On Monday I wrote my analysis of what John McCain needs to do to win the White House. Today, I am conceiving a strategy for Barack Obama. I have done this periodically for many of the candidates throughout the primary season as a way of trying to understand the campaign tactics, or lack of them.
The biggest problem facing Obama is the potential for overconfidence. Most polls have him ahead by a comfortable, but not safe, margin. Then there are still undecided voters. Finally, there is the looming concern about the “Bradley Effect” - a phenomenon whereby white voters lie to pollsters about favoring a black candidate, even though they have no intention of voting for said candidate.
These are all issues Obama should worry about, as this race may tighten in the final days. His decision to buy a half hour of network airtime Wednesday night was a good, though wildly expensive, idea. I’ll be fascinated to watch his demeanor. My gut says that, more than anything, Obama wants the time to put to rest lingering doubts about his background and his intentions. With that in mind, I would suggest he explain in detail his comment about his desire to “spread the wealth.” It has become a huge concern for many voters who have been wavering in the past few weeks.
The best place for Joe Biden would be in rural Pennsylvania near Scranton, where he was born. It’s still a heavily Catholic, blue-collar area. McCain is making a real run for Pennsylvania, given the high number of veterans there. McCain needs to win the Keystone State because he may lose in other key states he needs, such as Virginia and Nevada. If Obama - with the significant help of Biden - wins Pennsylvania, then it becomes very difficult for McCain to win the White House.
Obama would be wise to utilize the support of the Clintons in places where they are liked, even in states which are traditionally Republican. Virginia and Ohio would be good places for them to campaign.
Most of all, Obama needs to redouble his efforts to make people comfortable with him in the White House. When Joe Biden suggested that Obama would "be tested” in his first six months in the White House, it made Obama look weak, not strong. Obama had made people feel more comfortable about his foreign policy stances with his demeanor in the debates. Biden erased a lot of that comfort by unintentionally raising doubts. Maybe Obama will address this in his thirty-minute infomercial.
Obama needs to act as if this race is still a tie, as it was five weeks ago before the Wall Street meltdown. Overconfidence could be disastrous in the final week.
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