You sure hear people giving Obama a lot of advise lately. Most everyone seems to be telling him what to do and what he’s doing wrong. There seems to be almost a sense of panic among some people who support him. It appears to me though that all that has happened since the two conventions is that things are back to where they were before the conventions, a virtual tie in national polls, maybe a nudge to McCain.
There seem to be two schools of thought: that Obama needs to focus on the issues, to get the focus back on the economy; and that Obama needs to develop a better “connection” with the voters. The first group focuses on how the Republicans are succeeding in getting the focus off the economy and filling the news with silly things like supposed insults and the like, mostly involving Plain.
The second group says that the so called “character” issue, which seems to be a label for all non-policy based aspects of of a candidate’s appeal or difficulties, is likely to be determinative. George Lakoff recently wrote an article that discusses this second approach.
The “get back to the issues” group points to Bill Clinton’s ability to get the focus on the economy as the key to his success in defeating H.W. Bush. Lakoff points out that Reagan won despite most people disagreeing with him on most issues.
In a recent speech Obama tried so hard to address the issues that his speech lacked the emotional appeal that has characterized his addresses over the last year. This suggests that he is taking his lead from the first group I discussed.
His campaign for the nomination though was based on “character” issues. This certainly suggests that he would not be wise to abandon that aspect of appeal for an issues approach.
McCain and Palin have thrown their lot in with the approach pursued by Reagan, which seems appropriate since their policies are disfavored by a majority of people and their policies are seemingly identical to those of Bush a wildly unpopular president. McCain’s soporific speeches even sound like Reagan’s speeches in terms of cadence but sapped of the theatrical content that gave them weight.
Obama needs to find a voice that raises the “character” aspect of his presentation and at the same time calls our attention to matters of significance. Accepting Sarah Palin’s challenges, and trying to address them, does not seem to do the trick.