Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The icon factor

Considering my nomination for the prestigious Yggy, I'm now taking Sully more seriously, but then he writes this:
Since the general election started, it's been a walk-over for the Democrat, in my view.
In your view, indeed, Andrew. Political analysis requires discounting for one's own inherent biases and trying to get outside the subjective perspective. Failure to do so can lead to Pauline Kael Syndrome.

On the other hand, I think Patrick Ruffini (to whom Sully was responding) may be guilty of a similar error in dismissing as irrelevant the "massive activity gap" between McCain and Obama. It would be a mistake to take for granted that this obvious weakness for McCain -- not only the candidate's own shortcomings, but also the extreme demoralization of the GOP base -- will make no difference in November.

Ruffini dismisses the "activity gap," I suspect, mainly because he can imagine no remedy. John McCain is not a captivating speaker, and cannot be transformed into one. And given the fact that the Republican Party has abandoned its conservative principles and offers no agenda, the grassroots demoralization is also irremediable.

At this point, none of this can be helped and -- if your objective is trying to find a way for McCain to win -- there's no point worrying about it. Like the 4th Infantry Division accidentally landing on Utah Beach a mile south of their objective, you "start the war from here." If that's what Ruffini is saying, it makes sense from the planning view, but that doesn't mean the "activity gap" won't matter.

I'm more persuaded by Ruffini's central argument that the key for the GOP is to make the election a referendum on the relatively unknown and inexperienced Democrat: "It's all about Obama." Sowing doubt, highlighting the thinness of Obama's resume, raising whatever scandal factors you can find -- that is clearly the best hope for the Republicans.

The problem is getting that message out, considering Obama's massive financial advantage and the media's pro-Obama bias. Yet if, as Ruffini says, Obama can be knocked off his pedestal, the press is likely to be pretty harsh on the fallen idol. The "just another politician" label could hurt Obama badly.

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