I have no idea what the general reception of McCain’s “The One” ad about Barack Obama will be; but I thought it was clever and effective. Humor is one of the best and most under-utilized assets in a presidential campaign; when a clever and/or humorous charge embodies a widespread feeling or concern about a candidate, it can be extremely effective, and sometimes even crippling.
It’s of course important to criticize Senator Obama on the issues and on his philosophy; but in politics, campaigns need to provide its supporters, and undecided voters, with a thematic — a broad truth about a candidate which is strengthened by evidence and by that candidates own actions and words.
Those who control the narrative often control the outcome of a race.
Obama is a very skilled campaigner, among the best we’ve ever seen, and a candidate who is frankly hard for his opponents to tag. He is, in the vernacular of boxing, a very good bobber and a weaver. But the McCain campaign is, I think, zeroing in on one of Obama’s real weaknesses – the sense people have that he’s a World Celebrity, glitzy and hip, and that his campaign is more about a mood than a set of ideas. There is the sense that Obama is about style and aesthetics rather than substance and solid judgment. And of course there is Obama’s supremely high opinion of himself. As I pointed out here, Obama at times seems to view himself and speak of himself in almost quasi-Messianic terms (he is “the moment that the world is waiting for” and “a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions,” the healer of the planet and, to quote Charles Krauthammer, the Lord of the Seas).
This kind of thing ought to be mocked — and, in McCain’s latest ad, it is. My sense is that in the last couple of days – as evidenced by Obama’s deeply unfair and harmful (for Obama) use of the “race card” — the community organizer from Chicago is getting a bit rattled. The fact that the polls are closing when the Obama people must surely have thought the gap would be widening can’t help matters.
John McCain, while still the underdog, has a chance to pull out this election. He’s gotten more aggressive in the last week or so and it is, I think, beginning to pay dividends.