How Obama Won the Election.

>> Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This is not designed to be overconfident or to claim victory before it has happened. This is actually my attempt to predict the punditry that will occur should Obama win the election. Everyone always wants to do postmortems on campaigns. People are still writing them on the clinton campaign. I am going to do mine three weeks in advance making it a pre-postmortem and we can come back to it later and assess how right i am about the punditry and my predictions on why Obama won. If i was ambitious enough and had enough time i would turn this into a book ready to go just after election day. I dont, so this will have to suffice.

How Obama Won the Election.

How did Barack Obama, a relative new comer, an african american, a man with a funny name, manage to defeat John McCain, formerly one of the most popular politicians in America? John McCain began this campaign as a well respected maverick feared by dems as a man able to draw independents with his vaunted political independence and foriegn policy expertise. McCain has finished the campaign with his reputation and legacy in taters a sad object of pity, a man who gave it all up in a second failed bid for the presidency. Obama did with a simple premise many writers and average joes can relate to, "show not tell".

Many will point to the economic crisis as the moment when Americans woke up to the fact that the last eight years of republican rule had led to economic disaster. The tale is that but for that black swan McCain, who lost in a devastating electoral college and popular vote landslide, would have been either victorious or at least in a dead heat. As late as September 16 McCain had a lead over Sen Obama in the Rasmussen daily tracking poll. Sept 14 happens to be the day that Lehman filed for bankruptcy. September 15, 2008 is the day McCain proclaimed the fundamentals are strong. Coincidence? Not really. The deteriorating economic situation was indeed part of the reason for the collapse but not in the way many seem to be telling the story.

It is true that generally people credit the dems with being better on the economy and domestic issues. It is also true that they are better. For McCain who entered the race with shaky economic credibility at best the economic crisis was, as he is fond of saying, an existential challenge of his candidacy. Things did not have to turn out that the economy would sink McCain. In fact the financial crisis presented the best most clear opportunity to lead and to prove his economic credibility possible. McCain could not have asked for a better stage to display his econ cred and had he managed to do so the race would have been completely different.

The crisis presented a rare opportunity for voters in presidential elections. Elections generally are all about promises. Candidates say they will do things but because they are not president we have to take them at their word. Here though we had to people in a position to exert direct influence on the solution. McCain and Obama both reside in the senate and could participate and direct the solution to the problem. Here was chance not to just tell the voters what they would do but to actually do it. McCain failed. He failed not in a minor way but in truly an epic manner.

His big chance to erase his weakest point and he instead generated a meta narrative that he was confused, erratic and generally lost. He inspired not confidence but utter dismay at his over the top and immediate reversals on the existence of a problem. his campaign non-suspension will be a historical reference point for gimmickry. McCain was demonstrating his in ability to lead or deal with a major crisis in any comprehensive or cogent manner. He took credit for the passage of a bill that actually failed. He undermined himself at every step. All of this only reinforced the narrative of McCain the fallen. The man with tactics but no strategy, a narrative set in motion on the fateful day of Aug 29.

Aug 29 is the day the other great failure of the McCain campaign occurred. This is the day that the McCain Campaign announced his VP choice of the little known Gov of Alaska Sarah Palin. Billed as an attractive looking, reforming hockey mom Gov Palin was the immediate darling of the right. She was an instant sensation that captured the news cycle completely erasing the power of Obama's convention speech and securing McCain's base at the same time. However, she was a non-vetted choice with some major skeletons already peeking out of the closet. She would prove disastrous.

On the heels of her convention speech Palin was in incredibly high demand, every one wanted to get to know the GOP's apparent savior and rising star. However, she was held back from media interviews. Slowly but surely as information trickled out about her support of the bridge to nowhere in alaska, her record of championing earmarks as a small town mayor, her troopergate problems the media began to demand answers. The biggest question was simply how she was qualified to take over in the event of McCain's demise. What foriegn policy cred did she have? Inquiring minds wanted to know and on Sept 11, 7 years after the fatefuly fall of the towers we would get an insight into the vacuous mind of sarah palin. Sep 11, 2008 Palin interviews with Charlie Gibson and not only fails to respond to the question on the Bush Doctrine but tries to pretend she does understand it with the now classic, "in what respect charlie?"

Here is the point where McCain's experience and country first arguments were destroyed. The naked opportunism and cynicism of the Palin pick was confirmed. McCain's first decision as president and instead of country first as he had been telling us he showed us McCain first. He showed us by his choice of a lady who could not name a newspaper she read, or a supreme court case other than roe, or answer coherently about anything. her answers in the catie curic interview were so ridiculous that snl appropriated her bailout answer whole. Now it is clear she cant even tell the truth. Palin started a narrative that the economic crisis cemented. McCain, when it came time to walk the walk, ran away.

To this point i have focused exclusively on John McCain and how he undermined himself. None of this would have been as damaging had Sen Obama not displayed the complete opposite tendencies at every turn. If Obama had proved as inept as McCain has shown himself to be he might be losing no matter what McCain was doing. Instead Barack Obama has displayed the qualities we look for in a leader. His first chance to make a presidential decision was Joe Biden. Biden was a conventional pick. Certainly non-threatning Biden is an elder statesman fully capable of assuming the office of the presidency if called upon. Biden was safe and reassuring displaying, if not flair, a pragmatic understanding that the importance is on governing not just winning.

Biden is also someone many people like because of his blunt nature. He exudes regular guy at the same time he displays a depth and breadth of policy knowledge only a decades experienced sen could have. The difference between Palin and Biden could not have come off worse for Sen McCain. Biden may not have been the sexiest pick but he was certainly not a drag on the ticket.

Then came Obama's chance to display the qualities we look for in a president in the turmoil of the financial crisis. Instead of bouncing from policy to policy Obama was deliberate and put forth some basic bailout principles that were hard to attack. He called for anti-golden parachute language, protections for the tax payer investment that was being demanded both in accountability in how it was spent and in possible recovery or profit on the money. Obama was cool and collected.

Obama tried to get a joint statement with mccain but mccain was determined to try and take credit for everything. Obama made statements about not wanting to blow up the negotiations with presidential politics proven correct after mccain parachuted into washington. At every turn Obama was making responsible decisions. He let the system work as opposed to trying to blow it up and take credit.

After the bailout and the economic downturn became the topics everyday Obama put together comprehensive plans to deal with the problems. He talked about the middle class. He made the economy and the failure of the regulatory system the focal point of the campaign. people were scarred of the economy so oabam addressed their fears. This was never more in evidence than in the friday night debate during the bailout negotiations.

In that debate Obama stood on stage with McCain and talked policy in a calm and collected manner. he was safe and he was boring. those are the qualities we are looking for in a candidate during crisis. we want the steady hand who not only understands what is going on but is capable of explaining to the people like adults. Obama stuck to policy in a time when people wanted that.

Ultimately that is how obama won the campaign. He was a man able to stick to policy and to demonstrate to people that he was a man who was serious about solving the problems in our country. He showed the people with his laser like focus on the economy and his emphasis on the middle class that he gets it. As McCain has gone off on more and more personal smears obama sticks to policy and what he is going to do to fix the problems the country faces. His demonstration of poise is more striking when placed next to Sen McCain. One man demonstrates the qualities of a president while the other demonstrates his loss of shame.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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