Thursday, August 21, 2008

Obama: In Need of a Game-Changer

The upcoming presidential election is getting more interesting by the day... depending upon who you want to see win and who you listen to among the punditocracy. This is supposed to be the Democrats' year, and by extension Obama is our next president. He's certainly been all-but-appointed to the office by a largely sympathetic media.

However, the McCain campaign isn't just sitting there. McCain and his staff have done a good job of analyzing Obama's weak points and hitting them, reducing Obama's large lead in June to either a statistical tie or an actual McCain advantage depending on which poll you look at. Historically, because of the polling methodology that is used, the Democrat has a statistically significant lead in the summer; both Kerry and Gore had double-digit leads at this time during their campaigns. Democrat spokespeople shrug off any concern, either denying or decrying the polling data. The Obama campaign is worried, though, and that is the best evidence of how effective the McCain strategy to define Obama has been.

Enter David Gergen, the onetime Bush Sr. and Clinton advisor, who has written a column today on what Obama needs to do to 'change the game.' Gergen's advice can be summed up as follows: pick Hillary for VP, or pick Gore, and then pick Clinton-era advisors. Huh?

Picking Hillary will be the kiss of death for Obama in '08. Is there any person who is more polarizing in politics today? Obama could get more votes by picking George Bush! If Hillary is Obama's VP, the 51% of the electorate who can't stand her will vote for McCain... and that includes many among the Obama supporters who will feel utterly betrayed if Hillary gets the nod. Strike one...

How about Gore? Yes, Democrats like Gore. Does anyone else? Will Obama get any more votes? Certainly not the PUMAs who are pissed about what they see as a total diss of Hillary by the Democratic leadership. How about Hillary herself? Does anyone with half a brain think that the Clintons will campaign more effectively for Obama/Gore this fall than they did for Gore/Lieberman in 2000? And, is Gore stupid enough to wear another 'Please kick me' sign for the next few months? I don't think so; his ego is way too fragile to chance losing yet again. What's in it for him, anyway? He's already been VP for 8 years! He'll get savaged over his ecohypocrisy... his huge house with the huge electric bill and the inadequate solar panels, his continual private jetting, his fleet of Suburbans, etc. He'll have to divest himself from all of those profitable investments. The chances of Gore being asked, and then accepting, the VP slot are nil. He and Obama know it, and that's why he's emphatically disavowed any interest in being selected. Strike two...

Okay, so Obama can't pick Hillary or Gore. What about the idea of announcing his Cabinet picks before the election? Not bad... unless he listens to Gergen and selects the same old retreads from the Carter and Clinton Administrations. Madeline freakin' Albright for SecState? I can see the campaign ads with Obama and Madeline... and then Madeline and her favorite party-boy Kim Jong-Il... and then images of North Korean missile launches, nuclear tests, etc. The McCain campaign just has to be praying for this like the dog in a Gary Larsen cartoon waiting for the cat to jump in the dryer... "Oh, please, oh, please, oh, please!"

That's three strikes, for three lousy ideas. If you want Obama to win, that is. Because nothing Gergen suggests addresses Obama's problem. (BTW, what is really amazing is how much people like Gergen can get paid for truly horrible advice. It's not like he helped out the Clintons, or Bush Sr. -- maybe Gergen clients didn't read the memo about doing the opposite of what he suggests -- ed)

Here's the game-changer that Obama really needs: how about realizing that your equivocating, evasion, and prevaricating is a real turn-off for people who were looking for something different from you. You promised a new type of politics, but your actions belie that. The Saddleback appearances by you and McCain were a real eye-opener, and if you don't change McCain is going to eat you for lunch during the upcoming debates. Yes, Clinton got away with it but that was 16 years ago, before the Internet and the rise of alternative media. We've seen that movie.

In all seriousness, I don't think Obama can 'change his game' at this point, because 'the game' is all he knows. The panic we're seeing in the media and among many on the Left is buyer's remorse. The netroots were able to 'game' the Democrat primary rules (the same way they beat Lieberman with Ned Lamont only to see Lieberman win as an independent) and put Obama ahead on Super Tuesday. The Idea of Obama was too seductive. Too late, they're starting to realize that there is no 'there' there. Every Democrat leader has to be agonizing about whether or not it's too late to pick Hillary... and about what will happen to the party if they do (convention chaos and a fragmented party), and if they do not (electoral disaster).

Look forward to a very contentious Democrat convention, and the very real possibility of a Republican landslide this fall. Far from being a Democrat year, this election is rapidly becoming McCain's to lose. Who would have thought?

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