Campaigning on ideas vs. winning elections by mattsteinglass
July 19, 2008, 3:01 pm
Filed under: President

A lot of people have been urging Obama to make his campaign more of a referendum on conservative ideology, in order to translate antipathy towards Bush into an ideological mandate for liberal governance. Instead Obama has selected a simpler approach — trying at every turn to cast McCain as a continuation of Bush, as we see in today’s Times article on Phil Gramm’s sort-of resignation from the McCain campaign.

“The question for John McCain isn’t whether Phil Gramm will continue as chairman of his campaign, but whether he will continue to keep the economic plan that Gramm authored and that represents a continuation of the polices that have failed American families for the last eight years,” said Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the campaign of Senator Barack Obama.

This is the kind of simple, easily grasped frame that wins elections. You can envision eighty million Americans walking into polling booths in November thinking “I’m afraid McCain will be just like more Bush.” President Bush is so spectacularly toxic at this point that to run on any other frame seems foolhardy. What other issue unites the heartfelt views of 70% of Americans around an issue your opponent can’t take advantage of? The Obama campaign has been through a lackluster few weeks, but the past few days have been very good for him, and my sense increasingly is that he’s a long-range campaigner: he’s picked the right territory to fight on and is now watching McCain begin to slide and scrabble. I’m still betting he wins by more than 5%, most likely by something like 8%.


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