Sunday, August 31, 2008

McCain, It's All In The Timing

Put aside party politics, bury bias, study strategy and more importantly timing. That's the key to understanding how the US presidential election is being played out. 

Until late Friday afternoon it was mostly all about Obama, the One. Up against the maverick old-timer, McCain. 

Obama has a slick marketing machine, but the McCain camp was letting it roll - biding their time, looking for the weaknesses and opportunities. 

McCain gave the game away, by congratulating Obama on his convention speech and "letting him have his day." But just one day.

Obama had played all his cards - he'd shown the race card, the American card, the MLK Dream card, the running-mate card, the family card, the adoration card.

Robert Tracinski, writing in Real Clear Politics (RCP), showed the way to defeating Obama:

"Keep hammering on the difference between illusion and reality. Because the more grandiose the illusion, the more thoroughly it will be rejected when it is revealed as a lie."

Exposing that myth has been underpinning the McCain campaign for a while and will continue.

The timing of Palin hit Obama's Achilles' heel, Hillary Clinton. McCain's running mate, Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin, is the first woman to appear on a presidential ticket in 24 years.

She will pick up some of Clinton's 18 million strong support base, who feel let down after Obama snatched the nomination from her.

Howard Wolfson, Clinton's strategist, said: "It won't help with most Hillary voters, but it could help with some." 

Next up experience and trust, both at the heart of the McCain strategy. 

One of the biggest criticisms of Palin, was she has 'no experience'. But Palin, is governor of the State of Alaska. The more the Democrats attack her lack of Washington experience, the more they expose the lack of experience of Illinois senator, Obama.

Only towards the end of the Democrat convention was Obama talked up as a commander-in-chief. The Republicans spotted that weakness too. 

Americans are intensely patriotic, but after Bush, they want a leader who can be trusted. Iraq troop withdrawal, one of Obama's early strengths, is no longer an issue, as the timetable for withdrawal becomes clear. And both Obama and McCain can talk tough on Afghanistan and global Islamic terrorism.

And both Palin and McCain can talk 'economy', another Obama weakness. Energy policy, is one of the big issues facing the US and Alaska is at the centre of that debate, both will figure in the weeks ahead.

Back in the 'Saddleback' debate, Obama famously passed over on the abortion issue, saying it was "above my pay grade." That was noted down by the Republican strategists - the US anti-abortion lobby is not to be underestimated. 

And it's calculated that even the pro-life views of both McCain and Palin would not put off some voters. It's the Senate, not the President that decides that issue. 

And so to the final card and time-line. McCain's life story has yet to be fully told and placed in the media. And Palin has something else going for her, which will come out more and appeal to voters - she's a working mum with five children. 

That brought a strange response from the Obama-loving camp - how can she stand? She's - a woman and a mother!

And that brought a swift and acidic put down from Fox News Analyst, Kirsten Powers, writing in the New York Post, who also just happens to be - Alaskan.

"On CNN, during a discussion about whether it was appropriate for Palin to accept this job when she has a baby, Dana Bash pointed out it's unlikely anyone would ask this of a male candidate."

Announcing his running-mate, McCain looked just as surprised on stage as the media. And that shows the strategists at work behind the scenes, making what they believe are the right choices at the right time. 

Sure, the Obama campaign will have a few tricks up its sleeve and a carefully worked out campaign grid. But with just two months to go, it's the last six weeks, not the last few months, which will be critical. 

Obama needs a big 'convention bounce' in the opinion polls. Anything less than a double figure lead will confirm Republican strategy that he's peaked too early.

This week, hurricane permitting, it's the Republican (GOP) convention and a TV debate between Palin and Obama's running-mate, Joe Biden. Perfect Republican timing as the US comes out of its summer holidays.

Obama's hope now, perhaps, lies not with the voters - it lies where it always did, with the Main stream media. Keeping the big media and in particular the Murdoch-owned newspapers and TV stations on side, has always been at the heart of the Obama strategy. But the political comments evidence from RCP shows that is changing.

Today's cobbled together and planted McCain-Palin knocking-piece on the front page of the Sunday 'Obama' Times  and News Review overkill are blatant examples.

The McCain campaign team do have their sights on the media. During a live US link-up on Channel 4 News on Friday evening, a senior Republican strategist directly and repeatedly accused the studio presenter of Obama bias. Ouch.

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