The themes of the campaign this year are change and experience. The democrats had only to run against Bush to win, and Obama proved to be the most effective anti-Bush democrat. McCain, on the other hand, has to run against Obama AND Bush, and also has to radically remake his party (to expand the Republican voter base by adding independents and others).
This situation favored Obama and he entered his convention slightly ahead of McCain. And here is where strategy comes in.
In chess a player sacrifices a pawn or other lesser piece to execute a winning strategy. In this case McCain sacrificed his strongest issue, experience, in order to steal the change theme from obama.
Why did he do this? Two facts are clear:
1. everyone who was going to vote for Mccain on the issue of experience was already on his side
2. He was losing to Obama
Hillary Clinton tried the experience theme (the 3AM ad) and although it slowed Obama, she lost. Similarly, although McCain was running a decent race, the terrain was so unfavorable that given the high level of enthusiasm of Democrats, the huge number of new voters, the desire for change was going to overwhelm concerns about experience.
So, he tore up the game plan (which was to run as a moderate and try to get independent/moderate voters who worried about experience, while hoping not too much of the conservative base sits it out) and wrote a new one -- the all-Western reform ticket.
Monday, September 8, 2008
An Astute Comment
On his Atlantic blog, Marc Ambinder posted an open thread for Obama supporters, inviting them to answer the question of how the Obama campaign should respond to the Palin selection. Ambinder has received 437 comments in this thread so far. One, by a commenter calling himself "Gamechanger", was astute. Unlike some professional pundits who have written that McCain was foolish to pick Palin because it weakened his advantage in experience, "Gamechanger" analogizes the selection to an exchange of pieces in chess: