One thing I’ve come away from here in Denver, in talking to various people, is the sense that the Obama campaign has become consumed with its brand as an end in itself. They did such a good job of packaging hope, optimism, and change that they are now resistant to any campaign strategies or tactics that might, in the eyes of some people, damage the brand.
They remind me of the classic car aficionado who beautifully and meticulously restores a vintage sports car but can’t bring himself to risk actually driving the thing.
In both cases you can sympathize. A lot of time and energy went into creating this special product. But at some point you have to let go and use the thing for its intended purpose. The sports car is made for driving, tight and fast. The candidate’s positive reputation is intended to further political ends, which in the short term means winning election.
There are signs that the campaign has been slowly coming around in recent weeks to a more aggressive, combative approach to the general election. But I think its ambivalence about doing so is less a result of the Democrats’ historical tendency to fritter away opportunities because of fear and trepidation, and more because the Obama campaign spent tens of millions over a year and a half to build Obama’s sterling reputation and they are afraid of breaking it. It’s different from what hobbled Dukakis and Kerry, but the outcome could be the same.