Playing Not to Lose

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Longtime TPM Reader LB checks in from Missouri, where McCain, for the moment at least, is outspending Obama:

The entire Republican campaign will be focused on making Obama the worst menu choice imaginable. Of course this will sully St. McCain’s reputation and he will be subject to all manner of criticism (the stuff DC Dems fear so much they’ll do anything to avoid). Nonetheless, the Republicans will take an ugly win over a noble loss any day.

They will use the summer months to shore up the old McCain image as “maverick”, “moderate” and independent. It’s all lies but they don’t care about that. The Democratic campaign meanwhile … is entirely new to the national game and has nothing like the experience of winning the Republicans have so they are essentially giving free ground to the opposition instead of going on the attack now when they have McCain down and could easily keep him down. …

The … Democrats are not planning on winning. They are planning how not to lose. Naturally, this is one of the best strategies known to man if you wish to lose the contest. Republicans on the other hand are actively planning on how they win. They know this necessarily includes doing all they can to sully Obama’s reputation and paint him as something he is not: untrustworthy, extreme, etc…

What we know, however, is that the Republicans have won the last two Presidential campaigns and have deep experience running a national operation, how to prepare for the fall and how to execute a take down of the opponent. The one thing Republicans rely on more than anything else is Democratic docility and inaction during summer and well into September. My view is that the best thing the Obama camp could do is not wait for the assault to begin (something they openly admit they are preparing for) but instead to launch their own assault. Were they to do this and put the Republicans on the defensive and keep them there until November it would reverse roles and give the Democrats the strategic advantage that is always so elusive to them in the fall campaigns.

Obama has the money to do this and the capacity to sustain it. Unfortunately, it looks to me as though all the signs point to the Obama campaign now becoming more and more focused on DC and listening to the wise heads in Washington whispering in their ears about how to handle things. Thus, we begin to see a replay of a great deal of what we’ve seen before: planning how not to lose instead of planning how to win. I hope I’m wrong. I hope the Obama people are developing a proactive, aggressive, in your face campaign to strike down McCain and the crap the Republicans are preparing. It’s just there are no signs that this is what is being planned. And so I am very worried.

Late Update: More, from TPM Reader PP:

I like other readers are very concerned about the Obama campaign’s approach regarding early ads, but is the relative lack of early advertising from the Obama campaign by design or is it a byproduct of a lengthy primary?

The McCain campaign wrapped up the nomination early which has allowed that campaign to get everyone in place as soon as the Democratic nomination was settled. Had Obama wrapped up the nomination in March, he would have had the time to plan an extensive ad campaign and the money to blanket the airwaves.

The lengthy primary drained his coffers, and it doesn’t help that the DNC’s fundraising has been pathetic in comparison to the RNC’s. If you look at DNC+Obama and look at RNC+McCain, the Democrats are, as usual, facing a fundraising gap.

This is why there are those of us who work in Democratic politics who are very concerned with the lack of money that is going to third party groups and who were concerned with the lack of an outside group that could have run advertisements against McCain while the Dem primary was going on.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.
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