Saturday, August 09, 2008

Campaigning ~ Armchair Generals vs. Consultants

Matt Stoller is pictured to the left. He's quoted in Jonathan Weisman and Michael D. Shear's No Vacation From McCain's Attacks: GOP Campaign Launches Three Ads as Obama Heads for a Week in Hawaii in today's WaPo. Matt's Open Left effort ought to have been on my sidebar and I'll remedy that oversight as soon as this post posts.

The first sentence of the WaPo piece contains "... the senator from Arizona would use the void to continue pummeling the character of his rival for the White House." Later there's "... an issue-based counterattack to McCain's character assault is not enough" where Matt comes along. I'll pass over his free advice and turn to the response of Team Obama's David Plouffe where he claims:

"John McCain can now become an emblem for what's wrong with Washington," Plouffe said, noting that McCain cannot win the White House without Ohio. "By November 4 in the Cincinnati and Dayton media markets, this will be something known by every voter." ...

"We have a game plan and a strategy, and we're going to continue to execute it. We're not going to be terribly worried about people playing armchair quarterback," Plouffe said. "By November 4, there are character dimensions to John McCain that are going to be clear."

I've been in a campaign, actually as more of a work horse than a strategic planner, yet I've certainly had to explain the method to the madness to dedicated volunteers. Some of these passionate volunteers were frustrated about how we "professionals" were asking them to canvass or call. They worried about our message in literature to scripts to ... My responses varied yet I hope most were built around a combination of why we were engaged in that particular effort, likely talking of the story we were trying to tell I expect, and a "trust me" type of plea. I was the volunteer coordinator and had some street cred among many of those working.

At times I'd ask a volunteer to be my surrogate in reeling a few difficult souls in as I needed pretty much every worker. I doubted I'd lose a vote if I sent that worker packing and knew some might cost me a few, or drive us all to drinking, yet knew we needed boots on the ground, data entry people, envelope stuffers, ...

I don't know Mr. Plouffe, although this Newsweek coverage from May is revealing, and I agree he's the pro and I'm not. Still ... is he really dismissing, almost contemptuously it seems, the advice of those that worry about the direction of Senator Obama's campaign? How did that 2004 effort for Dick Gephardt work out? I certainly don't think Gephardt was a total dud yet I certainly think he was one of the leaders that didn't always lead in the right direction. And his 2004 campaign was a disaster as best as I recall. Under Plouffe's guidance, Democrats added merely two seats in Congress in the 2000 election?

I do note that David and wife Olivia Morgan seem to be doing rather well. Washington Life (apparently covers the D.C. Swells) tells us that their former crib sold for $1.2 million and they upgraded to a $1.4 million six bedroom home. I noticed Olivia works/worked at Dewey Square Group. They boast, "Our political pedigree is difficult to match." Their grasstop efforts are apparently how the professional set gets things done.

I can accept David Pouffe's strategy and talent, more so after reading this LA Times coverage from Peter Nicholas. Then again, this WSJ effort from Jackie Calmes calms me as well. I would point out that the early successes that are such a part of both pieces tended to fade in the later days when Hillary made her comeback. Organization, knowledge, consistency, frugality, steadiness, ... are indeed important. The following YouTube is solid in that he's making an ask on critical cash. He seems a bit tired and I can only imagine the pressure he's under.

About halfway through Plouffe says the following:

"... We can't count on anybody else. We can not wait for a cavalry out there. A cavalry doesn't exist. We are responsible for defending ourselves against ..."

I'm not comfortable with his military analogy but I'll pass for now. Team Obama is indeed responsible and yes you can't count on anyone else! You know you'll be attacked. You surely know Atwater/Rove tactics by now. They do the same thing every time. So make your own "cavalry" or "War Room" (Hint to Katie Couric, and I pray not to the Obamites although I fear it might be given this piece from across the pond, this isn't one.) or ... and when McCain, the RNC, 527 groups, .... attack Senator Obama's character you must hit back and ideally make them pay.

Plouffe: We will play 'offense' from the Boston Globe started with Plouffe saying "We ask you to reorient your thinking." And that unfortunately troubles me. Emotions, narratives, and the like actually might matter more than "thinking". I've posted on Drew Westen just recently. And I expect some readers know the Adlai Stevenson example of needing a majority rather than the votes of "thinking people" that comes to mind.

I'm an armchair historian as well. However, I know for certain that both Al Gore and John Kerry were not well served by the consultant class. David claimed, "By November 4, there are character dimensions to John McCain that are going to be clear." Surely you know that now rather than then is when you can make the best hay Hoss? If you don't do it immediately then it will be too late. Clinton's triangulation and focus-grouping (such as done by that grimy, toe sucking Dick Morris) is likewise a fact. I also know the party of fakes run campaigns that consistently kick Progressive butts.

David Plouffe may be right yet he might as well accept that Progressives will be watching and questioning every move. I hope he's not dismissing outright the concerns of those like yours truly that fear repeats of past mistakes. Our nation and world may not be able to weather another loss. John Gunn

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