Sunday, February 10, 2008

Obama's Campaign Strategy

While Barak Obama’s performance to date has been impressive, two consistent weaknesses have persisted since the Iowa caucuses. With such quick success in creating a movement, perhaps it is natural to get caught up in one’s own rhetoric and not make a dispassionate evaluation of the weaknesses. Secondly, the campaign now needs to shift gears from being a movement only to a campaign to win which in essence requires Mr. Obama to dismantle the Clinton myth of experience and performance.

As Maureen Dowd has so well articulated in her column in the New York Times, to win the campaign, there is a need to ‘slay the dragon’; i.e. attack the Clintons’ lack of performance in specific areas such as Social Security, Healthcare, loss of Congress by the Democrats under Clinton’s watch. It must be remembered that movements alone do not win elections; the status quo needs to be brought down at the same time as one gives a message of hope and a new beginning.

The campaign has shown a surprising inability to see and address the weak spots which may well have resulted in the losses in large states like California, New Jersey and Massachusetts. If not addressed going forward, this will turn out to be Obama’s Achilee’s heel. While we harp on the message of change, we should be able to change our strategy and tactics in view of what has emerged since people started going to the polls in January. Contrarily, our opponent, Hillary Clinton, has been adept at changing her strategy and tactics whenever circumstances have warranted. It may help us to take a page from her book. Sometimes, recognizing the opponent’s strength and learning from it may be the best thing to do.

Here are a few thoughts to identify the weak points and the necessary, albeit slight, modification required in campaign strategy to address it.

A recognition of the failings would help. Firstly, two parts of the electorate are not responding to Obama as well as one would hope and require; these are working class folks (amongst whites and hispanics) and senior citizens. There is no need to surrender either of these groups to Clinton. Inroads need to be made within the Hispanic community, white working class women, teachers and senior citizens. We touch on this point later.

Last but not least the campaign must take to the airwaves and point out these flaws; a particular tactical advantage given Obama’s financial strength going forward. The much maligned negative campaigning always works if done right. The states of Ohio, Texas, Maryland and Pennsylvania offer great opportunity to dismantle the myth of Hillary’s supposed experience. Three cogent points can be made: 1) during the Clinton presidency, Hillary was given one major task; i.e. to come up with a health care plan. She bungled it and made no progress despite Democrats having control of Congress, lost governorships and many state legislatures and local governments, a loss from which iot took 12 years to recover 2) it is during the Clinton presidency that the Democrats became a minority party; a specter likely to repeat itself if Hillary wins; 3) no progress was made on Social security. Even now all Hillary offers is a bipartisan commission; a perfect hedge.

As mentioned earlier, Obama has been unable motivate men and women from the working class, particularly in white and Hispanic areas. Other than blacks, he has consistently lost in areas heavily populated by the working class. This became evident in Iowa (despite an otherwise impressive win) and New Hampshire, yet the campaign seems to have stayed oblivious to this weak spot and did not alter its campaigning style. He is never seen visiting a factory, a shopping mall, a Walmart, a diner, a coffee shop or a school. Although Obama has specific economic plans, he does not address the economic concerns of this class in any meaningful way during his speeches. Two states on super Tuesday , New Jersey and Massachusetts, could have been won if he had campaigned in areas like Camden and Edison (NJ) and Vooster (Mass). Hillary, on the other hand has proved to be very nimble: she immediately adopted the ‘change’ message after losing Iowa which along with her support in the working class women led to her narrow victory in New Hampshire. When the Culinary Workers Union endorsed Obama, she went straight to the culinary workers and campaigned amongst the workers making the union leadership’s endorsement ineffective. Obama needs to do the same if not more.

There is no need to surrender the older generation or the white women to Hillary. The issue of Social Security needs to be hammered in.

Dayle and Shafqat
P.S: This article is a bit incomplete, but we wanted to get our thoughts out there and will complete it as time goes by.

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James said...

Fabulous assessment, and I agree that Obama's camp has done very little to remind the voters about these Clinton failures. My question is: Is there anyway for you to forward this excellent piece to the Obama campaign?

shafqat said...


I have tried emailing the campaign but they dont seem to be well organized to read emails. If anyone can get these to the campaign, I will appreciate it.