How Obama Got Here...

Friday, August 29, 2008

...and How He Can Win in November

A few days back, I read a six-part series on the primary battle written and well-researched by Roger Simon at

Relentless tells how Obama and his team won, how they thought outside of the box, and provides a pretty harsh look at why Clinton lost. While there is no point in beating a dead horse, the series is a good read, especially for political wonks, which is why I am posting a link to it here.

The article lays out how Obama and his team are well prepared, have contingency plans, and are disciplined. It discusses the strategies and smart-thinking that gave Obama the primary win, which gives me hope and confidence that this guy can take the general.

For example:

-When the pundits and professionals told Obama to wait his turn, his team talked him into running.

-When the usual team of campaign insiders were trying their best to pick a winner and jumped on the Clinton bandwagon, others resisted and saw something different in Obama.

-When Clinton was raising an "insurmountable" amount of cash from the Clinton high-dollar donor list, Obama went to small-dollar donors, shunned political action committees, and blew away Clinton's' fundraising.

-When Clinton campaigned in big primary states, Obama and his team campaigned in nearly all states, including caucuses ignored by Clinton.

-When people said there weren't enough Democratic primary voters, who could give him the nomination, Obama went after voters that everyone said would not show up to the polls.

-When the McCain campaign started calling Obama a celebrity, and the party insiders told Obama to go with a smaller convention venue, he and his team did not shrink or get defensive like previous Democratic candidates would have. Instead, they basically gave McCain the bird and held the thing in the largest venue they could get. (Which they probably could have been filled twice.)

photo: Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times

-When media hacks told Obama to not even mention McCain in his convention speech, he instead hammered the guy.

-At the beginning of last night's speech I thought he was probably going too negative and maybe his speech was not as high-minded and lofty as convention speeches should be done. Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but my analysis was wrong. The media coverage has been spot on to his message and he has walked away from last night looking tougher than any Democratic Presidential candidate in the last 40 years.

These people seem to know what they are doing and have the guts to fight. Every time the pundits say think they are doing something stupid, it turns out it is a calculated, smart move.

This guy may just pull it off.


B Mac 3:14 PM  

According to the Nielsen folks, somewhere north of 38.3 million people watched Obama's acceptance speech.

If that isn't Super Bowl-type viewership, it's at least Conference Championship game viewership..

Bob 3:36 PM  

For reference:
-97.5 million viewers watched the Super Bowl in 2008.
-20.9 million viewers watched the 2007 world series, which was considered low.
-18.2 million — down from 2007's 20 million, watch the 2008 Grammy awards.
-52.5 viewers watched the last episode of Friends.

That said, more people will absorb their information from the repetition of the news media repeating what he said in the speech.

Christian 8:26 PM  

I admit to not being a politico wacko or anything, and I side with no party, (I go for the best candidate), but something about Obama makes me nervous. Too clean, too many answers, too pretty with that talking thing. He makes a lot of promises and has created a hype about him. (Granted, he may not have done it, but the hype exists.) And I don't buy hype. I avoid it. I don't trust it. I'm too cynical, too much of a pessimist, etc. And this guy makes me leery. Clinton flat out scared the beejesus out of me but this guy,... leery.

McCain is one of those 'what you see is what you get' kind of guys. Transparent. Not too bright. But Obama is slick, shiny, too practiced, no substance.

And I am not a political junkie that reads up on candidates so this is my opinion based on emotion and instinct. Yea, just like 60% of the rest of the nation.

Bob 8:53 PM  

Yea, I hate a guy who can put a sentence together, is well educated and isn't at least a partial dickweed. Those guys who are qualified and smart and stuff just freak me out.

Bob 8:54 PM  

Wow, that anonymous poster just made us part of a liberal whisper campaign.

I feel so honored.

Christian 9:16 PM  

'a guy who can put a sentence together, is well educated and isn't at least a partial dickweed. Those guys who are qualified and smart and stuff'

So then used car salesmen really turn your crank then, right? Or maybe the sales guy in Sears that stalks you through the store waiting to jump you on a sale.

Obama is smart because he's obviously running a good campaign and he's savvy enough to know that the media elects presidents. Hype gets votes. Substance and knowledge and experience mean dick. I'm not standing here pounding Obama in the ground. I'm questioning who the guy really is.

Bob 9:40 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob 10:09 PM  

"So then used car salesmen really turn your crank then, right? Or maybe the sales guy in Sears that stalks you through the store waiting to jump you on a sale."

Those guys aren't necessarily qualified or smart. I just don't want to return to the bad days where people preferred to vote for a guy who they want to have a beer with, rather than the guy who will be the better president.

I like my presidents to be smarter than me.

I agree that experience does not equate to votes. I have said it 10times in the last 24 hours. (That whole experience platform worked out well for Clinton didn't it.)

That said, what can you do? Go with the guy who has the best positions, or go with the guy who seems more like the guy next door. They all might be lying, but there is no way to predetermine that.

B Mac 11:37 PM  

This is how far we've fallen in terms of leadership. Some people are excited by the fact that we've got a guy who can string words together into sentences, and some are nervous of what that skill will reap.

Whatever happened to the days when it was taken for granted that our leaders would be good communicators with a wealth of knowledge? Lincoln appealed to the better angels of our nature. FDR explained economic problems and solution to millions weekly via radio. Kennedy taught us the dynamics of service.

And now? We're left in a situation (following the moral failings of Clinton and the economic/social/military/dumb-ass failings of W) where people are afraid to be led because of where we will be taken this time. People are hesitant to be inspired. And that makes me sad.

I'm with Bob. I WANT a President to be smarter than me. I want a guy who understands that nuance and detail are not moral failings. And most of all, I want a someone who can rally the country on the force of his will. Hope costs us nothing, yet can have a bigger impact than two hundred million stimulus checks. A national call to service can do what millions of dollars in faith-based initiatives and volunteering incentives can't do.

I've never been Polyanna; I know how the system works. But for once, I'm gonna see how it works when I let myself be inspired. Christian, I encourage you to do likewise.

(pardon the rant. I'm a little intoxicated right now. And by "a little", I mean, "super-very-much". And by "intoxicated", I mean "shitfaced")

Bob 7:34 AM  

B mac is more eloquent intoxicated.

I hope you like what you wrote when you sober up. You may inspire yourself.

Christian 8:41 AM  

I agree with you Bob and shit-faced B Mac on the point that you want the president to be better/smarter than you. When the media was railing Obama for being 'elitist', this was before they all started loving him to match the public sentiment, Jon Stewart went on a rant about how he does want the pres to be elitist. Elite means good. Better than others. Heck yes that is what we want and why should we apologize for it?

I laughed but I agreed. I do want someone better than me, despite their party, their past, their experience. But I can't determine better if I can't see through the smoke and mirrors.

Get votes for who you are, not for hype. Sure, any one of them will take it however they can get it. But Obama could stand tall and be a man of substance but his campaign appears to ride the wave (expertly, I might add) and you don't buck if the board if the wave is taking you places.

Smitty 10:28 AM  

So I violated anonymous' free speech rights and permanently deleted his bullshit link and unsubstantiated story. That shit is not going to be a part of this site and we'll have none of it here. In the past post, steves was right: either give us something with sources or kindly peddle your shit elsewhere.

Jon Stewart went on a rant about how he does want the pres to be elitist. Elite means good. Better than others. Heck yes that is what we want and why should we apologize for it?

Exactly. With minor excdeptions, our Prsidents used to be smarter than us, and that was okay. You want your leaders to be more than you to inspire you to be more than you are right now. But in the last election, the message was that we wanted a guy just like us. Well, honestly, "just like us" is knee-jerk, uninformed, lazy and the like. Sure, there are pockets of us, like those of us on this blog, who do "crazy" things like gt our news from more than one source and debate our opinions, but when I want to really see what "just like us" is like, I go next door and talk to my neighbors about this kind of stuff. Jeeeeeezus...

Blah blah blah. What do I mean? I mean a leader who has thought about their positions, who can articulate them, who has a clear sense of direction based on historical context and evaluated outcomes, etc. In other words: a President smarter than us.

I have lots of drinking buddies that I love dearly but who couldn't lead their way out of a paper bag.

Mike 4:19 PM  

Christian, I keep hearing folks say this about Obama. He's "too slick." There's "too much hype." I don't know who he "really is."

Pardon me for my bluntness, but what the hell does that mean.

He's a politician. Of course he's "phony." Of course he's trying to "spin," to create "hype." I believe a couple fellas named FDR, JFK, Reagan, Clinton, Lincoln, etc did that.

Lincoln was a home-spun hick from nowheresville Kentucky who studied by candlelight??? FDR was a "regular guy" who chatted to the nation on radio??? Reagan was a tough-guy cold warrior who held America's moral light in his breast pocket???

Pul-lease. What do people want from Obama? Should he walk on stage with baggy pants and a doo-rag and say "Yo homies, fo' shizzle I wants to be yo' Pesidizzle"? I have some . . . let's say "interesting" suspicions as to why everyone's suddenly so spooked (as it were) by his hype and his slick delivery.

I'm still not a big fan of the man, but as to how I judge him compared to other politicians this other crap gets on my nerves.

Christian 5:13 PM  

Mike, in response: Obama is this black guy. I noticed that much. And he knows that just by being black he's going to secure black votes. (Or African American, or colored.) He also knows that just by being black he's going to turn off a bunch of hick white people that get nervous about his color. So he needs to really put forth his message and make sure that those hick white people understand that he's not wearing a do rag and baggies or talking like Snoop Dogg. If he cares about their vote.

It would be the equivalent of 'shit or get off the pot'. But instead, all he seems to talk about is change. Fuck yea, I want change. I want to get rid of big business buying politicians. I want to get rid of pork MF'ers in Congress that vote themselves raises. I want people to earn what they have and I want the country to stop apologizing for taking tough stances against shit bag countries and dictators. I want pride restored in our offices. I want jobs for everyone that wants one and those that don't, you can pay the price when you're sleeping under the overpass. I want someone that will have a temper when people are trying to blow smoke up his ass. Or hers. Raise the bullshit flag and get pissed. There's too much PC in this world and we've weakened our nation by becoming sensitive to everyone's feelings. Be tough. Be strong. Don't be afraid to voice your opinions, even if it means a few votes.

When I took my current job I told them up front that this is who I am. This is how I roll. Know now, because I won't change and I don't want to come into this job pretending to be someone else. Have the integrity to stand up for what you believe and not cower.

In short, I want to hear Obama say that. Then he would have my vote because then I would hear Obama talking to me and not his speech writers.

steves 6:30 PM  

I want a guy (or gal) who is elite in some way. They don't have to necessarily be elite in terms of education, but in some area that shows some kind of discipline and orgainizational skills. This could be in the business world, military, or some other area.

This isn't the only factor. History is full of mediocre presidents that were smart, such as Nixon and Hoover. The same holds true for military experience, such as Grant.

Ultimately, these skills won't help if the president is, in the words of Bob, a dickweed or is just unable to implement policy.

I don't see Obama as slick. He has rubbed me the wrong way with a few of his comments. I may disagree with him on some issues, but he most certainly has well-developed policy and substance. He also has some real good ideas and will hopefully appoint some decent people as advisors is he wins.

I mean a leader who has thought about their positions, who can articulate them, who has a clear sense of direction based on historical context and evaluated outcomes, etc.

I think this is reasonable. We certainly don't have this now and haven't for some time.

Mike 7:57 AM  

Christian, I have to agree with what Steves said, which somewhat echoes what I said: what makes you think Obama is shorter on specifics than any other Presidential candidate?

This is what keeps rankling me. Yes, we'd all love a candidate to outline how he's gonna deliver X and pay for it by cutting Y. And then throw up a powerpoint with sigmas and double integrals explaining the rate of decline in the value of the dollar, blah, blah, blah.


(And none will.)

So, why does Obama get called out for this failure? Why do you find him so notoriously lacking in substance when you've grown up on Reagan & Clinton?

I call bullshit. I think there's a double standard at work here.

B Mac 9:36 AM  

From Obama's acceptance Speech on Thursday:

"I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes - cut taxes - for 95% of all working families.

~I'll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy.

~If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves.... I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

~Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime - by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less - because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.

~I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression"

These are just a few of the examples from this speech, and there are literally dozens more specific policy initiatives outlined in his public speeches, writings, etc.

How much more specific does the guy need to be?

Smitty 9:52 AM  

My last 2 cents here is thata President ultimately has little control over specific policy initiatives. A President can outline policies s/he sees as a priority; indeed, that's the prerogative and responsibility of a leader.

Ultimately, however, it is up to Congress. A President has to find champions for these initiatives and needs to help "lobby" them through the legislative process. But as the legislature works, many of these initiatives will change shape to a certain degree because the legislature adds things or takes away things.

This is exacerbated by the fact that many Presidents have faced hostile legislators; a Democratic President may be facing a Republican legislature, or even wore, a split legislature that holds-up many of the President's ideas for years as they wage their own internal battles.

We elect Presidents based partly on what they hope to accomplish. But we need to recognize that the real face of thir policy initiatives will ultimately depend on how the legislature deals with them.

Bob 5:06 PM  

"My last 2 cents here is that a President ultimately has little control over specific policy initiatives."

I disagree with this one, Smitty.

I think the executive, whether at the state or national level has the most power to implement change. Granted, there are certain policies enshrined in statute that require legislative changes and the budget requires legislative approval.

I don't think the budget can be balanced unless it is the will of the President to use the veto pen. The Congress is a series of people who want to each bring home the pork. Only the foolish ones choose to not take their share for the good of the entire country. The President, on the other hand, can make decisions that pick one Congressional district over another.

It is also the President that chooses how strongly they will enforce policy changes or even law. This is especially true where regulatory agencies come into play, such as the EPA, Dept. of Labor, etc. It also comes into play in the priorities of the Attorney General. As far as foreign affairs and the military goes, the legislature is virtually impotent to make changes there, except in areas related to budget, where these decisons are often driven by pork.

At the state level we have seen it. In Michigan we have 148 legislators who often attempt to pass laws that direct executive branch agencies to do X or Y. If it was the will of the Governor to do these things, she only needs to direct it. She doesn’t need to sign it into law. There is little use for the legislature in most executive branch functions, unless those function or strictly defined in statute, or we want to mandate future Governor’s to do X or Y. While most of them don’t all realize it, when they try to pass this stuff, the legislators are all just pretending to be Governor.

BTW everyone – nice debate.

steves 6:22 PM  

Bob and Smitty, I am going to take the middle ground and say you are both right. There are examples of a strong executive getting policy implemented when the opposition controlled the legislature. Reagan was one and there have been plenty of others.

Smitty is also correct. Regulatory power comes from statutes, so Congress can tweak things and withold funds from programs they don't want.

Smitty 6:38 PM  

I hear what you're saying Bob, but by way of example, of Granholm's wish-list in last January's Executive Budget rec's, how much of it came to fruition? Not much. There were some things that came to fruition because they were tough for the legislature to play with without looking like dicks (or...more than usual). But there was plenty that got poo-pooed, despite the House being Democratic.

So sure, some of what Obama wants, he has control over. But some of what he wants is predicated by passing laws, and we will see how much of that he gets despite a friendly legislature.

Christian 8:11 PM  

So, why does Obama get called out for this failure? Why do you find him so notoriously lacking in substance when you've grown up on Reagan & Clinton?

I was too young and too uninterested to care about Reagan. I was disgusted by the Clintons. Disappointed by the Bush's, Sr and Jr. So this brings me to the present. Obama vs McCain.

I'm watching Obama and listening and wondering where he is. I'm not attacking the guy unfairly. I'm certainly not beating the guy down and if I were it would not be because of his color. (Not sure if that is what Mike is implying or not.) I want to believe his dream but I don't want to fall victim to hype.

Maybe this guy is the real deal and maybe I'll be onboard with this cat- I don't know yet. I'm on the fence. /bitching and moaning

Bob 8:30 AM  


I don't see your arguments as racial. I think you have begun a proper debate.

I guess the way I see it, is that details don't win elections, but the details are available to whoever wants them. You can read either candidate's plans on the websites if you want the details, just most people don't bother.

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