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Domestic issues Economics Election 2008 Foreign Policy McCain Obama Politics The Opinionsphere

Why I Am Still Confident About Obama’s Campaign

[digg-reddit-me]Drudge has the scare headline up today. And pundits across the world are speculating about why Obama hasn’t blown McCain away yet. Yet I’m still confident in Obama’s campaign.

One of my first blog posts – and my first blog post to gain a sizeable readership – ran last October 12 when Obama was trailing Hillary by sizable margins and was entitled: “Why I Am Confident About Obama.”

My conclusion – despite the media’s almost universal consensus that no one could take down the Clinton juggernaut at that late date (with a 20 point lead nationwide and a slim lead for Clinton in Iowa) – was:

Clintonian hubris, an Obama strategy to put the pressure on Clinton late, with Iowa in a statistical dead heat, and a ton of other primaries following hard-upon Iowa.  It seems to me that Obama has a good chance of winning even if he doesn’t hit his stride.

The overall perception driving me to this conclusion was that Obama was the natural candidate for this time – that his candidacy and person fit the moment in a way no other candidate’s did. George F. Will, among a few other astute observers of American politics, saw this too. Obama was the candidate that fit the times – and he had a smart and hard-nosed plan for getting the nomination from Hillary and the presidency from any Republican. The intellectual ferment, the grassroots enthusiasm, and the international support for Obama all confirm that he is the candidate of the zeitgeist.

These fundamentals have not changed.

Which is why, now, with McCain ahead of Obama by five points nationally (the first lead he has had against the presumptive Democratic nominee) and with McCain outspending Obama in many key states, and with many media supporters of Obama beginning to panic and conservatives beginning to gloat, and McCain finally finding his voice given the prospect of a war with Russia – I am still confident about the Obama campaign.

  1. I trust the Obama campaign’s game plan. They have run one of the best campaigns in recent memory – they are confident and they have a plan. They beat the feared Clinton machine. And they knew it after Super Tuesday – months before anyone else. They strategized perfectly and executed their plans almost flawlessly. No other campaign this election cycle can say that.
  2. Obama will get more bounce from the Democratic National Convention next week than McCain will get from the Republican National Convention the week after. Why? Because Obama does not have George W. Bush and Dick Cheney speaking at his convention.
  3. Contrary to the “conventional wisdom” of the right-wing opinionsphere, Obama has more to gain from debates with McCain than McCain. Obama’s presence and answers will stand in stark contrast to the terrifying image of “Barack Hussein Obama.” Just as Ronald Reagan did not take a clear lead over incumbent Jimmy Carter until just after their sole debate (in the last week of the campaign) – so Obama will capitalize on his debates. Reagan was running as a change agent light on specifics, high on rhetoric and hope, against a reformer who defended a good deal of the status quo whose party had been blamed for significant foreign policy and economic disasters at a time when most people felt their country was going in the wrong direction. Many people didn’t feel comfortable with Reagan until they saw him stand side-by-side with Carter and felt he seemed reasoanble. The same dynamic seems to be working now.
  4. Obama’s supporters discovered in July and August that he’s not a perfect candidate. He supported the FISA compromise; he explained again that he was in favor of individual gun rights; he reiterated his longstanding support for faith-based programs; he went back on his (slightly hedged) promise to participate in the federal financing program for the general election campaign. They’ve been getting antsy. But with the serious prospect of a McCain presidency, most of those who care about liberal values will discover how much better Obama is than the alterative.
  5. McCain doesn’t do frontrunner well.
  6. Polls are only as good as their turnout models. Obama’s supporters come from those demographics least likely to have a landline – and thus, many of his supporters are not taken into account in polls. Plus, if black Americans and young Americans turn out at higher than predicted levels – given that both groups are extremely energized by the Obama campaign – this could tip the election further.
  7. If McCain is understood to be the frontrunner, his gaffes suddenly take on a new importance – and the media will be much tougher in covering him. Thus far, they’ve treated him with kid gloves – and mainly ignored his negatives (because they’ve been ignoring him altogether.) Where is the Iraq-Pakistan border again, Mr. McCain?
  8. Although McCain is outspending Obama now in some key states, Obama will have far more money down the stretch – and already has a more significant campaign organization in each state than Kerry or Gore did. Right now, he is spending most of his money on creating boots on the ground and campaign infrastructure which he can call on in November to turn out the vote. Once McCain’s spending is restricted, Obama can saturate any market he wants with ads.
  9. Obama’s supporters are more enthusiastic. McCain’s are too old to be enthusiastic, and most don’t like him all that much anyway.
  10. Much of the public still sees McCain as a maverick rather than as someone who “totally supports” Bush on “the transcendent issues” like Iraq. Most of the public does not know that McCain has flip-flopped on torture and on economic policy – and that four more years of McCain promise to be no better than four more years of Bush with regards to the economy.
  11. Finally – and the biggest reason – neither Obama nor his surrogates have started to attack McCain yet. They have local issue ads up in many states already. But the Vice Presidential nominee’s number one job will be to take the fight to McCain. McCain is wide open to attacks on so many fronts –

I trust the Obama campaign has a plan and that they will execute it well. That plan will include hitting McCain hard when he has less money to spare. There’s no guarantee, but Obama’s chances are still very good – and he has been consistently doing better in the polls than Gore or Kerry at similar times in the race. Obama has said that he is in this to win.

I hope so – and I know I will do all I can to ensure that he does.

  1. A bit of an unfair question as McCain eventually repudiated the remark, but Gramm did more than anyone to shape the policies McCain still supports. []
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Economics Election 2008 Foreign Policy Iran Iraq McCain National Security Obama Politics The War on Terrorism Videos

A President for Our Dangerous Times

[digg-reddit-me]In dangerous times, we cannot let the larger issues out of sight:

The day to day grind of this campaign – months and months of fights over demographics, over gaffes, over lobbyists, over media bias – has distracted most of us from the essential issues at stake.

The essential choice we face is whether or not our country is going in the right direction.

There is an economic component to this – which will rightfully take up much of the country’s attention in the next few months, and between McCain and Obama, the economic differences are stark.

Perhaps more important is the question of whether or not America should embrace it’s current role as an imperial power, as a neo-empire. McCain clearly accepts this view. One of his foreign policy advisors has explicitly accepted the American empire. Another McCain advisor explained how McCain is planning on creating a League of Democracies to destroy the United Nations and marginalize Russia, quite possibly provoking a new Cold War1 . McCain has said that withdrawing from Iraq – which is what the Iraqi prime minister is requesting of us – would be a surrender to our enemies. (He still doesn’t seem to have noticed that many of our enemies are warring amongst themselves – Sunni extremists, Shia extremists, Al Qaeda, Iranian factions.) At the same time, he has threatened war with Iran while claiming it is naive to consider meeting with any Iranian leaders. (McCain never mentions the candlelight vigils in Tehran after September 11 or Iran’s efforts to come to a comprehensive settlement of all issues between America and Iran immediatly afterwards that were ignored using the same justification McCain now uses to avoid dealing with Iran.) Instead, he jokes “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran…)

As Andrew Sullivan wrote:

After the last eight years, we simply cannot risk a continuation of the same reckless, belligerent, argument-losing, ideological and deceptive foreign policy of [the Bush administration.] From his knee-jerk Cold War posture over Georgia to his Rovian campaign tactics, McCain is simply too close to this disastrous record to contemplate… McCain’s trigger-happy temperament, shallow understanding of the complexities and passion for military force as the answer to everything is the bigger risk. He is a recipe for more, wider and far more destructive warfare.

As the conservative curmudgeon George Will explained, invoking Barack Obama’s historic candidacy as a marker:

[I]t illustrates history’s essential promise, which is not serenity – that progress is inevitable – but possibility, which is enough: Things have not always been as they are.

In other words, we can change. We were not always an empire, and we need not always be an empire. We were not always at war, and we do not need to remain at war. Barack Obama will not change anything overnight (we will not all be given bicycles) – because that is not the type of leader he is. He is not a revolutionary urging us to storm the barricades. He is an imperfect leader. He is a sensible pragmatist who believes we are in a unique moment in history in which we have an opportunity to establish meaningful changes by reforming our political, economic, and governmental processes.

The alternative is stark. While I have long been an admirer of John McCain – because he stood up to the President on torture, tax cuts, swiftboating, and global warming – he lost my vote some time ago. He has fought this campaign without honor – ever since his campaign went bankrupt and he began to repudiate every stand he took that hurt him with the Republican base (including on torture, tax cuts, and now apparently, swiftboating.)

In the end, as dire as our economic strength is, this election will be remembered as the the moment when America decided if it was going to remain an empire, or if instead we would return to the best of our traditions, and take our place as a leader in the world community.

In these dangerous times, one candidate poses too great of a risk, and the American people cannot afford to allow a party which has undermined our national security at every turn to remain in power.

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  1. N. B. Fareed Zakaria is not an Obama surrogate as this YouTube video claims but a journalist for Newsweek with his own show in PBS. []