Wednesday, August 06, 2008

McCain in Flames

Regarding Josh Marshall's post on how McCain's "celebrity" attacks on Obama are playing out, I think the big question is: Why is this coming from McCain? Not only does it make him look like a big jerk, but it wastes precious campaign funds that he doesn't have to waste. It'd be much much easier for a few of his rich backers to be putting this into outside groups to make these sort of attacks, which are the sort of groups that would normally make these sort of attacks. That's what they did in the past, and McCain should be free to take the high road and maintain his reputation while his secret surrogates are pulling Obama into their mudpit.

As it is, lots of folks think they're hearing too much about Obama and not enough about John McCain, yet he still wastes all his time talking about Obama. So why isn't that happening? As I've said before, it's because McCain's handlers don't actually want him to win, and these attacks are much higher profile coming directly from McCain. Rather than needing some sort of bubbling up campaign over several weeks to get mainstream attention for this stuff, it's mainstream the moment McCain says it.

And that would be a huge problem if McCain needed to keep his reputation in tact, but makes perfect sense if he's supposed to go down in flames. And as I keep saying, that's exactly what's supposed to happen.


But I think the whole thing is a huge miscalculation. This is going to backfire and isn't going to hurt Obama at all. Hell, it should be remembered that even scandalous celebrities are still quite popular and even disgraced ones like Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, and Britney Spears can pull a lot of support.

And even if Obama is somehow "tarnished" as a celebrity, he doesn't have any scandal. And so if this did nothing more than get the People Magazine crowd to start paying attention to politics and linking Obama to the famous people they adore, it was a huge miscalculation. I mean, Paris Hilton doesn't even have to do anything and she remains loved by millions. But even the average voter doesn't necessarily have a distaste for celebrities and this attack just seems silly. Just ask the governor of California.

And the thing is that you can put out arguments that solidify your supporters or you can put out arguments that win over new ones, and so far, the stuff coming from McCain can only solidify his supporters, but not win over new ones. And it's unlikely to do either. If you were already prone to disliking Obama for being famous, you're probably already in the McCain group. And I really don't see people seeing this as a bad thing. People really do like celebrities, for reasons I don't quite understand, and being a celebrity president would definitely be a good thing.


Perhaps McCain doesn't understand the difference between "famous" and "infamous," but it's a natural distinction most people make without thinking about it. There's a reason why celebrities are used to endorse products, charities, and political candidates: Most people like them. I don't know if this crap tested well with their focus groups or if it was meant as a reverse-double-whammy intended to mess with Obama's head, but whatever it is, it was pretty dumb. And the fact that it's coming directly from McCain isn't a good sign for him.

And just as an endnote, one of the problems here is that this little stuff really isn't going to last too long. As Carpetbagger points out, this isn't a long-term attack on Obama. Yet it's still early in the presidential season, and most folks don't really start paying attention until September and October. While it's always necessary to keep trying to trip-up your opponent while laying your ground game, this isn't the time for these sort of petty attacks which die out after a week.

This is the time for McCain to be entirely undermining Obama, not tossing out cheap shots that will be forgotten by everyone. But again, that just shows how desperate the McCain people are: They've never been able to conceive of a long-term strategy to hit Obama with. It's all about petty snipe attacks which die out quickly. And for as much as McCain is investing heavily in this now, it will pay no dividends by the time August is over and only makes it harder for his moderate supporters to continue to support him. And worst of all for Republicans, it's not going to hurt President Obama in the least.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember a celebrity named Ronald Reagan who became president.