Defining Obama down
After spending much of the summer searching for an effective line of attack against Senator Barack Obama, Senator John McCain is beginning a newly aggressive campaign to define Mr. Obama as arrogant, out of touch and unprepared for the presidency.There is more.
On Wednesday alone, the McCain campaign released a new advertisement suggesting — and not in a good way — that Mr. Obama was a celebrity along the lines of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Republicans tried to portray Mr. Obama as a candidate who believed the race was all about him, relying on what Democrats said was a completely inaccurate quotation.
The Republican National Committee began an anti-Obama Web site called “Audacity Watch,” a play on the title of Mr. Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope.” And, in a concerted volley of television interviews, news releases and e-mail, campaign representatives attacked him on a wide range of issues, including tax policies and energy proposals.
The moves are the McCain campaign’s most full-throttled effort to define Mr. Obama negatively, on its own terms, by creating a narrative intended to turn the public off to an opponent.
Although Mr. Obama has been under an intense public spotlight for the last year, he is still relatively new on the national scene, and polls indicate that for all the enthusiasm he has generated among his supporters, many voters still have questions about him, providing Republicans an opening to shape his image in critical groups like white working-class voters between now and Election Day.
Mr. McCain’s campaign is now under the leadership of members of President Bush’s re-election campaign, including Steve Schmidt, the czar of the Bush war room that relentlessly painted his opponent, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, as effete, elite, and equivocal through a daily blitz of sound bites and Web videos that were carefully coordinated with Mr. Bush’s television advertisements.
The run of attacks against Mr. Obama over the last couple of weeks have been strikingly reminiscent of that drive, including the Bush team’s tactics of seeking to make campaigns referendums on its opponents — not a choice between two candidates — and attacking the opponent’s perceived strengths head-on. Central to the latest McCain drive is an attempt to use against Mr. Obama the huge crowds and excitement he has drawn, including on his foreign trip last week, by promoting a view of him as more interested in attention and adulation than in solving the problems facing American families.
“I would say that it is beyond dispute that he has become the biggest celebrity in the world,” Mr. Schmidt said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “The question that we are posing to the American people is this: ‘Is he ready to lead yet?’ And the answer to the question that we will offer to the American people is: ‘No he is not.’ ”
This line of attack has the added benefit of being true. What is interesting is that in their pre campaign strategy sessions on the race the Obama team did not see it coming. They were too arrogant to notice.