Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Should Obama campaign more aggressively? Or has Paris Hilton saved his bacon?

John McCain has managed to do what then-Vice President Dan Quayle did in the 1992 campaign when he decided to pick a public fight with the fictional character Murphy Brown of the popular TV program of that name.

Now, after targeting Britney Spears and Paris Hilton in his notorious Obama-and-the-sexy-white-girls ad, Paris has made her own ad. And she sounds more Presidential that grumpy old white guy McCain. See Paris Hilton Responds To John McCain's Celebrity Ad Huffington Post 08/05/08: Dday at Hullabaloo, Paris Drinks McCain's Milkshake 08/06/08; Chris Bowers at Open Left, Paris Hilton at the Turn of the Tide 08/05/08.

As dday puts it, Paris Hilton's energy plan is visibly better than McCain's:

She's also squeezed him to an extent. Hilton basically endorsed a compromise proposal (I can't believe I wrote that sentence) of limited drilling as a bridge to a green energy future. That's not true; the meager take from coastal drilling is not nearly enough to build that bridge. But in the political context, both candidates are actually agreeing with this, as it's laid out in the bipartisan "Gang of Ten" plan on energy in the Senate. It's a true compromise, and it includes eliminating tax breaks for oil companies and funneling that money into alternative energy research. That central plank of the Democratic Party agenda (it was part of 6 for '06) polls extremely well, in the 70% range. But McCain has already gone on the record against the Gang of 10 compromise ... (my emphasis)
Bowers writes:

They have gotten into a spat with Paris Hilton, which there is basically no way to win. Hilton has nothing to lose, and the back and forth just highlights the frivolic idiocy of McCain's recent attacks.

It feels really weird to say it, but Paris Hilton kind of feels like Gandalf returning to Middle Earth, "at the turn of the tide." Her age-based attacks on McCain are even in line with Obama's new ad that opens with a line that could be interpreted as a shot at McCain's age. McCain is going to be on the defensive now, even though he started the attack in the first place. Obama's "proud to be ignorant" line is getting a lot of play, too.

Paris Hilton is playing a not insignificant role in the presidential election. Who'd have thunk it? Man, politics is weird.

The polling data showing Obama with a comfortable lead among white working-class voters nationally is good news. And a good rejoinder to those Big Pundits who sadly explain to us that while nice affluent white folks like them are prejudiced, the dirty workers out there in the boondocks are.

Sill, there is reason to be concerned with the current play-it-safe/above-the-fray posture of the Obama campaign. Mike Lux at Open Left explains the perils of Capital Hill Caution 08/05/06:

Caution [of the conventional Democratic-consultant variety] kills when it comes to national elections, and the caution of my friends in Obamaland is hurting him. It's why despite the good coverage of the overseas trip and one gaffe after another by McCain, Obama is drifting down in the polls.
I'm not ready to panic yet. But, like all good Democrats, I'm used to having to contemplate the worst in such matters.

Joan Walsh at Salon gives voice to Democratic worries common among the netroots in David Brooks calls Barack Obama a sojourner 08/05/08:

This McCain stuff? The nasty jokes and ads about him being "The One" or Paris Hilton or Chris Matthews' boy toy? The playing of the "playing the race card" card? I think it's working. It's too early to fret about polling, and yet the trends in recent polls seem ominous.

And, quite honestly, my personal political radar is a little jammed: I've certainly criticized Obama for a few of the things McCain is trying to ding him on, particularly his supporters' rhetoric (which he occasionally seems to mirror) about his superiority and inevitability. I was concerned about his trip abroad backfiring -- whether because of missteps in Iraq, Israel or Afghanistan, or (more likely) adoring European crowds turning off American skeptics. And yet I personally admired every move he made on his trip. But it certainly hasn't given him a bounce, and may have hurt him. Obama supporters can say the criticism is unfair; they can call McCain "McNasty" and send e-mails about his latest gaffes and outrages - did he really say his wife should enter a topless beauty pageant? Sigh - but Obama may well have to work a little bit harder to make American voters comfortable with him.

Obama has plenty of time to open up the lead over McCain that conditions in this country, combined with McCain's "Bush III" campaign, suggest he ought to have. And yet I don't see events on the horizon I'm confident will do that. All evidence points to a safe but boring vice presidential pick; I'm not feeling Obama-Bayh, at all. I've always questioned the Invesco Field idea, which risks being another Berlin-like extravaganza: one that looks good to those of us who like Obama, and either leaves others cold - or scares the bejesus out of them.

There's a lot to criticize in David Brooks' column, but it's a picture of what Obama is up against. Voters just tuning into the election won't see the pictures of a friendly, inspiring Obama in the snows of Iowa, but an image confected by the GOP attack machine and bored pundits, even some, like Brooks, who were friendly to Obama in earlier days. I'm not seeing evidence yet that Obama is ready for this phase of the campaign. Clearly, the days of adoring media coverage are behind him. (my emphasis)
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