Barack Obama has been on the defensive since he returned from his trip to the Middle East and Europe. The McCain campaign has taken that time to launch a series of ads questioning Obama's readiness to lead because of his celebrity? It doesn't make a whole lot sense, but the media spent many an hour discussing the relevance of this ad and whether it would have any impact (it really doesn't seem to have moved the needle at all). The Obama camp, however, has taken the bait and fired back with an ad of it's own claiming that McCain has been the biggest political celebrity in Washington for years. I have no idea why they would decide to go down this road because I don't think anyone really cares who is the bigger celebrity of the two is. It doesn't help solve any of America's problems and frankly distracts from the discussion of the real issues of this campaign.
Obama has stated that he would like to run a campaign based on the issues, but John McCain simply isn't going to let him get away with that. The McCain camp knows that their best chance to win is to make Obama seem "exotic" and "different" or somehow less "American" than John McCain. The issues are not really going to be that important in the end. This election is going be decided by the candidate who most effectively paints the opposition in the most negative light. Obama is going to try to do that on the issues and McCain is going to try to do it with everything but the issues. The problem Obama faces is that trying to have a serious discussion about the problems facing Americans isn't nearly as interesting to the media as his being compared to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. The McCain camp will take this sort of nonsense as far as it will carry them. As long as the media continues to focus on the frivolous aspects of the campaign, then the McCain camp will continue to feed it to them.
It doesn't help that some in the media continue to try and paint Obama with the same brush as the McCain camp. On Sunday, Cokie Roberts criticized Obama for vacationing in Hawaii because it was too "exotic". According to Cokie, the fact that Hawaii is actually a part of the United States, he grew up there, and his Grandmother and Sister live there is not enough of a reason to visit the state. Of course the fact that whites are a minority of the population couldn't have been the reason that it was too "exotic". Could it? Perhaps he should have spent his vacation in a less exotic location. According to Cokie, Myrtle Beach (81% white) would have been much more appropriate.
So is the McCain strategy working? If you judge it by the media reaction, it may very well be. Obama has continued to try and talk about the issues, but he has been drowned out by the celebrity talk and questions of his arrogance. He is playing defense, while hoping that his message will somehow break through the clutter. It's the polite strategy and the more honorable strategy, but it is probably not the more effective strategy. In order to combat the nonsense coming from the McCain campaign, Obama needs to put together a more effective media plan. His strength on the ground notwithstanding, the media is where most Americans get their information about the candidates. Certainly the famed "low information voter" isn't going to be particularly impressed that Obama has more campaign offices than McCain does. The American voter needs information spoon fed to them. They need small sound bites that they can digest and understand. Empty headed Britney + empty headed Paris = empty headed Obama, got it. Obama + adoring crowds = anti Christ, got it. Black + Muslim name = Terrorist, got it. Harvard Law School + "exotic" background = arrogant, elitist, got it.
It would be nice to think that this campaign could be decided on the issues (because the gulf between the two candidates is vast), but the Obama camp would be making a grave mistake to believe that it will win the day by pointing out the differences between the candidates on those issues. The people who care about the issues have already made up their minds. All that is left out there are LIV's, and wafflers. Those people cannot be swayed by a clear annunciation of the challenges that we face and either of the candidates' solutions. They will be choosing based on a a variety of factors, from things as varied as their Horoscopes to a flip of a coin. Those people need to be armed with other factoids besides the candidates' positions on off-shore drilling. So perhaps they should try these on for size: Flies around in a private jet + wife worth $120 million = not one of you. Or Father and Grandfather were admirals + 5th from bottom of graduating class + crashed 3 planes in the Navy = free pass McCain. Or $500 shoes + Golf with former President George Bush + thinks people are better off than 8 years ago = 3rd Bush administration. When it comes to the influencing the undecideds, the Obama campaign needs to subscribe to the KISS plan. Keep it simple, stupid. It's time for them to start going on the offensive. You can't score if your opponent always has the ball.