Wednesday, May 14, 2008

All He Has To Do To Win....

In a column by Maureen Dowd that you'll be shocked to know, isn't really worth reading, she shares this insight:
Charlie Peters, the legendary former editor of the liberal Washington Monthly who ran Jack Kennedy’s campaign in Kanawha County, W. Va., said Obama should study how J.F.K. managed to win there despite raging anti-Catholicism.

* * *

“The point of West Virginia in 1960 is that you can change attitudes,” Peters, an Obama supporter, said on Tuesday evening. “But if you don’t act to change them, he could lose West Virginia and I think he could lose the country.

“He has to change those perceptions of the people who think he could actually agree with the Rev. Wright.

* * *

Peters says Obama needs imagination and a “tremendous effort” to dispel bias in West Virginia, and quickly, “because once it’s set in concrete, you’ll have a hell of a time.”

This, to me, is barely above saying, "If he wants to win, all he has to do is convince more than half of the people in each state to vote for him." It's not quite that bad, because Peters ties things back to Rev. Wright. But the problem with Obama's distancing himself from Rev. Wright, or from the whisper campaign that he's actually a Muslim, is that nothing he can say or do will convince people who believe such things otherwise. They aren't interested in looking at his record, and they don't believe his denials.

In this regard, I think it will take the strong effort of people who already have credibility with the doubters to make a clear case that in fact Obama is telling the truth. That, of course, would have to overcome a simultaneous GOP smear campaign intending to convince people otherwise. That smear campaign is underway, as highlighted by this absurdity from Kent County, Michigan. Daniel Larison (who, as if it needs to be said about an contributor, does not support Obama) reacts,
I don’t know what I find more depressing–that the GOP is so absolutely, unspeakably intellectually bankrupt that this is all it has to offer, or that this sort of tactic might very well win them the presidential election.
It's much easier to engage in this type of "see what sticks" mudslinging than it is to refute each new smear.

There are two sources of "bias" that Obama arguably needs to "overcome". One, racism, already is "set in stone". He's not going to budge more than a tiny number of the people who will not vote for him because of his race. How much effort should he direct at those people? None. The likely return on investment of time and resources is vanishingly small.

That's not to say that he can't shift perceptions of himself, such that he's more of a "Colin Powell" black man than a "Rev. Wright" black man.
Susan Dzimian, a Clinton supporter who owns residential properties, said outside a polling location in Kokomo that race was a factor in how she viewed Obama. "I think if it was somebody other than him, I'd accept it," she said of a black candidate. "If Colin Powell had run, I would be willing to accept him."
That's the kind of voter who had Peggy Noonan tied up in knots, before the Rev. Wright story emerged and enabled the political right to start painting Obama as a "scary black man".

As for the skeptics of Obama who are less concerned about race, but are concerned about issues like Rev. Wright, the whispered smears that Obama's secretly a muslim or is hostile to Israel, or the overt Republican attacks on Obama's patriotism, as I previously indicated, Obama's teaming up with credible people who will refute those charges could help him gain votes. For those who think an Obama-Clinton "unity ticket" is the thing? So far, Clinton has chosen to benefit from those concerns rather than trying to shift voters toward more accurate views. I don't see how she can credibly commence with a defense of Obama, let alone be a credible running mate at the bottom of the ticket, given that history. As for McCain, it's pretty clear that he intends to run a dirty campaign if that's what it takes to win, and he has lots of proxies (for example, the Kent County GOP) willing to roll around in the gutter on his behalf.

To put it mildly, in terms of making solid inroads with voters who are hostile to him, Obama and his allies have a lot of work to do.

Update: Giving credit where credit is due, Hillary Clinton is coming out against McCain's "Hamas" smear.

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