As I’ve watched the two campaigns during the past two weeks, it seems to me that the McCain organization is not playing its game on winning the undecided voters very well.
They have not been very creative in projecting a coherent and fresh argument, often relying on old arguments heard many times in many election cycles. There are several possibilities to this:
- Less Talented Campaign Managers: They are relying on shop-worn platitudes and arguments (“He’ll raise your taxes”, “He wants to weaken America”, “The most liberal voting record”, etc). The problem with using last year’s playbook is that your opponent has made adjustments based on prior lousy performance and is therefore, bringing a better game to the field. The other problem is that those lines do not carry the same weight anymore. The government has ballooned to a size that we have never seen in this country’s great history. America itself is weakened because the military’s resources are stretched and our allies are so alienated that they will offer only token help to us. The undecided voter, either intellectually or through their “gut”, will realize that the words do not match the reality.
- Consolidating The Base: Presidential elections are strongly influenced by voter turnout and voter enthusiasm. For reasons we are unaware of (perhaps internal polling), they feel that at this point of the campaign, they need to allocate resources and free media time (the P and VP debates) to do this. In this respect, it is possible that they are playing for a respectable and face-saving defeat.
- Arrogance: They are underestimating the strength of their opponent. Mr. Obama seems to have this effect on his competitors. They think he is a lightweight whose luster will quickly fade. Just ask Hillary Clinton and Mark Penn.
Whatever the reason, I believe it is a misguided strategy.
If you watched the two Bush campaigns of ’00 and ’04, what you would have seen is a masterful operation in getting the undecided and independent vote. One could make the argument that ’04 was a war-time vote. However, in 2000, he was running during a time of peace and economic success.
The undecideds and independents will ultimately put the winner over the top. One campaign so far is taking that seriously.