Sunday, February 17, 2008

The "Day One" Lie

If there's one area where Obama's campaign can seal the deal, it's making the case that he is the real one who's "ready on day one," Hillary's ad nauseum mantra. I think he can do it.

As Obamentum grows, Clinton's flailing campaign keeps lashing out with a curious, erratic core-dump of charges: The states he won don't matter. Caucuses, where she's been stomped, shouldn’t count as much as primaries.

Guess what, team? It’s been your effing job to know how to win caucuses. You can’t blame the people for not ‘realizing’ your candidate was the best. You have to show them. Clinton's ground game has been eviscerated by Obama's superior organization and management. Even Gov. Rendell, one of her highest profile endorsers, admits they didn't have any post-Super Tuesday plan.

Who was “ready”? Who was “prepared”?

Experience doesn't mean "readiness". Failing (colossally) at delivering on health care 14 years ago does not make one best qualified to head up another try. I would agree with her new talking point that “solutions are more important than words.” What were her campaign’s words at the beginning?: “She’s inevitable.” Consider the results since:

In 12 months, a black guy whose last name rhymes with "Osama" and who served half a term in the US Senate, built a grassroots campaign from nothing. Facing a candidate known by virtually everyone and with super-high positives in the party, who was supported by the bulk of the party establishment and informed by its most celebrated veteran (read "experienced") consultants, he now leads by every measure — popular vote, number of states won, and delegates, with or without the supers. He has raised exponentially more money than any other primary campaign in history. In one month (January) he raised more than Howard Dean's entire 2004 campaign. Where's the solution, Senator?

The messaging battle – key to winning in November and to executing an agenda when in power—is being won by Obama already:
By arguing that one of Clinton’s key virtues was her ability to go toe-to-toe with the GOP attack machine, her campaign exacerbated instead of ameliorated her reputation for ruthlessness. “By bragging about how tough they were,” says John Edwards’s former chief strategist, Joe Trippi, “they reinforced the sense of the media that everything they did had a negative cast to it.” At the same time, Trippi argues, “it made it really hard for them to call Obama on his shit. How can you complain about Obama being negative when you’re bragging about your willingness to do the same thing against the Republicans?”

Now, Obama needs to seal the messaging deal. If Hillary was unprepared for caucuses, unprepared for a post-Super Tuesday campaign, unprepared for coherent messaging, why should we believe she can manage the federal government competently on “day one”?

The case is there for the making.

UPDATE [2/18 9:30AM]: Jason Zengerle at The Plank echoes my sentiments in reference to this WaPo story:
Several top Clinton strategists and fundraisers became alarmed after learning of the state's unusual provisions during a closed-door strategy meeting this month, according to one person who attended...What Clinton aides discovered is that in certain targeted districts...Clinton could win an overwhelming majority of votes but gain only a small edge in delegates.
Welcome to the campaign, Clinton camp.


stridewideman said...

A cogent arguement.

A big piece of Obama's campaign prowess has been his willingness to take it to the people. While Hillary is a big believer in the power-building where you're already strongest, Obama has been running a campaign based on Dean's 50-state strategy.

He goes to each state personally, not sending a proxy. He meets the people, he presses the flesh, he refuses to say that any state is unimportant. He's known all along that he was going to have to go the distance, fight for every delegate.

It's worth noting that this is not a new thing for him. This is the same model that won him Illinois by 80%, not just Chicago, but the deep red rural districts that are for all intents and purposes the South.

He has been running a scrappy campaign, and now as the presumptive frontrunner (by the skin of his teeth) has not let that pressure up, while Hillary has essentially conceded Wisconsin and is working to shore up her support in TX and OH.

The interesting corallary that leaves me wondering is how much of an Obama presidency will function in the same way, on his back and with his willingness to go out and do the retail work vs. wholesale. How will that play out? Will he send diplomats to Iran or go there himself? What will this mean for us beyond the initial joy of a re-engaged US, if one of his personal forays blows up in his face? What are the implications of his hands-on attitude when it comes to subjects about which he knows very little?

What will it mean for us when our hands-on president fails on the national stage, as he inevitably must? I have hope that we and the world will love him all the more for trying and failing.

But overall, I agree. He has planned ahead. I think the Cowboy is correct that he's in better shape to make things happen immediately.

Obviously there's a lot to get there.

Rob said...

I don't think Clinton is conceding Wisconsin, she was pushing all sorts of populist buttons when she was in Wausau today. We will see what happens, but conceivably she claims "victory" if it's a near-tie tomorrow.

Which, whatever, she has bigger problems than ever now that she and Obama are tied in Texas and the election is still a million weeks away.

Question for cowboy: How similar is managing a campaign to managing the country? Al Gore didn't run a particularly good campaign in 2000, but wouldn't he have been a good president?

I guess I agree with you though, it's the particular way Hillary Clinton screwed up her campaign that is telling, She kept just assuming she would win stuff and then not being ready when it didn't happen. That is not what you want in a commander in chief.

stridewideman said...

Interestingly, the converse is also true. W. ran what might have been the tightest campaing in history in terms of party regimentation, voter turnout and appeal to the base with hot issues and messaging.

His country running has so far not lived up to the majesty of his electoral campaigns.

the cold cowboy said...

i think the difference between Obama / Clinton and Gore / Bush campaign is this: the political ideologies of Obama and Clinton are nearly the same. So we're faced with the following question: how best to implement/execute?

Say what you will about Bush's ideology: he executed it pretty damn well.

I'm also not convinced Gore would have made a good president. Better than W in that he wasn't batshit crazy? okay. But the reason people lost trust in him (and for good reason) was in large part because his campaign was run so poorly.

Rob: I agree. It's the delusions of grandeur and reckless assuming that worries me. Sure, governing is different than running a campaign. But in both respects, it's your judgment (in picking subordinates, advisors and in approving strategies) that makes or breaks the execution of your goals.

Obama has proven he can do that better. On "day one."