McCain’s Advantages Over Clinton in Fighting Obama
Mark Halperin argues that Hillary Clinton is hamstrung in her campaign against Barack Obama by the need to have party unity for the general election and lists sixteen “Things McCain can do when running against Obama that Clinton has been unable to do well or at all.” Among them:
1. Play the national security card without hesitation.
2. Talk about the Iraq War without apologies or perceived contradiction.
The second is a dual-edged sword, in that McCain doesn’t have the advantage of having been against the war after he was for it. But, yes, he can be more forthright in drawing contrasts.
5. Make an issue of Obama’s acknowledged drug use.
This would be monumentally silly. Anyone who really cares that Obama experimented with drugs in his youth is likely already in the McCain camp. And what is McCain going to say? “We’ve had a president who used to be a drug addict the last eight years, and look what that brought us?”
7. Exploit Michelle Obama’s mistakes and address her controversial remarks with unrestricted censure.
Unless she’s a complete idiot and continues making the same mistake — what is highly unlikely — this would just make McCain look petty.
8. Play dirty without alienating his party.
But he’d alienate moderates and independents, which are already leaning Obama’s way.
9. Dismiss Obama’s brief national tenure from his own lofty platform of decades in the Senate — there will be no ambiguity about who has more experience as conventionally defined.
This is McCain’s biggest strength and his biggest weakness. Emphasizing experience draws attention to age, not to mention the votes which can be used against him.
10. Use his sterling war record to reinforce his image of patriotism and valor — and contrast it with his opponent’s.
Yes. But he’s going to need to tread very, very lightly on this one. John Kerry mucked up the war hero bit by being hamfisted. (Remember the Gomer Pyle “reporting for duty” salute?)
11. Emphasize Barack Hussein Obama’s unusual name and exotic background through a Manchurian Candidate prism.
Hell, I wouldn’t vote for him if he did that.
12. Employ third party groups like the NRA to hit Obama on issues that might turn off general election voters. Perhaps an ad such as this will run in Ohio: “So, what do you really know about Barack Obama? Did you know he supports meeting with the head of terrorist states? Do you know he wants to get rid of your right to own a handgun? Do you know he is calling for the repeal of the law preventing gay marriage? Do you know he is for a trillion-dollar tax increase? What do you really know about Barack Obama?”
This is hardball but well within bounds. But Obama may well be able to win on some of those issues, especially the need to talk to world leaders rather than continuing the failed policy of ignoring them.
13. Face an electorate less consumed with “change change change” (the main priority for Democratic voters) and keenly interested in “ready from day one” as an equally important ideal.
There is that. But all the polls show a significant Obama lead over McCain; the public does want change, just not as badly as the Democratic nominating electorate.
UPDATE: Both Brad DeLong and Mark Kleiman argue that Halperin is serving as a pro-McCain hatchet man rather than a journalist here, in effect advocating these things rather than merely analyzing the future campaign. I haven’t read Halperin’s work in a serial fashion so don’t have much insight as to his political leanings but, as noted extensively in the original post, adopting these suggestions would do McCain more harm than good. So, if he’s serving as McCain’s inside man at TIME, he’s doing it poorly.