Another View


TPM Reader MR disagrees …

I think we’ll look back on August as when Obama won the election.

August was when John McCain had the chance to define Obama and so cement a negative view of him that he could never recover. Now his time is almost up, the conventions are about to begin and we get into the full swing of the campaign.

And what did McCain get out of his month? The Gallup tracking poll barely budged; most polls show Obama still with a modest lead, only slightly less than where he started a month or so ago. Obama’s negatives are up somewhat — no surprise after the pummeling he took — but hardly up to critical levels. Unlike with Kerry, no single message has stuck — he’s a flipflopper! No, he’s a scary leftist! No he’s an empty celebrity! With no single negative image, the effect is likely to diffuse over time, especially with a successful Democratic convention.

I think Obama’s played this just right so far. Yes, lots of folks are complaining he hasn’t gone after McCain enough but it simply wouldn’t have worked. McCain has not been the story — Obama has been. Unfair, sure, but that’s the way it is. Obama’s the new guy in town and everyone is trying to figure him out. So instead of fecklessly launching attack after attack on McCain only to have them disappear into the ether, he sat back and played rope-a-dope waiting for his moment.

Now his moment is coming. The VP choice, the convention, the post-Labor Day sharpening of people’s attention, the debates and the full onslaught of ads, money, and organization.

Can he blow it? Sure. He’s new to this. He can make the wrong VP choice. He can give an empty, if soaring, acceptance speech (or it could rain!) Hillary and Bill (especially Bill) could add a sour taste to the convention and make that the story. He could fall short of expectations in the debate. But all (or most of those) are under his control.

I would *so* rather be Obama heading toward November than McCain. It’s his for the taking if he just executes it right.