Quote of the Day: Why the Obama Campaign Is Unlikely to Change
Our political Quote of the Day comes from Time’s Mark Halperin, who certainly is well-sourced and understands Barack Obama (remember Halperin’s book “Game Change”?). He says not to expect big changes in the Obama campaign, despite some Democrats and pundits saying the campaign is in major trouble. He lists these factors:
44, like 43, doesn’t trust easily. He doesn’t expand, expel, or swap those in his orbit lightly or often. Axelrod, Plouffe, Gibbs, Benenson, Messina, Grisolano, and a handful of others got the President elected in 2008, have run his political life since then, and are going to be by his side in November. It is just the way Obama works. Bush 41, Clinton, Gore, Kerry, McCain — all made substantial team overhauls in an effort to break a losing streak. Obama won’t. The Obama campaign relies to a greater extent than any in history on polling and focus groups. The data still suggests to Chicago and the White House that they are on the right path, so they aren’t going to shift gears because of Beltway chatter. If Bill Clinton and his advisers tell the Obama folks, publicly or privately, that they should zig, Team Obama tends to zag. (There’s some, ahem, history there). Stan Greenberg and James Carville are arguing that Obama needs to adjust his economic message to something more sober and forward looking. Obama may indeed be considering such a strategy, but the fact that it is being pushed by Clinton people actually makes it less likely. More generally, Team Obama is made up of cool customers who don’t panic and who take pride in not letting the Democratic Party’s “bed wetters” or the cable news talking heads influence their thinking. The re-elect retains an extraordinary degree of faith that its superstar performer can turn it on in the fourth quarter and pound Mitt Romney into pulp — short-term bumps be darned. All the President’s men and women also lack a certain amount of respect for Romney as a political opponent and a person, and they don’t think they need to alter their course to beat him.
Halperin says if things got really worse there could be some changes, but not to expect any “soon.”
And, indeed, one of Team Obama’s key characteristics is that they try not to get sucked into the new and old media narratives that take on lives of their own . And, indeed, again, as someone who worked in the news media I experienced first hand how “pack journalism” could take hold.
Today, we live in an era of pack partisan/journalistic/ideological journalism, sustained due to a 24/7 news cycle and the fragmentation of what used to be broader sectors of communication. (For instance there is more “narrowcasting” on cable than old television “broadcasting”).
The potentially fatal flaw that should worry Democrats is if Team Obama is underestimating Romney — a Romney who will have LITERALLY unlimited money at a time when some Democrats are going into a seemingly cyclical pout pattern where they don’t donate and stay home because they’re disappointed with their leadership — and then after the elections as GOP power that’s won is used talk like they were victims and didn’t have a chance to contest the election.
Another flaw: if Obama & Co are assuming he can turn on the superstar button and wow ‘em or easily defeat Romney in debates then they must be naive. The Republicans are most assuredly prepping themselves and Romney for exactly that.
On the other hand, not panicking — keeping your eye coolly on the prize and what’s needed to achieve it without veering off course due to emotion — could be a plus.
And then there’s this tantalizing question: even with the economy, the prospect the U.S. could get involved in Syria, the possible meltdown in Europe, could we be seeing here in effect a political version of the Raging Bull?
Could Obama be ready to take these punches, take the criticism, take the head and give Romney leeway to make his case — then come roaring out for the next round…with a media drooling to jump on this new twist and shift in the prevailing narrative?
Remember this factor as well: it is not intentional and not a conspiracy, but media coverage in campaign tends to go in cycles with lots of news stories — and then a twist which generates new ones that counter the others:
The candidate rises.
The candidate starts to sag.
The candidate in trouble.
The candidate on the verge of defeat.
WAIT! The candidate is rising again.
The candidate is back on top.
The question is whether by election day Team Obama will be seen to have produced another Rocky — or provided proof that they had political rocks in their heads.