Posted by WLS:
Andrew Sullivan returned from a two week vacation yesterday, and very quickly had with this post up, which Dean Barnett had a little fun with here over at the Weekly Standard Blog. A sample from Sullivan’s post:
Yes, the last couple of weeks of the campaign, even from my remote perch, were pretty uninspiring on the GOP side…. Obama’s fortnight was an objectively miraculous one: Maliki and then (almost) Bush endorsed his withdrawal timetable from Iraq (game, set and match to BO), he conducted himself with foreign leaders flawlessly, burnished his international rep, and proved the force of his soft power potential. (By the way, 200,000 in Berlin was less, it seems to me, about the celebrity of Obama than about the disaster of Bush-Cheney. Obama is the vehicle for the world’s hope for the return of the America they remember.)
You’d hardly know that the guy went from being +9 a week ago to pretty much a statistical tie now.
But this is simply in perfect tune with Sullivan’s entire analysis of the campaign so far. Sullivan has written dozens of posts over the past few months which have the same basic point — every move or shift on a policy position by Obama reflects a brilliant strategy on his part to close the policy ground between he and McCain so that the ultimate decision facing the electorate is really one the reflects a generational choice between continuing the politics of the country that have been in place for the past 16 years, or a new beginning of hopienss and changiness.
Now consider this analysis of the Obama campaign strategy by Paul Mirengoff over at Powerline:
Obama pulled his remarkable upset over Hillary Clinton by running a messianic campaign and by invoking race-based sympathy when the Clintons tried to bring him down to earth. This approach was perfectly tailored to defeating Hillary. To upset the strong presumptive nominee, Obama had to (1) come off as something extra special and (2) win the black vote by huge margins. The “chosen one” theme helped accomplish the first goal; the backlash against the Clintons when they challenged that theme helped accomplish the second. Even so, Obama limped to the finish line, as the messianic theme began to wear thin and Bill Clinton stopped playing into Obama’s hands on race.
Having locked up the nomination, Obama understood that he would need to tack towards the center on substance, and he has done so with breathtaking cynicism. As to his style, however, Obama seemed to believe that no change was called for. The idea (a not entirely implausble one) was that his personal charisma coupled with some moderation on key issues would represent an unbeatable combination.
Recent events, however, have raised serious doubts on this score. Obama’s trip abroad was a good test. The candidate turned on the style and received a bump in the polls. But the backlash against the arrogance and pretentiousness of the enterprise seems to have more than offset the initial boost in popularity. Swing voters apparently aren’t looking for the messiah this year, at least they are not for someone who plays that part on tv.
Moreover, invoking race after being made fun of was plainly a bad idea. Many Democratic primary voters respond like Pavlov’s dogs to claims of victimhood, especially if race is involved. The rest of the population is inclined to weigh the merits. Since McCain has not come close to attacking Obama on racial grounds, Obama’s use of the race card fell flat.
As an outsider and an underdog, Obama could not have won the nomination running as a generic Democrat. But his best bet for winning the general election in this year’s pro-Democrat environment is to present himself as precisely that.
The calculus could hardly be more straightforward. Yet old habits sometimes die hard, especially if those habits emanate from deep within a candidate’s psyche. It’s one thing for Obama to trim on the issues; for him they don’t seem to matter much. It may be prove quite another thing for him to trim on his self image.
Sullivan is continuing to analyze Obama’s campaign tactics as if he’s still trying to persuade DEMOCRATS that he’s the best candidate to be President. All the hopiness and changiness that they liked so much as an alternative to more Clintonianism is perfectly tailored for him to win the overwhelming support of the loyalists in the Democrat party.
But that’s not where the votes he needs to win are to be found. His message of victimhood and “dirty politics” aren’t going to win him votes among independents, especially when the charges against McCain are baseless.
One of the best things about an eventual McCain victory will simply be to read the rationalizations that Sullivan will have to trot out to explain it.