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:

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.


J K said...

That is a good way to look at it...I had similar thoughts myself when Dems came out swinging against her exclusively on the experience issue. I thought, better watch it, by hammering her on her perceived inexperience you are only highlighting Obama's same issue, and ultimately people vote for the top of the ticket not the VP.

Better strategy: simply frequently note that her inexperience invalidates McCain's attacks on Obama and then procede to hammer Palin on the issues (or even ignore her completely and focus on McCain). Not very smart to harp on her perceived inexperience even if there is a desire to bask in revenge. That is falling for the old sacrifice a pawn trick.

DaveinHackensack said...


Some cooler heads in that thread leaned toward your suggestions.

Related to our discussion in the previous political thread here, if you haven't seen Frum's NY Times piece, you might find it of interest, "The Vanishing Republican Voter". I thought about writing a separate post about it, but I still consider myself a recovering political junkie and don't want to write about politics too frequently here.

J K said...

Thanks for the link, that was quite a solid article. I don't agree with 100% of his reasoning but its the kind of thinking the country needs more of.
I was suprised to hear the genetic engineering issue come up, talk about a can of worms there. "Ensuring equality of care may become inseparable from ensuring equality of opportunity."
It's something society will need to address within the next 50 years. At some level it's probably already an issue, given the genetic manipulation of athletes and select military personel already going on.