McCain's Step-by-step Anti-Obama Strategy

Time magazine’s Mark Halperin offered an interesting list today: a 16-point guide on what, in Halperin’s opinion, John McCain’s campaign can do to tear Barack Obama down. As Halperin sees it, McCain’s campaign is “staffed with savvy, experienced operatives who have closely watched the rise of Obama, and they have learned from Clinton’s failure to take down her Democratic rival.”

So, what’s the game plan? Here’s Halperin’s list, including attacks to be levied by McCain, McCain’s campaign, and attack dogs working on McCain’s behalf. Some of my favorites:

1. Play the national security card without hesitation.

That would probably be easier if McCain had an effective national security strategy — beyond “go get ‘em” — and hadn’t been wrong about Iraq in every possible way for nearly six years.

2. Talk about the Iraq War without apologies or perceived contradiction.

Too late, McCain is already contradicting himself, claiming he opposed Rumsfeld (he didn’t), opposed “stay the course” (he didn’t), called for Rumsfeld’s resignation (he hadn’t), and insisting he warned Americans from the start how difficult the war would be (he hadn’t).

3. Go at Obama unambiguously from the right.

The more McCain gives up the middle, the more independents will prefer Obama.

4. Encourage interest groups, bloggers, and right-leaning media to explore Obama’s past.

I hear those kindergarten papers are fascinating.

5. Make an issue of Obama’s acknowledged drug use.

If you say so, but if they push this too far, Cindy McCain’s record might become fair game, too.

6. Allow some supporters to risk being accused of using the race card when criticizing Obama.

Time magazine's Mark Halperin seriously recommends racist attacks? What?

10. Use his sterling war record to reinforce his image of patriotism and valor – and contrast it with his opponent’s.

Maybe, if this race becomes “the future vs. the past,” heroic military service in the 1960s may prove to lack political salience now.

11. Emphasize Barack Hussein Obama’s unusual name and exotic background through a Manchurian Candidate prism.


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If and when McCain gets to the “Hussein” nonsense, we’ll know his desperation factor is awfully high.

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.

Maybe, but it’s tougher to sell “ready from day one,” when McCain has been “wrong from day one” on all the issues voters care about.

14. Link biography (experience/courage) and leadership (straight talk) to a vision animated by detail – accentuating Obama’s relative lack of specificity.

That’d be great if McCain didn’t offer fewer specifics than any major candidate in either party.

16. Confront Obama with a united, focused campaign absent of second-guessing, which hits the same themes and message every day.

Given McCain’s propensity for saying whatever pops into his head, a disciplined campaign may prove to be a tall order.

I guess we’ll find out soon enough if Halperin’s 16-step guide is what McCain needs, but I’m a little skeptical.

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