Wednesday, March 05, 2008

# Posted 9:54 AM by Taylor Owen  

THE WAY FORWARD: A few thoughts from last night.

First, if you are going to read one analysis, read Josh's. As usual, he captures the central element of this thing going forward: that no matter how either camp tries to spin it, it will be the super delegates that will decide this (since neither will gain enough elected delegates) and that despite what both camps may believe, they actually don't have that much sway over the decisions of these delegates. They will go to either who has a clear lead in elected delegates, or, if no one does, then to who they think has the best chance of beating McCain.

So, if this is a given, then there are only two potential scenarios going forward. Obama could continue to slowly pull ahead in elected delegates with a close contest in Wyoming and a big win in Mississippi. Unless Hillary crushes him in Pennsylvania, it is over. Or, Hillary could start to close the elected delegate gap, bringing the super delegates into play, in which case this becomes a battle of who stacks up better against McCain.

If these are the two most likely scenarios, what should Obama do?

On the first, he has to pick away at the myth that this is about anything but elected delegates. This will in part happen naturally, as people start to look closely at just how she plans on winning this despite the numbers, and how the next three contests play out. It is critical that the math becomes the story. Part of this is also getting away from the idea that everything rides on Pennsylvania. From a numbers perspective, it just doesn't.

On the second option, that this comes down to convincing super delegates who is better poised to fight the general, it seems to me he has to confront three myths: That she has a more developed policy platform; that she has been better vetted and is not as susceptible to GOP smears; and that she has more experience.

On the first, given that there is a good stretch of time between now and Pennsylvania, why not do a series of serious policy speeches. The kind of long, boring, wonky events he did early in the primary. Do a serious foreign policy speech at Brookings flanked by his formidable advisers, a detailed environmental speech, a hard edged discussion of free trade, etc. He could do a different theme every two days, for two weeks. Bombard the press with policy. They will either report it, which is great, or simply report that he has a really detailed policy plan, which is also great.

On the second, that Hillary is better vetted, he has to fight back. This line of attack is simply ridiculous coming from the candidate who has some of highest negatives in recent memory, and for whom Rush Limbaugh is rooting. The fact that this angle has stuck is crazy. They are clearly trying to get into a mudsling and bring him down to their level. He does have to be careful about doing too much of this himself, but there are many ways to get a message out. His campaign has to make very clear what a GOP campaign against Hillary will look like. One way of triggering this discussions is to everyday ask why she hasn't released her tax forms. The answer is obvious and will lead to a range of inquiries. Let's get the ball rolling...

Finally, on experience, I say use Daschle, and others of his stature, more in the public. He was on Charlie Rose a couple of days ago, and made what was the best defense of Obama's qualifications I have ever seen. Daschle came to this campaign largely because of how Obama composed himself in the Senate, and what he thinks this means he is capable of. Get that message out. And shockingly, when he is not at a mic in Capital foyer, Daschle is eloquent, likable and persuasive.

One quick thing on the McCain match-up. Obama's overwhelming advantage here is that in a change election he simply brings way more to the table that Hillary. This message has to get out better. All of this 3am phone ringing nonsense only serves to highlight the advantage that he has. In this election, one main element of the desired change is away from fear based politics. He represents this. Use it.

All in all, my bet is that his supporters rally, the movement element of his campaign returns in response to Clinton's kitchen sink, he continues to raise astonishing amounts of money, he keeps his delegate lead through the next three primaries, and super delegates slowly trickle to him. Eventually, the reality will set in that she simply can't win. Fingers crossed...

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