Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Obama's PA speech

... And some thoughts on Obama's speech from Evansville, Ind.:

  • Obama wasted no time getting out of Pennsylvania. By giving tonight's speech from Indiana, he gave the campaign a new dateline. Moving the center of the campaign's gravity away from the site of Hillary Clinton's victory has the effect of minimizing that victory. Obama made it clear that he may have taken a fall in Pennsylvania, but the bell has rung and he's ready for the next round.
  • Although, as I noted in my remarks about Clinton's speech, she did not congratulate him, Obama congratulated Clinton on the campaign in Pennsylvania. The assembled masses began booing at the mention of her name (see section in previous post about how "good" this extended primary is for the Democratic Party), but Obama shook his head and said, "No, no," gently reprimanding them. Obama chose the high road; Clinton, preferring territory that's well traveled, took the low road.
  • Obama answered Clinton's argument that she is a better general election candidate because she is winning "big blue states" by referencing the "hundreds of thousands of new voters" his campaign has drawn and registered -- voters, Obama said, who will "lead our party to victory in November." His argument goes like this: If she's the known quantity you can count on, I'm the new guy who can turn purple (and even some red) states blue. Isn't perspective a fascinating thing?
  • Also, apparently in response to the whispered argument that he is still a young man and will have another chance to run for president while this is Hillary's only shot, Obama referred to the "fierce urgency of this moment" and "this election is our chance to change" ... "the smallness of our politics."
  • Obama framed the argument for change by implying that sending Clinton to the White House would be basically the same as sending John McCain to the White House: Each represents "the same Washington games with the same Washington players."
  • Speaking of McCain, Obama sought to rise above the fray with Clinton to frame himself as the presumed Democratic nominee. He spent several minutes discussing and refuting McCain's positions on a host of issues. The war in Iraq was tops on the list, and Obama made clear that it is the one policy area where he and Clinton have discernible differences. By renewing his emphasis on the war, he reminds Democratic voters (and superdelegates) what it would look like to have a candidate against McCain who opposed the war from the start, as opposed to one who voted, like McCain, to authorize it.
  • And back to Clinton, Obama noted that "you can't be the champion of working Americans if you take money from lobbyists who drown out their voices." This was, perhaps, the most important tactical statement of the night. As I said before, Clinton needs to raise a lot of money and she needs to raise it fast to stay competitive, and that means PACs, and lots of them. Obama would do well to hammer her on this point. If she's hitting him on outspending her, he should hit her on having to take lobbyist money to keep it close. Her campaign is dehydrating, but he can poison the only well in town.

And then there were the typical gems that come as part and parcel of any Barack Obama speech. Some of my favorites:

  • Obama noted voters who were "inspired for the first time, or for the first time in a long time." He's drawing a lot of young voters, and he's drawing a lot of young-at-heart voters back to the fold. The comparisons to John F. Kennedy and a Kennedyesque idealism began in 2004, when Obama gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, and it's been a theme of his campaign since he stood on the steps of the Illinois State Capitol and announced his candidacy for president more than a year ago.
  • "It's not about whether the other party will bring change to Washington," Obama said in reference to McCain. "The question is, will we?" This is a direct challenge to Clinton and it reiterates to voters that a vote for Clinton might as well be a vote for McCain, because they are both Washington usual suspects.
  • "We can talk about not just how we can win, but why we should." This is another direct challenge to Clinton, who has been reduced to a win-at-all-costs campaign. It's been called the kitchen-sink strategy, the no-holds-barred strategy, and even the "Tonya Harding strategy," but it means the same thing: Even if it ends up being a Phyrric victory, win. And finally:
  • "We will regain not just an office, but the trust of the American people." After eight years of George W. Bush, Democrats are desperate to see one of their own back at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. With this quote, Obama reminds Americans that while the presidency is a worthy goal to which they rightly aspire, there is something more sacred, and that is the faith the American people have in their government.

Obama believes as Scarlett did: "Tomorrow is another day."