ultimate finesse candidate. If the idea is to keep painting McCain as another Bush, Obama must be explicit (bankruptcy) and teasing (McSame!!). He can even be funny: I love Garrison Keillor’s imagery of the bums having snuck out the back door in the dark at night, and showed up at the front door bearing lit torches and crying, “throw the bums out!!”
The Power I requires superior physicality. It’s time to get physical.