Bonnie Fuller, who virtually invented the modern celebrity magazine, has a thoughtful take on how the Obama campaign is marketing the Obama family:
It's official. The Obamas are just like us. With their latest PR move -- being photographed as a family for this week's People magazine cover story titled "The Obamas At Home" -- it's apparent that Team Obama has a clear and clever presidential marketing strategy: present Michelle and Barack as the beloved Brangelina of the political world.
On a new campaign badge in Idaho, Obama appears next to the sunny features of Republican Senator Larry Craig, who infamously prefers a "wide stance" on the lavatory.
The badge company seem to have looked up Larry Larocco (the Democrat who is actually running for Craig's vacant seat - no, not that type of seat - in November) in their image file and just picked the wrong Larry...
First he mentions polls, now he lays bare the campaign's thinking about how the trip will work:
“Even if the economy ends up being the dominant issue in the election,” he said, “when people go to the polling place in November, for them to have in the back of their mind, all right, here’s what it looks like for Obama to be in discussions with other heads of state.”
The whole interview is worth a read.
John McCain said something very odd yesterday, that has been slightly overlooked amongst the Obamania. He appeared to endorse Obama's timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq. This, after bashing Obama over the head for even having a timetable, and trying to make their difference on Iraq the central issue of the campaign, is pretty extraordinary. It's not quite clear if it was accidental, or if the McCain campaign has taken a decision in the wake of Maliki's intervention to go with the flow. Either way, it's very good news for Obama.
Speaking to the press outside 10 Downing Street this morning, Obama did something he rarely does: he referred to opinion polls.
Most people, including the Republicans, have been predicting a bounce in the polls for him coming out of this week, after all those pretty pictures of him looking presidential and hanging out with world leaders.
But this morning Obama predicted a dip in his polling in the short term, referring to the problems Americans are experiencing at home at the moment - he went on to say that the issues he's had to discuss over the last week are too important not to address, etc.
He and his campaign are clearly trying to lower expectations for the popular reaction to his trip - perhaps because their own polling is showing that Americans aren't particularly happy about Obama swanning around abroad whilst they're suffering at the gas pump back home
In interviews, Clinton supporters said they saw in Obama a presumption
that had made it hard to give him their allegiance. Some said they were
put off by his decision to accept the Democratic nomination at a
football stadium that can hold more than 76,000; his use of a knockoff
of the presidential seal at a campaign event; and his early interest in
giving his Berlin speech at the famous Brandenburg Gate, where Reagan
spoke in 1987.
The Republican National Committee has been pumping out regular e-mails titled "Audacity Watch," a compilation of instances in which, in its view, Obama has appeared to act as if he were president.
Meanwhile the McCain campaign is continuing its dastardly and ingenious strategy of appearing to be absolutely crap at everything in order to contrast with the ultra-slick Obama campaign:
On Thursday, television images showed Obama addressing the throng in Berlin, his speech carried live on cable news networks. McCain, meanwhile, spoke to reporters outside an Ohio fudge shop, where his comments were nearly drowned out by wind chimes.
The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland sends a rather breathless report back from Berlin (he walks on water, his teeth are shiny, that sort of thing). Freedland concludes:
By common consent, tonight and the entire Obama week has been a huge
success, generating priceless images for TV consumption back home and
helping Obama cross the credibility gap — making it easier for
Americans to imagine him as a player on the world stage.
Um, maybe. Though he might have mentioned one constituency who seem to be dissenting from this view: the American people. Obama has been drifting downwards in the polls for the last two weeks.
After all the McCain bashing, it looks like the man from Arizona may have more reason to smile than we anticipated. He's gaining on Obama in key battleground states. And despite all the good press Obama is getting for his foreign tour, it's making not a jot of difference to his standing in the national polls.
For the last couple of weeks at least, McCain's campaign has been, seemingly, all over the place, and Obama's been doing everything right. So what's going on?
Veteran Washington-watcher Joe Klein has a theory: that voters are seeing the pictures of Obama swanning around on a foreign trip and asking, why the hell isn't he here? We've got big problems at home.
If this is true, does it mean that Obama's campaign made a mistake in orchestrating this trip in the middle of the campaign? Not necessarily. The Commander-In-Chief hurdle is one they have to clear, and this trip will help, even if they're not being thanked for it by voters right now.
What it does mean is that they need to move on from that message once Obama gets back. If they harp on it as Hillary Clinton did before Iowa - due to her and Mark Penn's concern that a woman needed to work extra-hard to pass this test - they'll risk seeming out of touch. As long as Obama pivots back to the economy on his return he will probably be OK.
But these polls do make me think that the Berlin speech, in particular, is overreaching - a hubris moment that may backfire back at home.
Slate's John Dickerson on McCain's lack of a core message:
In 2000, it was easy for voters to figure out what John McCain had to
offer them. He was a reformer. At town halls, he would answer almost
every question by talking about the corruption in the campaign-finance
system. For an undisciplined politician, he was relentlessly on message
because he had the message in his gut.
(Now) it's harder to know what McCain stands for. He's for the surge and remedying global warming, yes, and for allowing states to drill for oil off the country's coastlines. But those are data points, not an arc. The criticism I hear from inside and outside the campaign is that McCain lacks a line that tells people where he's going to take them if he's president.
But this is symptomatic of a deeper problem with McCain's candidacy, isn't it? In the New Yorker's recent profile of Obama he is quoted as saying shortly after Bob Dole's defeat to Bill Clinton in 1996 that Dole "seems to me to be a classic example of somebody who had no reason to run. You're 73, you're already the third-most-powerful man in the country. So why?"
I bet if you asked Obama in private what he thought about McCain's campaign he'd say the same thing, and I think he'd be right. McCain is running because it's his turn. That's not enough.
The WSJ have an excellent profile of newly promoted McCain campaign chief Steve Schmidt. Let me pick on one bit of it:
Mr. Schmidt specializes in the combat that dominates today's political
culture -- the minute-by-minute, talking point-vs.-talking point
battles that fill a 24-hour news cycle.
That may be the case, but I fear Schmidt and co. are so caught up in the daily message battle that they don't have a clear sense of perspective on what they should and shouldn't be saying. This kind of nonsense, for instance, just makes them come off as bitter and petty. As Daniel Finkelstein has argued, the McCain campaign needs to avoid sounding sour about Obama. They should practice brutal magnaminity: portray their opponent as a well-meaning guy who just isn't experienced enough to do the job (listen to Mitt!). Schmidt sounds like one half of the team McCain needs.
Thomas Friedman on the irony that the success of the surge is helping Obama, not McCain:
McCain was right about the surge. It has helped to stabilize Iraq and
create a better chance there for political reconciliation. But Iraq has
always been a story full of surprises. And one of the most important
political surprises is how quickly the surge has made Iraq safe for
Barack Obama’s foreign policy...
So McCain, who called the surge right, may get little credit, because the story now is about post-surge Iraq. McCain’s post-surge view — which also may be right — is that Iraqis still do not have the military force capable of protecting their homeland and need more U.S. help in nation-building. Meanwhile, Obama, who was not a surge supporter and simply stuck to his 16-month withdrawal timetable, finds himself — by luck or smarts — in perfect harmony with the post-surge mood in Iraq.
How enraging for McCain. On the biggest foreign policy issue of the day, here's a stonking big judgement call that he got right and his opponent got wrong. His call was made despite political opinion being against him; Obama's was made in large part to pander to his own party. There shouldn't be any more argument about who's best qualified to run the country, or about who is the stronger character. And yet somehow the kid is getting away with it!
It will be enormously difficult, emotionally, for McCain to drag himself away from this subject. But somehow - for the reasons Friedman outlines - he must let it go. The debate has moved on.