Sunday, August 03, 2008

A Mixed Week

While technically Sunday is the beginning of a new week, everyone treats it as "time off" from the rest of the week, a day removed from the rest of the flow of time. In that spirit, we have a chance to sum up the past week's events and, perhaps, look forward to new challenges coming up.

Much of the political talk on the Sunday shows concerned the Obama/Britney/Paris ad and the race issue, including the interesting finding in a poll that a slim majority of Americans believe that Obama started it. Joe Trippi has a great explanation of the way this has unfolded to McCain's advantage, although I believe that advantage to be only temporary. When a former aide to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan gets on This Week and politely but firmly explains the reality to the gathered half-wits, I do believe the conversation is beginning to turn.
God Bless David Gergen! Really--he was on This Week and said (check the video or transcript for exact wording), "When McCain's camp calls Obama "The Messiah" and "The One", he's really calling him "upitty." I'm from the South, and we understand what that means. That's code."

I think digby is wrong in this analysis, if for no other reason than people are already discussing the not-so-subtle racism of the Obama/Britney/Paris ad. It is subtle, which I acknowledged in my post on the ad. But, as I also said, just because it's subtle doesn't mean it isn't there. I think McCain's options in this arena are actually more limited now. While it's true that the Rasmussen poll indicates that people see the issue as having been opened by Obama, McCain's attempt to square the circle of his own position has become far more difficult because there are people paying attention now, and calling him out. This isn't about a few liberal bloggers, either. Again - David Freakin' Gergen made the point as clear as day on This Week. It doesn't get any more plain than that. McCain's options are now limited because there are fewer more Establishment figures than David Gergen.

Obama has had a rough week, it is true. McCain, however, narrowed his options - regardless of the opinion poll - and forced the issue of what digby calls "dogwhistle politics" on to the table. Finally. I think, despite all appearances, the long-run implications of the Rovian tactic of using an opponents strengths against him will backfire precisely because Obama's strengths are so much greater than McCain's.

One of the things in Obama's favor this week is we are entering the August doldrums. Between the Olympics, Congress' time off, and the conventions, we are entering a time when the focus is off big events (barring something either catastrophic or phenomenal). I think that Obama is waiting to really open up. He's got far more money. He's got many more advantages publicly. He isn't limited by an infamous temper, or the way he's altered his public positions to win over a very narrow political base.

Twelve years ago, a certified war hero was running against a much younger opponent. This certified war hero was known about Washington, not only as a great figure, but for a certain misanthropy that arose every once in a while. The war hero managed to gain an advantage coming out of his own convention by nominating a younger person of a much different political ideology. That advantage became a lead in the polls moving in to the autumnal race. The problem was that the war hero had little money, and the social and political climate mitigated against the radical break of electing a new President from a different party. Even as the polls fluctuated throughout the fall, it became clear that the war hero would lose. It wasn't just incumbency that Bill Clinton had going for him. The times favored him. The political climate favored him. His youth favored him. In retrospect, Bob Dole's convention bump, helped by picking Jack Kemp as his running mate, was a political anomaly, the kind of thing that happens but means little in the long run.

There are two comparisons to make here. The election of 1932. The election of 1996. Study those, and maybe some understanding of the dynamics of this race will come.

Virtual Tin Cup

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