I’m Not So Sure

Jonathan Martin at the Politico wonders if maybe Obama’s reacting a little too slow to attacks leveled against him in this Democratic race.  He makes some solid points, most notably when Barack gets to the General Election McCain may not be as vicious as Bush, but that’s not to say that the rest of the right wing movement won’t be.

I admit myself that Obama has not been as diligent on defense as I would prefer either, but all things considered, I’m not so sure if maybe Obama’s not got this whole thing down.  Most assuredly we can’t say definitively until his campaign transitions from a primary campaign to a General Election campaign.

To me the perfect political strategy is one where you don’t launch negative attacks that are out of bounds (some issue attacks and some character attacks are okay assuming they are relevent to the debate of who would be a better office holder), but you are fierce in not letting any attack go unanswered.  I’ve never bought fully into the idea of taking the high road to a fault; sometimes the mud sticks and it’s impossible to get it off.

John Kerry taught us that in 2004.

But what Martin fails to take into account is that Obama is not running the same campaign that Kerry ran in 2004, and this time around, letting the mud stick for a little bit actually may not be that bad of an idea.

Ali had a similar tactic in boxing; he called it the rope-a-dope.

To understand where I’m going with this, we have to go back to that all important exit poll stat that I made such a big deal out of yesterday.  That stat which declared that 54% of Wisconsin voters felt that Hillary attacked Barack Obama unfairly.

Alone, that statistic is powerful enough to take into consideration, but when you add that to the crux of Obama’s campaign message, and the fact that he has been thus far incredibly successful in getting that message out, the mix is potentially fatal.

It is the reason why Obama often times appears to be covered in Teflon.  The more he is attacked, the more those attacks emphasize his message; that the ways of dirty politics must change.  Without fully understanding it, Hillary Clinton and her campaign have become one of the greatest allies to Obama’s nomination bid.

You see, they have created a tangible and observable example of what Obama is running against.  Their very existence has validated his.  It is in a way similar to why declaring war on terrorists is an inherently bad idea.  Terrorist recruiters can talk about the evils of the devils in the West, but without no actual devils, there’s likely to be very few recruits.  When said devils actually declare all out war, on the other hand, all of a sudden those terrorist recruiters look an awful lot like they are telling the truth, and people start signing up.

Would people follow Obama had the Clinton camp not engaged in dirty tactics?  Of course, but without an actual example of the “old style” of politics that Obama has spoken out against, his words would not resonate quite so loudly.

Every time Hillary launches a negative ad spot, every time one of her campaign staff plays “gotcha”, Democrats are reminded of the kind of politics Obama hopes to make a part of the past.

And let’s face it, it’s worked.  Like Ali leaning against the ropes and letting his opponent punch himself out, Obama has sat back and let the attacks come, the plagiarism charges, the drug charges, even the race baiting.  These things have done little to harm him, and everything to take more wind out of the sails of the Clinton campaign.

As the two candidates move from the tenth round to the eleventh, you’re going to see the Clinton campaign get more desperate, and swing even wilder.  In fact, we’ve already seen that with the “delegate hub” and the 527 launching into action.  The problem is, while these punches may have more weight behind them, they are far more likely to miss as well as drag the candidate throwing them down even more.

It’s going to leave Obama charged to deliver some heavy blows of his own in later rounds, and personally I expect the virtual KO in Texas.

Does this mean he can get away with this in a General Election?  Not necessarily.  One of the things that helps him is that right now he is selling himself to in general a better educated, involved, and liberal market than he will be in the fall.

Take Michelle Obama’s comments on being proud of her country, for instance.  In the fall, it’s devestating, however, when you’re talking to the liberal base of the party, it’s not so much.  Liberals, unlike conservatives, have a much more nuanced approach to patriotism in general.  We often don’t believe in blind patriotism, and for us, being patriotic means being critical of our country.

I consider myself very much a patriot, and my love for this country is unimpeachable.  But that does not mean that I’m proud of what my country does 24/7.  In fact, for me, part of my patriotism stems from the fact that I am often ashamed of what it does.  I’m not proud of the fact that we’ve employed torture and etradited prisoners to foreign countries with lax torture policies.  I’m not proud of Iraq.  I’m not proud of warrantless wiretapping and the infringing upon civil liberties.

Why should I be?

Yet, this doesn’t make me a bad American, or a bad patriot.  It means that I can see things in my country that I think need improving and I can work to improve them in order to make this the kind of country I will be proud of.

Many liberals and progressives take this view, and while Michelle’s comments spoke more towards diversity than they did to the topics I discussed above, her words do resonate with a pretty decent portion of the base.

We have a similar situation with the plagiarism attack, only this time it’s more to do with how informed the electorate is.  In the fall, such a charge would be devestating, but considering how many folks are pounding away at their keyboards and searching for the truth, it didn’t take long to find the plagiarism charge to be utterly bogus.

When we look at the General Election, though, we’re looking at new demographics, people who aren’t perhaps quite as involved with politics and not nearly as well as informed.  And then it’s quite possible that Obama’s going to have to tighten up a bit, not let so many punches linger for quite so long as they’ll have a greater chance of landing in the GE.

But for now, while he’s still battling Hillary, I’m not so sure he has exactly the right casualty control response in this contest.  It’s worked wonders for him so far.

6 Responses to “I’m Not So Sure”

  1. handj jay says:

    Lets not forget about larry sinclair the slow man trying his best to get his story out about Obama being bi-sexual and doing crack in 1999 in a LIMO

  2. handj jay says:

    Lets not forget about larry sinclair the slow man trying his best to get his story out about Obama being bi-sexual. Doing crack and gay sex acts with Obama in 1999 in a LIMO

  3. Damien Gray says:

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that Obama’s hesitance stems more from the fact he’s battling fellow Democrats than an inability to reply quickly and viciously if needed. Hillary’s tactics might seem utterly Rovian and like something out of the GOP playbook but she’s still a Democrat.

    I just don’t see the same rules that apply to kiddie-glove primary fights also applying to the bloodsport we like to call the Democrat vs. GOP “General Election”.

  4. True, Damien. He may just be exhibiting, dare I say, decency?

  5. I think Obama waits for Hillary to stick her foot in her moth, it is part of his plan

  6. Angellight says:

    Barack Obama simply wants to Address and Solve problems. He has a vision of how to get this done. He is tired of the stalemates and stalled Promises. He has a vision to Change this by bringing people together, both Republicans, Dems and Libs, and the people, whom he asks to keep engaged, this is his Power base. I think people will be Glad and Surprised that with this power base, some long-held ideas of betterment for the U.S. in health, education, alternative fuel can finally get accomplished. And yes, we have to move away from the Politics of “Got-Cha” in the sense of tearing one’s opponent down, based on distorted personal attacks and not on the issues. America is growing up and we want truth tellers, authenticity.

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