Saturday, July 05, 2008

How Can Obama Be Ahead with So Much Negative Coverage?

On the face of things, it would seem that it was another tough week for Barack Obama.
According to the national news media, Obama is flipping on any number of issues. Even worse, his campaign is in trouble over comments a week ago by Wes Clark, in which the former
NATO commander had the audacity to suggest that McCain's admirable war record was not, in itself, enough to qualify him to run the country.
So how could it be that Barack Obama still ahead in the polls?

For insight on this question, we can find clues from of all people, two national opinion columnists.
David Ignatius of the Washington Post offers his perspective on how Obama is weathering these media storms:
During the July 4th week, Barack Obama did something that's becoming characteristic of his campaign: He took an issue on which he appeared to be vulnerable -- in this case the cluster of themes lumped together as "patriotism" -- and by going on the offensive in a powerful speech, he subtly changed the terms of the debate.
Obama delivered his patriotism address last Monday in Independence, Mo. (extra points for the campaign scheduler). This might have been the usual cliche-filled verbal waving of the flag, the sort of empty summer exercise that makes American politics so predictable. Such a speech would have reinforced the sense that Obama was on the defensive -- that he was doing the rhetorical equivalent of kissing babies and eating corn on the cob in an attempt to placate skeptical voters.
But Obama doesn't try to please everyone in these situations. When he decides he's in trouble (and that sometimes takes him awhile), he goes to the heart of the matter -- into territory that a more cautious and traditional politician would avoid. Knowing that millions of people have seen images on the Internet questioning whether he and his wife, Michelle, love their country, he went at the issue head-on.
The entire piece is worth reading:
"The question of who is -- or is not -- a patriot all too often poisons our political debates," he said. Then he laid down his marker: "I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign. And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine." He went on to paint a picture of his own American story, with personal vignettes that would have done Ronald Reagan proud.
Ignatius sums up the Obama campaign's response to these issues:
Take your greatest weakness -- the thing people whisper about you by the water cooler -- and address it directly, without apologies or sweet talk. That's Obama's approach, and in a country where people increasingly seem to regard politicians as professional liars, no wonder people find it refreshing.
So one piece of the answer is that the Obama campaign has learned to attack when your opponent expects you to cower. Didn't Karl Rove say something like that? And how does Mr. Rove fit into this election campaign? Paul Krugman tells us what we've learned from the hyped outrage over Wes Clark's comments:
What General Clark actually said was that Mr. McCain’s war service, though heroic, didn’t necessarily constitute a qualification for the presidency. It was a blunt but truthful remark, and not at all outrageous — especially given the fact that General Clark is himself a bona fide war hero.
Here's the money quote:
Now we know what a McCain administration would represent: namely, a third term for Karl Rove.
So here we find two clues as to why Obama leads despite lousy coverage: First, he refuses to play defense according to the GOP playbook. Second, maybe voters don't want to be governed by the GOP playbook.

2 Comments:

Blogger Adorable Girlfriend said...

A third term for Rove?

I just threw up a little in my mouth.

god save the Queen!

12:31 PM, July 11, 2008  
Blogger TommyWonk said...

I hope your tummy has settled down a bit, Girlfriend. It's the long term effect on my stomach that worries me.

12:18 PM, July 12, 2008  

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