Thursday, July 31, 2008

McCain Plays the Dozens Against Obama

Lovely analogy in the Times about McCain's new negative campaign against Obama:

“It could be the Coca-Cola strategy of marketing that they’re trying to apply to Dr Pepper,” said John Weaver, a former chief strategist for Mr. McCain.

Meaning that McCain is finally running a down-and-dirty, negative Rovian campaign like Bush ran against Kerry. That's the "Coke" brand of the Republican party.

This is certainly a sign of desperation from camp McCain. The bump from their off-shore-drilling ads seems to be waning and the press is starting to scrutinize it for the irrelevance it offers.

Actually, the decline in gas prices is probably taking the steam out of the issue. People must be thinking, if prices can just decline on their own, maybe this off-shore drilling policy isn't really that big a deal. And with all the press on the other side of the pond, McCain got desperate.

And maybe made a mistake.

The biggest boon to this approach is to Obama: Obama gets to recapture his narrative as "above the usual politics" and a political outsider. The past few weeks he's kind of lost that sense (i.e., the "tacking to the middle" narrative). McCain could have continued to pound Obama as politically calculating (he really needs to pick a narrative for Obama and stick with it).

After all, calling Obama politically calculating, pointing out his liberal voting record, scruitinizing his political friends, hitting his experience: these are all the normal negative painting that people accept, just as people accept portraying McCain as beholden to Bush, and tempermental. Even some slight race-baiting (off-the-cuff MLK/Jesse Jackson remarks, a la the Clinton campaign) can just pass under the radar, as do the elderly jokes with McCain. But saying that Obama would rather win an election than "win" a war, or comparing him with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton - this starts to smack of desperation. Next I expect to hear McCain say that Obama's mother wears combat boots.

And with McCain going wildly negative, Obama gets to counter with "McNasty."

My analysis: this is a move that the Obama campaign scripted well in advance. Unlike Kerry, Obama saw this coming from a mile away, and his repost has been well set up. McCain may think he's simply following the Bush playbook, but in reality, he's just walked into Obama's trap. He stands little chance against Obama when it comes to playing the dozens.

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