McCain gets in the game with Sarah Palin

The game is practicing identity politics. For the past year the Clinton’s, Biden and McCain have been making the case that Obama does not have the experience to be president. Despite the evidence and criticism, Obama won his party’s nomination and is likely to win the general election. William Kristol on Fox does a great job of explaining why that strategy has failed to date and would likely fail in the general election as well:

Obama has no experience, obviously. He was a state Senator. Sarah Palin has much more executive experience. She has been governor of the state while Obama has been pretty much an absentee senator running for the presidency.

But why do we think, actually, whether you agree or not, that Obama has the stature to be president? Because of the campaign he’s run, which has been awfully impressive. He has been in debates and given speeches, and you think this is a serious person.

That is why for Palin, these next two months, it’s all win or all lose. We will see whether she is up to it. She will give a major speech here. She will obviously do interviews over the course of the next month or two.

And, above all, she will have that debate with Joe Biden. People will not be able to say–if she holds her own with Joe Biden, I don’t think people with a straight face can say it is a horrifying thought that Sarah Palin is going to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Pretty good analysis.

So for better or worse, the voting public equates the ability to campaign effectively as a determinant of the candidates qualifications for the office. McCain could have continued to beat his head against that wall to get voters to change their way of judging qualifications or get in the identity politics game. Conservatism is supposed to be the politics of reality. The conservative move is to get in the game, not to argue how the game should be played — especially two months out from an election.

I hear president’s love legacies, but probably not what ‘W’ had in mind. But the real, and imagined, incompetencies of the Bush administration’s impact on this election is to denigrate the value of experience, given that if he had it and still performed so poorly, what’s the point?

Kristol had a written an earlier column touting Palin. His latest Weekly Standard column predicts how they [Barzini?] will be coming after her.

[Post-post Sept 2] – A few days later, confirming Kristol’s analysis, the Obama campaign itself makes the argument that the campaign is evidence of his ability to govern.

[Post-post Sept 5] – Even a few more days later, confirming Kristol’s analysis, John Harris & Jim Vandehei of Politico, state exactly his point in a post titled, ‘How Palin Changed the Race’ – excerpt below:

• Republicans can play identity group politics tooThis brand of politics — voters who support a candidate not because of what that person has done in public life but because of the symbolism of the candidate’s personal story — is a big part of why Obama is the Democratic nominee. With Palin, the GOP showed that it, too, can play this game.

Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, told us this week that his wife, who is even more conservative than he is, doesn’t think much of McCain. But she loves Palin, perhaps enough to get her to now back the GOP ticket. He said he was astonished how Palin has woken “the sleeping giant: Republican women.”

It is the talk of the hallways, in the convention and nationwide. Women, especially Republican women, were thrilled by the Palin speech. Already, the campaign is reporting a huge surge in fundraising. The bigger question is whether this will translate into a huge surge at the polls. Republicans get clobbered in national elections when it comes to the women’s vote. One way to narrow the gender gap is to juice turnout among your own people. Palin could do that. Another way is to juice turnout among female swing voters.

[Post-post Sept 15] This from Joe Trippi, Democratic consultant of Howard Dean pedigree:

But the McCain campaign learned something from watching the Democratic primary fight. Throughout the 2008 primary season no matter how many polls said that Hillary Clinton had more experience to be President, no matter how wide her margin over Obama on “ready to be President on day one” it did not matter. Obama and his message of change won.The Clinton campaign kept seeing in their polling and research that Hillary’s experience trumped change and could not understand why she was losing the nomination with her substantial experience advantage,

The hunger for change was that powerful. The hunger for a different kind of post-partisan politics that would shake up Washington was overpowering “experience” and “more of the same”.

Now it seems so obvious. It is amazing that so few (including the Obama campaign) saw it coming.

Leave Kristol off that list. See various complete columns below.

———————————————————————-
Let Palin Be Palin
Why the left is scared to death of McCain’s running mate.
by William Kristol
09/08/2008, Volume 013, Issue 48

A spectre is haunting the liberal elites of New York and Washington–the spectre of a young, attractive, unapologetic conservatism, rising out of the American countryside, free of the taint (fair or unfair) of the Bush administration and the recent Republican Congress, able to invigorate a McCain administration and to govern beyond it.

That spectre has a name–Sarah Palin, the 44-year-old governor of Alaska chosen by John McCain on Friday to be his running mate. There she is: a working woman who’s a proud wife and mother; a traditionalist in important matters who’s broken through all kinds of barriers; a reformer who’s a Republican; a challenger of a corrupt good-old-boy establishment who’s a conservative; a successful woman whose life is unapologetically grounded in religious belief; a lady who’s a leader.

So what we will see in the next days and weeks–what we have already seen in the hours after her nomination–is an effort by all the powers of the old liberalism, both in the Democratic party and the mainstream media, to exorcise this spectre. They will ridicule her and patronize her. They will distort her words and caricature her biography. They will appeal, sometimes explicitly, to anti-small town and anti-religious prejudice. All of this will be in the cause of trying to prevent the American people from arriving at their own judgment of Sarah Palin.

That’s why Palin’s spectacular performance in her introduction in Dayton was so important. Her remarks were cogent and compelling. Her presentation of herself was shrewd and savvy. I heard from many who watched Palin–many of them not predisposed to support her–about how moved they were by her remarks, her composure, and her story. She will have a chance to shine again Wednesday night at the Republican convention.

But before and after that, she’ll be swimming in political waters infested with sharks. Her nickname when she was the starting point guard on an Alaska high school championship basketball team was “Sarah Barracuda.” I suspect she’ll take care of herself better than many expect.

But the McCain campaign can help. The choice of Palin was McCain’s own. Many of his staff expected, and favored, other more conventional candidates. The campaign may be tempted to overreact when one rash sentence or foolish comment by Palin from 10 or 15 years ago is dragged up by Democratic opposition research and magnified by a credulous and complicit media.

The McCain campaign will have to keep its cool. It will have to provide facts and context, and to hit back where appropriate. But it cannot become obsessed with playing defense. It should allow Palin to deal with the charges directly and resist the temptation to try to shield her from the media. Palin is potentially a huge asset to McCain. He took the gamble–wisely, we think–of putting her on the ticket. McCain’s choice of Palin was McCain being McCain. Now his campaign will have to let Palin be Palin.

There will be rocky moments. But they will fade if the McCain campaign lets Palin’s journey take its natural course over the next two months. Millions of Americans–mostly but not only women, mostly but not only Republicans and conservatives–seemed to get a sense of energy and enjoyment and pride, not just from her nomination, but especially from her smashing opening performance. Palin will be a compelling and mold-breaking example for lots of Americans who are told every day that to be even a bit conservative or Christian or old-fashioned is bad form. In this respect, Palin can become an inspirational figure and powerful symbol. The left senses this, which is why they want to discredit her quickly.

A key moment for Palin will be the vice presidential debate, to be held at Washington University in St. Louis on October 2. One liberal commentator–a former U.S. ambassador and not normally an unabashed vulgarian–licked his chops Friday afternoon: “To steal an old adage of former Secretary of State James Baker .  .  . putting Sarah Palin into a debate with Joe Biden is going to be like throwing Howdy Doody into a knife fight!”

Charming. And if Palin holds her own against Biden, as she is fully capable of doing? McCain will then have succeeded in combining with his own huge advantage in experience and judgment, a politician of great promise in his vice presidential slot who will make Joe Biden look like a tiresome relic. McCain’s willingness to take a chance on Palin could turn what looked, after Obama’s impressive speech Thursday night in Denver, like a long two months for Republicans and conservatives, into a campaign of excitement and–dare we say it?–hope, which will culminate on November 4 in victory.

–William Kristol

———————————————————————————————————————–
September 15, 2008

It’s Not Just Palin — Its the Message

By Joe Trippi

There is no question that John McCain’s pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has changed the dynamic of the 2008 Presidential campaign, moved the current wave of polling to the GOP’s favor, and altered the terrain the rest of the election will likely be fought on.

The Obama campaign’s ability to recognize the shifting ground, understand that it is real, and adjust accordingly will determine the outcome. And the outcome, for the first time, is in doubt.

The Obama campaign went into the Democratic National Convention believing that the race would be fought out on Washington experience and “more of the same” vs change. This was essentially the same frame of the race the Obama camp had sustained for the first 16 months or so of the nominating fight with New York Senator Hillary Clinton. It worked in the primaries until the Clinton campaign shifted from “35 years of experience” to a much more “woman for change” oriented message in the later stages of the fight and nearly came back to win the nomination.

But the McCain campaign learned something from watching the Democratic primary fight. Throughout the 2008 primary season no matter how many polls said that Hillary Clinton had more experience to be President, no matter how wide her margin over Obama on “ready to be President on day one” it did not matter. Obama and his message of change won.

The Clinton campaign kept seeing in their polling and research that Hillary’s experience trumped change and could not understand why she was losing the nomination with her
substantial experience advantage,

The hunger for change was that powerful. The hunger for a different kind of post-partisan politics that would shake up Washington was overpowering “experience” and “more of the same”.

Now it seems so obvious. It is amazing that so few (including the Obama campaign) saw it coming.

John McCain and his team had to make a decision. Run as the more experienced ticket, and run smack into Barack Obama’s trap of change vs more of the same just as Clinton had. Or pick Sarah Palin and run as the original mavericks that really will shake up Washington.

If you are an advisor to McCain. Faced with that choice, you urge McCain to pick Palin.

But now its the Obama campaign’s turn to learn the lesson of the Clinton campaign. The Obama campaign looks at all its polling data and research and in a race between change and four more years of George Bush, change wins big. So it keeps trying to frame the race as four more years of George Bush and more of the same vs change and cannot understand why it isn’t pulling away.

It’s not just Palin.

The brilliance of the McCain strategy and messaging is that it includes a trap for Obama. To push back on the McCain claim of “country first” and “the original mavericks who will shake up Washington” the Obama campaign’s attack of “four more years of George Bush” becomes a problem. In a country that yearns for post-partisan change the Obama campaign risks sounding too partisan and like more of the same.

It would not surprise me if in one of the debates Obama or Biden uses the “You voted with George Bush and supported him 93% of the time” and its John McCain that retorts “that’s the kind of partisan attack the American people are sick of….”.

What worked for Obama is now working for McCain. The important lesson for the Obama campaign is that the Clinton campaign kept looking at its research, kept stressing experience and did not adjust until it was too late. The McCain campaign has not only adjusted to the Obama message, they have changed the terrain.

Now the Obama campaign and its allies need to understand that in arguing that John McCain represents a third term of George Bush and the GOP agenda it is the Obama campaign that risks sounding partisan in a country that yearns for the post-partisanship of “country first” and “shaking things up in Washington”.

One last point. Hamilton Jordan, who passed away recently at the age of 63, was among a brilliant group of Democrats who plotted the strategy behind Jimmy Carter’s campaign for the White House. Carter was the only true insurgent candidate on the Democratic side to make it to the Presidency in the modern era.

Carter was running against Gerald Ford in 1976. The Watergate babies, a large group of reform minded Democrats, had been swept into office in the change election of 1974. Carter who ran as an outsider throughout the primaries looked like he would beat President Ford going away. But Ford who had pardoned Nixon and was a joke machine for Saturday Night Live, came back and nearly won the election holding Carter to just 50.1% of the vote. Ford received 48% after a debate gaff that probably cost him an outright win.

I remember Hamilton Jordan saying something I will never forget. He said the mistake that had cost Carter his big lead, and nearly cost him the election was that after Carter won the nomination the campaign started to listen too much to Washington Democrats and lost much of its outsider thinking that made it different.

The Obama campaign needs to get back to the basics that got it here. Stop listening to the Democrats who are wringing their hands and fighting the last war.

Clinton adjusted too late, McCain may have adjusted in the nick of time. Will Obama’s campaign make the right adjustment now? Get back to being an outsider. And get there fast.

McCain is the one running against Washington now. Obama can’t just run against Bush. That’s my take.

Joe Trippi is a Democratic political consultant. He writes at JoeTrippi.com.

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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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