Campaign To Beat McCain

[ Posted Monday, March 31st, 2008 – 11:39 UTC ]

I heard a great idea on one of the blathering pundit shows this weekend, but I must admit I can't remember which one, so I can't credit it properly (apologies to whomever uttered the idea in the first place). In a nutshell: Obama and Clinton should declare a cease-fire between the two camps, and then try to convince the remaining superdelegates (and remaining voters) to vote for them -- based on how effectively they can beat up on John McCain.

That is the "prize" they're both fighting for, remember -- the chance to face off against McCain in the general election. So why not compete with each other on who is the best candidate to do so? And why shouldn't this competition show each candidate's strategy for doing so now, instead of later?

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Democrats bemoaning the length of the primary campaign, and those who fear this extended campaign is "harming the party," and even those clamoring for one candidate or another to get out of the race for "the good of the party" -- all should be able to agree that if the campaign went on and on (all the way to August, even), but was completely focused on McCain then it could instead turn out to be good for the party.

Because the two candidates would be trying to outdo each other on attacking John McCain and explaining why a Democrat would be better in the White House. Instead of spending time and money digging up opposition research on each other, they could shift to digging up McCain's flaws. And then loudly proclaiming these flaws to the public.

Hillary Clinton could cut a new 3:00 A.M. ad, comparing her answering the red phone with that crazy old coot, John "Bomb-first-ask-questions-later" McCain. Barack Obama could run an ad with his own youthful face next to McCain's, and ask: "another old, white guy -- or how about a change for the better?" Well, maybe not, but you get the general idea.

This would vet both Democratic candidates' strategies for the general election, and put some negative press attention on McCain as well. If one campaign either went "too far" with an ad, or was being "too soft" on McCain (and Republicans in general), wouldn't it be a great idea to find this out now, rather than after the party has selected a nominee? The two camps would be competing for who can best bruise McCain's image, and in this case such competition would be a good and glorious thing for Democrats everywhere to see. Because if "too harsh" or "too soft" strategies are exposed, then the candidate will sharpen their attack accordingly, because of the competition. This means the anti-McCain strategy -- for either candidate when they win the nomination -- will be honed and ready for action when the general campaign starts.

If this were a boring primary season, remember, we'd already be in the de facto general election at this point. If there was a clear nominee in both parties, then they'd be fundraising and bashing each other instead of obsessively counting delegates. So why not start this now anyway, even with the nomination unclear?

After all, we've got two extremely good candidates who have run half-successful nationwide campaigns so far. The policy differences between the two are not great (they're actually hard to find even if you're looking for them). So instead of dragging voters down into fiercer and fiercer intra-party mudslinging, why not focus all that negativity towards the man Democrats will have to beat this November?

For average voters, it would be interesting to hear the water-cooler talk switch to: "Well, Obama's ad is pretty convincing about how John McCain kicked a puppy once... but Hillary makes a good point that horns, cloven hooves and a tail are visible in photos of McCain... they both make a good case, it's going to be hard to pick one to vote for...."

OK, I'm exaggerating a wee bit. But again, you get the general idea. The candidates would be free to continue campaigning, free to run vicious attack ads (or not), free to vent all kinds of frustration and anger -- and it would all help the party as a whole.

John McCain is not a saint. There is dirt in his background. It's just lying there on the ground, waiting to be picked up and thrown in his face. Just to cite one example, how much of the voting American public remembers that McCain was one of the Keating Five? Yep, there he was in front of a Senate committee getting his hand smacked for bringing shame to the Senate. Video of this must exist. So why hasn't the mainstream media done its job and reminded us all? This is just one glaring example of a McCain weakness, but it certainly isn't the only one. Importantly, though, none of these weaknesses have been shown to the average voter yet in this campaign. This needs to change, and it needs to change as soon as possible.

Both Clinton and Obama would have to agree to it, though. If one candidate started running in this fashion, and the other was still on the attack towards them, then it just wouldn't work. And they'd both have to be able to freely answer any questions in the upcoming debates as well; but out on the campaign stump and (most especially) in the television ad war, both candidates would pledge to keep within the bounds of: "This is why I would make a better president than John McCain."

We've still got three weeks until even Pennsylvania votes. Maybe Obama and Clinton could just try it for a week, to see how it works out? Declare a one-week truce, roll out the best anti-McCain talk they can think up, and compete to see who is better at it. Let the pundits blather about how impressive each would or would not be against McCain in the fall. And get them talking about McCain's weaknesses, to drive his approval numbers down (especially among independents).

If Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would both agree to such a strategy, then it really wouldn't matter if the nomination was still open when the party convention happens in late August. Because each would be competing as hard and as viciously as they wanted, but it would all be directed towards the Republican candidate, and not each other. It would also put to rest any calls to end the race early, since it really wouldn't matter how long it went on.

I have no idea what the chances are that this could happen, but I think the concept deserves to be considered. It certainly is better than any other scheme to resolve the contest early that I've heard. Because if I were an undecided superdelegate, I think I would much rather make my mind up watching such a contest, instead of what we've got now.


Cross-posted at The Huffington Post


-- Chris Weigant


5 Comments on “Campaign To Beat McCain”

  1. [1] 
    fstanley wrote:

    This is an interesting idea. I have been worried that as the primary race continues Sens Obama and Clinton will throw so much dirt at each other that Sen McCain won't need to do any digging at all.

    I am not sure that they will agree to such a strategy though but it would certainly change things up if they did.


  2. [2] 
    tpowell wrote:

    After thinking about it, this kind of a campaign is exactly how the whole primary season began -- with all the candidates talking about how they weren't President Bush, not about how they were different from each other. In fact, I believe Hillary (when she was the front-runner) made several trips to the high-ground and said that the 'differences between the democrats were very little compared to the differences between them and the republicans.'

    I would love to see such a change!

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    This proposal makes excellent sense. And it would be a good way to deflate the momentum that McCain is already gaining towards a GE win..

    But the Democrats are too busy tearing each other apart to even PAY ATTENTION to good ideas, much less take time out from their self-immolation to implement good ideas.

    I really have to laugh when I read the pundits that parrot the Clinton's claim that "This debate is GOOD for the Party" and "When a candidate is finally chosen, the Democratic Party will come together." That is nothing but a pipe dream put forth by candidate desperate to remain viable..

    "The more you tighten your grip, the more systems shall slip thru your fingers"
    -Princess Leia, STAR WARS

    The more Hillary tightens her shrill grip on the contest, the more superdelegates will slip thru her fingers..

    And, if I hear more pathetic whine about how we must keep the primary vote going until all people have a say, I will bust a vein, I swear!!

    In 2004, the Dem candidate was decided in Feb.. In 2000, the Goreacle was the chosen candidate by April.. So tell me, oh frantic and desperate Hillary supporters. Were the voters in all the states that voted AFTER the candidates were chosen, were they disenfranchised in 2000 and 2004?? :^/

    Get a life people.. Hillary is done. She has lost.. The only question remaining is if she is going to drag this out and destroy the Democratic Party or if she is going to do the reasonable and mature thing and step aside.


  4. [4] 
    akadjian wrote:

    This is an interesting idea, Chris. Would certainly make more sense than trying to pressure Clinton to drop out. And it would do much to rally the Democratic party. Because when it comes down to it, both candidates platforms are very similar.

    McCain so far has been free to use his time to start acting like our Commander in Chief. The strength he will put out to the public is his war experience and foreign policy experience. And he will try to tack to the center on all other policies. Even though he supports all of the current policies, I believe he will try to look moderate.

    The Democratic party will try to paint him as McSame. No difference. If they were really interested in winning, they might start to think like Rush Limbaugh and actually paint him as liberal. Why? Because that's his challenge to Republicans - to prove that he really is conservative.

    BTW - Congrats, Chris! This was one of the top news stories on Google yesterday.

  5. [5] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Just for the record, I don't really believe that Democrats should paint McCain as a liberal. This was more meant tongue-in-cheek. It just is kind of funny to me that this is the type of thing that might work.


Comments for this article are closed.