Barack Obama’s candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination has struggled throughout 2007 in the public opinion polls because his campaign has not developed a clear, focused message that provides Democratic voters with a reason to vote for him.
Obama has raised over thirty million dollars for his campaign during the first six months of the year and has considerable popular, grass root support, so the resources are available to deliver the message. But what is the message? Should Democrats vote for Obama and cross their fingers and hope?
Consider this from Barack Obama in February of 2007 at a Democratic National Committee Meeting: “There are those who don’t believe in talking about hope,” Obama told the crowd. “They say, Well, we want specifics, we want details, and we want white papers, and we want plans. We’ve had a lot of plans, Democrats. What we’ve had is a shortage of hope. And over the next year, over the next two years, that will be my call to you.”
In July, as the polls began to show Obama falling further behind Hillary Clinton, Davis Plouffe ( Barack Obama’s campaign manager) had this to say in a letter to reassure campaign contributors. “One of our opponents is also the quasi-incumbent in the race, who in our belief will and should lead just about every national poll from now until the Iowa caucuses. Expect nothing different and attach no significance to it. It is clear you did not in this past quarter and we would encourage everyone to keep our sights focused on doing well in the early primaries and caucuses, and then using our organizational advantage nationally to clinch the nomination in February.”
The fact is that the “quasi-incumbent” that Plouffe referred to was Hillary Clinton, who in some public opinion polls had a nearly forty percent unfavorable rating with Democratic voters. It also should also be pointed out that there is no discussion by Plouffe of the Obama message or the strategy to get that message out.
In a column in July 2007, by David Paul Kuhn, Obama campaign advisors outline the strategy of their campaign as being modeled after insurgency campaigns like that of Ronald Reagan. As Obama pollster Cornell Belcher said of Reagan “Now, it is blasphemy for Democrats, but that hope and optimism that was Ronald Reagan allowed him to “transcend” ideological divisions within his own party and the general electorate.”
It is true that Reagan projected hope and optimism. However, Reagan got elected with a clear message of smaller government, lower taxes, and less government bureaucracy. At the time that message was called the “Reagan Revolution.”. It should be pointed out that once again beside “hope” there is no discussion by Belcher of the Obama message or the strategy to get that message out.
In August, with John Edwards attacking Hillary Clinton for taking campaign contributions from Rupert Murdoch, (We later found out that John Edwards made $800,000 on his last book deal from a Murdoch publisher. ) the Obama campaign decided that their candidate was an outsider who was going to clean up Washington. Here is how that turned out (from the Associated Press): Democrat Barack Obama, who says he swims in “the same muddy water” of lobbyists and fundraising that corrupts Washington, is pledging to reform the system if elected President. “I have a bunch of friends who were state lobbyists. The fact of the matter is … I played poker with them, so I don’t think that lobbyists are evil,” said the first-term Illinois senator. “I just think they’ve got an agenda and you got to be clear about that, and not pretend that they don’t. Why else are they getting hired and making all this money unless they’re actually getting something done?”
If you were a Democratic voter and wanted to see real reform in Washington, D.C. would that message from Barack Obama be a catalyst for you to vote for him in 2008?
Also, consider that after attacking Hillary Clinton for months over her vote in the Senate to support the war in Iraq, Obama had this to say about Pakistan: “There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”
It sounds like Obama who has called for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq would be in favor of invading Pakistan. If you were a Democratic voter and wanted to see an immediate end to the hostilities in Iraq, would this message about Pakistan, from Barack Obama be a catalyst for you to vote for him in 2008?
The early 2007 strategy of the campaign was apparently to capitalize on Obama’s star qualities with the American public. The campaign would use Obama’s book , “ The Audacity of Hope” to formulate a positive message of “hope” that would be delivered by Barrack’s gifted oratorical abilities to audiences that were longing for a fresh new face in Washington, D.C. The campaign would raise a lot of money and spend much of it in the early primaries to insure victories that would create a “domino” effect in other primaries and propel Barrack Obama to the Democratic nomination. However, as the year progressed, the fresh new face began to look like a politically inexperienced fresh new face to potential Democratic voters. To counter that impression of political inexperience, we are now seeing his campaign search for a message for voters to consider beside hope. Searching for a message in the middle of the campaign can become a painful experience for a candidate on election night.
The result of this campaign strategy can be seen in the latest polling data. Barrack Obama trails Hillary Clinton by twenty two percent nationwide and has now fallen behind Clinton in the early primary states of Iowa and South Carolina .
Throughout 2007, Barack Obama’s political campaign has been based solely on a message of hope. In an insurgency campaign facing a formidable opponent, the candidate needs a message that has much more audacity than that.
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