Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Denver and St. Paul

The conventions are coming. Violating my usual rule against speculation when a week or two of waiting would reveal all, here's what I expect.

The Democrats go first, apparently because they don't hold the White House and therefore don't have home court advantage. The media will tell us how much of a polling bounce Obama should get from his week of "overwhelmingly postive [sic] coverage." They'll conveniently forget the recent events of Obama's overseas trip, when the McCain press operation released attack after attack.

Tucky Bounds and his conscienceless corps of spinners will be at their blast faxes again. They know that they can count on a compliant media to type them up in the name of faux balance without ever noticing the larger story. That's what happened when Obama travelled, and the media kept posing naive questions about why the trip didn't do him more good. The answer was staring them in the face on their own web sites, but it would have been impolite to their old pal McCain to notice.

The media won't notice that they're being used again. They never notice. They're too busy sniffing for middle school level scandal and gossip.

What could the Obama campaign do about this?

First, immunize. McCain is going to attack the stadium speech again, for example. Parry and counterattack. Prep an ad that shows previous stadium speeches. Richard Nixon spoke before a Billy Graham Crusade in Neyland Stadium when it only held 95,000. Say, "Politicians of all stripes who can fill them have spoken before stadium crowds for many years. It's what they have to say, not where they say it, that's important." Repeat for any wedge you can foresee the Republicans using.

Second, attack. Have surrogates prepped and ready. The distant surrogates should attack strongly and repeatedly. McCain's loopiness is a legitimate issue. Close surrogates - the ones that you might have to take responsibility for - should have talking points ready. Democrats are awful at sticking to a script (Joe Biden); ask Ted Kennedy (if he's well enough) or Al Gore to tell them the vital importance of sticking to your message and not stretching a bridge too far. Then, dammit, don't back down.

Third, prepare your own blast faxes for the Republicans' week in St. Paul. Put them on the defensive for a change. Be sure you give the lazy media an irresistible catch phrase to tag each story, like "McCain knows the drill."

For the past thirty years, though, Democrats have been slow learners about Republican politics. I don't see any reason to think that's suddenly changed.

Look for McCain to lead the polls by Labor Day.

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