The expected onslaught of character attacks on Barack Obama has begun out of McCain campaign headquarters, a bit sooner and perhaps more prematurely than this observer thought they would. Even without defining McCain, his campaign seems desperately focused on knocking down Obama after the latter’s remarkably successful journey onto the world stage last week.
Even McCain’s former campaign manager, John Weaver, has begun speaking publicly about the “childish” quality of the new McCain effort to undermine Obama as a “celebrity candidate.” However, Weaver is no longer steering the McCain ship. The nominee appears to be running his general election according the the 2004 playbook now:
Mr. McCain’s campaign is now under the leadership
of members of President Bush’s re-election
campaign, including Steve Schmidt, the czar of the
Bush war room that relentlessly painted his
opponent, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, as
effete, elite, and equivocal through a daily blitz of
sound bites and Web videos that were carefully
coordinated with Mr. Bush’s television
The trick with negative campaigning is having a clear option to the candidate one is tearing down. Unfortunately for McCain, while the 2004 Bush campaign already had a well-defined candidate before taking on the Democratic nominee’s character, McCain’s people have neglected to nail down a clear narrative about their man (besides being a Vietnam-era POW who supports the Iraq War) before going negative on their opponent. I don’t think that the general public knows yet why they’d be voting for Senator McCain. If he wastes the summer simply hammering Obama, voters may have to let the other side to paint that picture of McCain for them.