"Our Karl Rove is the blog you should be glad that Democratic strategists don't seem to listen to"
-- what they're saying on Republican blogs

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our Karl Rove Blog - Revered, Reviled, Retired (*sort of)


On September 3, 2004, I began my career in public political analysis by launching Kerry's Karl Rove. Despite my hard work, and what I believe were the insights required to change the outcome of the race, John Kerry lost the election.

After the Kerry loss, the Democratic party felt hollow -- lacking in any unifying vision that could gain mass appeal, and, importantly, lacking the communications and marketing savvy that we saw displayed by a Rove-powered White House. I felt the need to continue to serve, so I transformed Kerry's Karl Rove into Our Karl Rove. It was at Our Karl Rove where I felt a binding synergy with the needs of the flailing Democratic party, which enabled me to propose innovative solutions to many of the Democrats' most pressing political problems.

For example:

With the Democrat's prospects looking bright, OKR had some fun -- and worked to help all Democratic candidates equally -- during the 2008 campaign:

Blogging as Our Karl Rove has been quite a rewarding experience, and has gotten me closer to political strategy and messaging than I ever would have imagined: Thousands of readers visited every month, I received a steady stream of kudos and attention from many in the blogosphere (which I deeply appreciate), and political campaigns used my talking points and even reach out to me directly for advice (which was rewarding).

It's been a great run, and while there is certainly much more work to do to make progressive values mainstream in this country, Barack Obama has proven to have the gift of leadership and communication that I was trying to fill from the sidelines with this blog.

So, I am pleased to announce that, coinciding with the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States of America, I have decided to retire Our Karl Rove. [*Update: while the blog has been retired, Our Karl Rove has been revived on Twitter! OKR tweets are posted on the homepage of this blog, and are available here or here.]

What was learned and honed here will not retire, however. I will keep this blog on-line as a resource for other strategists and communicators to mine. In addition, I plan on using what I've learned and developed here to power my broader political analysis and punditry over at my new blog, Between the Columns. At BTC, I will be blogging as myself, not as the character "Our Karl Rove." As a result, there will be a difference in style, content and approach. But in this era of Obama, it feels like the right shift in strategy and tone. I welcome you to visit Between the Columns, and subscribe if you like what you see.

I would like to extend my thanks to everyone who has been a subscriber, contributor or mere passerby of Our Karl Rove over the past four years. Please feel free to use the comments section below to share your parting thoughts, as this post will likely be the homepage of OKR for quite some time.


Jon a.k.a. "Our Karl Rove"

Monday, November 03, 2008

Your Chance to be a Part of History


This is your last chance to be a part of this historic presidential campaign. Sign on to my.barackobama.com to volunteer to be a part of the final push to get out the vote for the Obama campaign.

The race is tightening in key battleground states, and everyone -- no matter what state you live in -- can help out by calling voters in these states to remind them to vote on Tuesday, and to remind them where their polling location is. The great news is you're only calling people who already support Obama, so there's no chance of any arguments or tension with the people you call.

Anyone can also volunteer to canvas on Tuesday to help get out the vote. Political professionals know that winning elections isn't just winning hearts and minds, it's moving butts to the polls.

And this is where you can help. I canvassed for Obama yesterday, and it was just great to feel like I was playing a small part in the "ground war" building up for election day. It really does feel great to play even a small part in a big idea.

So, I personally vouch for it feeling great to participate, and I think you might also enjoy contributing to this unique moment in history. Now's your chance. There might not be another.

Go to http://my.barackobama.com, sign up, and start calling people. And, find your local campaign office, meet some great people, and help out as much as you can in "getting out the vote" on Tuesday.

Election day (and the eve of) is the time when words no longer matter. Only action does.

Take action. Be a part of something extraordinary. Make a difference. Now.


Friday, October 31, 2008

An Economical Endorsement


I hold The Economist in high regard as a global news publication. Though, while reading it, it is important to recognize and acknowledge that it advocates a fierce ideology that maintaining free markets is by far the most advantageous strategy for improving the state of the human condition. Thus, when analyzing American politics, they are not going to be too inclined to endorse a Democrat for President. In fact, in articles throughout this year, I sensed The Economist strongly leaning toward McCain in their election coverage.

So it was to my great surprise that they have announced their endorsement of Barack Obama for President. Unlike its only two prior endorsements of Democrats (Kerry as "incoherent [and] far from an easy call," and Clinton as representing a party that "deserves a chance to try"), this endorsement is full-throated:

"The Economist does not have a vote, but if it did, it would cast it for Mr. Obama. We do so wholeheartedly: the Democratic candidate has clearly shown that he offers the better chance of restoring America's self-confidence."
Note: There is, of course, an argument made by Republicans that all the Economist does is endorse the "non incumbent party" nominee. This frame is clearly being advanced as a way to discount this powerful endorsement. However, it's simply not true: In 1984 and in 1988, The Economist chose to endorse no one.

This endorsement is powerful on two fronts:

1. The President of the United States is not a single-issue position. This is a free-market (i.e., anti-socialist) magazine weighing all the factors involved in what a President is and needs to be for America. Being a British enterprise, The Economist has traditionally seen America as a crucial gravitational force for the world's stability, safety and morality. From their perspective, America is much more than a nation -- it is a (now withering) symbol of what people and nations can do at their best: fearlessly innovate, explore, give, work and grow.

From this vantage point, even the virulent free-market editors see the balanced scorecard: international relations, terrorism, the economy, race relations... all of these factors go into picking a modern-day President. The Economist reminds us that picking a President is so much more than a tax plan.

2. Obama is more like Ronald Reagan than most on either side of the aisle party want to admit. This is prescient OKR speaking; meaning, this is not a tactic that is necessarily going to win Obama any votes, hearts or minds in the next few days. But I'm going to advocate this frame nevertheless because I want to be out in front of it.

Actually, I'm not the one who is out in front of it first -- Obama was when he said that Reagan "changed the trajectory of America... He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it." And he meant what he said -- it's just that he quickly learned that he couldn't say such things in Democratic primaries without being bludgeoned by a nearby Clinton.

Nevertheless, it's an important parallel. In 1980, Reagan was seen by many (right up to the end) as a vapid two-bit actor who did not have the experience or foreign policy chops to navigate America through the Cold War. Yet, no matter what your opinion on his philosophies and actions, he was a transformational President. He fundamentally shifted the domestic political landscape for decades, and dramatically changed the status quo of world events.

But how did this "unknown" and "inexperienced" candidate do it? Reagan transformed the nation -- and the world -- by restoring America's self-confidence.

Think about this while reading the Economist's endorsement again.

It's true that Obama's political philosophy is quite different from that of Reagan's. But his leadership philosophy is quite reminiscent.

During the primaries, there was a darn good reason why Republicans were so distressed about a potential Obama candidacy (distressed to the point of outright shilling for Hillary Clinton) -- they saw the Democrats' Ronald Reagan rising.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Talking Points for Softies

Obama Supporters,

Despite Obama's seemingly Bradley-busting buffer in the polls, this lead is unprecedentedly soft. People who are "soft" Obama supporters are people who were swayed by a speech, a tag line, or party affiliation, but were not completely comfortable with the candidate.

Many argue that this softness is due to Obama's skin color. Maybe. Not much you or I can do about irrational decision making.

Some argue that this softness is due to his lack of experience. This is a seemingly rational rationale, but it's not. And many are concerned about a traditional liberal philosophy of higher taxes stunting real economic growth. Both of these arguments are bunk, meaning they need to be debunked. And that's what I'm going to do right now:

Bunk Rationale #1: "Barack Obama just doesn't have the experience to handle the tough challenges facing our country."

Debunking talking points:

  • Senator Obama not only has close to 12 years of experience as both a state and federal Senator, but he has shown America his executive experience as CEO of a small business for the past 2 years: The Obama 08 Campaign.
  • As CEO of his election campaign, Obama has attracted the best and brightest talent to run his campaign -- a campaign that has been miraculous in its effectiveness, innovation, financing, and discipline. He has crushed entrenched competition (Clinton, Inc.), and is now showing he can win against the mudslinging and character assassinating Republican, Inc. machine as well.
  • Obama has just enough Washington experience to provide him with the discipline, judgment and confidence to run this great country, and has just enough "outsider" experience to change it for the better.
  • Most importantly, Obama has shown us that he has the competence and stature to be President. Just look at how well he handled the economic crisis in September, and how he quickly gained support overseas from our allies during his in-person visits in August. Even if you think he doesn't have as much experience as McCain, it's hard to argue that Obama has the competence, stature and natural skills in all the right areas to be President. If I were hiring someone for a job, I would take experience into consideration, but I would be more interested in their skills, abilities and level of competence.

Bunk Rationale #2: "Barack Obama represents a liberal philosophy of taxing more, which will stunt economic growth and give the government too much involvement in our lives."

Debunking talking points:

  • Senator Obama only needs to restore the 1990s tax rate on the most wealthy Americans because someone, somewhere needs to pay for the Iraq War. We need to pay for the tremendously expensive mistakes made by the Bush administration, and whoever is President is going to have to do that.
  • Senator Obama is actually much less liberal than a traditional Democrat. A 1970s/80s Democrat would be raising taxes on everyone to reduce the deficit. Not Obama -- he's only going to restore the 1990s taxes -- as John McCain put it in 2003 -- to the people who can comfortably afford them.
  • Contrary to what Senator McCain says, Senator Obama will not be taxing the most successful small businesses so that they cannot hire workers and grow the economy. In fact, it's the opposite -- President Obama will restore the 1990s tax rate on income (not revenue) above $250k/year, but he will also provide a $3,000 per employee tax cut for every business owner who hires an on-shore citizen over the next two years. This is not a tax increase at all -- it's a tax reduction to help small businesses grow the economy and increase jobs here at home.
  • Senator Obama's tax plan is better than even Bill Clinton's tax plan that served us so well in the 1990s: President Obama will reduce taxes even more on people who make under $250k/year, and tax folks who make over $250k/year just as much as they did in the 1990's. As far as I remember, folks making $250k and above did pretty well in the 90s.

Of course, there are other slams against Obama out there, but these are the two big issues that turn people soft on Obama in our country. They just need to hear counter-points like these to give them the confidence that the warnings and fear being launched at them daily are refutable.

I ask each of you to find a softie between now and election day, and ask them what concerns them about Obama as President. First, listen carefully: "I see..." Then bridge: "I can see how you'd see it that way..." Then counter: "Have you thought about [insert above talking point here] as well?"

The Obama campaign relies on each of us not to convince people out of an ideology, but to ensure that they at least see both sides of the issues represented in a fair way. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but their opinions will mean more after they carefully consider both sides of the argument.

I am convinced that a truly open-minded voter will see that these talking points trump the vacuous drivel that the McCain campaign has been peddling. Why? Because these points are substantive, and in tough times, people do tend to gravitate toward substance over spin.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Introducing: Between the Columns

Our Karl Rove subscribers, readers, and passers by,

As an Our Karl Rove reader, you know that I only post my most thought-provoking and strategic ideas. Yes, sometimes this can mean days or weeks between posts, but in exchange, I aim to provide columnist-quality perspectives and advice to my readers.

I think this model works well for Our Karl Rove, and I don't want to change the format.

Yet I have found that there is a lot more I would like to share with you on a more regular basis. To help address this gap, I'm launching a new blog:

Between the Columns
: A Breeding Ground for the Next Generation of Political Analysis, Punditry and Messages.

My new blog will be different than Our Karl Rove in two fundamental ways:

  • It will be authored by "me," Jon, not the persona "Our Karl Rove." That means the tone of voice will be different. You'll have to assess for yourself if you like "my" voice as much as the one I strap on for OKR posts.
  • It will be updated far more regularly -- more like a normal blog.

Some of the ideas blogged at Between the Columns may gestate into Our Karl Rove posts, but the overall approach will be more punditry and analysis, and less advocacy and advice.

Similar to Our Karl Rove, Between the Columns will continue to challenge conventions, assumptions and existing frames in an entertaining and engaging fashion -- but as a political analyst and pundit, not a strict progressive advocate.

Lastly, I hope to see my Between the Columns posts become topics for discussions where visitors and I can collaborate and further parse the stories and further flesh out ideas. Unlike many blogs, comments posted on Between the Columns will most likely be responded to by me personally as a way to engage in an on-line conservation. As a interactive community, I believe that we can advance the state political thinking.


PS - If you like the content and style of Between the Columns, I invite you to sign-up for an RSS feed or email alert to be alerted to new posts. Both sign-up options are available on the left margin of the new blog. And, feel free to email me at jon@betweenthecolumns.com with any feedback (good or bad).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Final Frame

Obama Campaign,

As we turn the corner and head for the finish line in this campaign, it can be difficult to convince ourselves that introducing a new frame/meme/competitive advantage is the right thing to do. After all, if the campaign has proven anything to us, it's that it likes to play defense when it's ahead and only take chances when behind.

Still, hear me out: There is one frame you can deploy during the final stretch that is completely risk-free, will resonate universally with all voter demographics, and will also subtly touch upon key differentiators between Obama and McCain.

Obama/Biden: Working Harder

The Working Harder frame plays on multiple levels that can only improve the ticket's positioning in the electorate:

  • Americans are a hard-working bunch. Hard work is just as much of our national self-image as freedom, democracy, and religion. Advancing this frame plays into our self-image, which can only benefit the ticket. To prove the point, look at what advancing freedom and democracy did for George W. Bush's election prospects in 2004.

  • Hard work -- not spin -- is exactly what will get us out of our economic crisis, and everyone knows it. Americans will feel even more secure with Obama/Biden if they are promised and re-assured that hard work will accompany all the knowledge and education (i.e., so-called elitism) that comes with the ticket. Nobody questions Obama's intellect -- it's just that too often Americans believe that a leader relies on either intellect or hard work to succeed. The Obama campaign needs to make it clear that Obama / Biden will not just be smart, but will work hard.

  • Obama/Biden have already proven that they are working tirelessly to prove to Americans that they are the right ticket for America's future. Everyone who's paying attention knows that the Obama campaign had to out-work (as well as out-smart) Hillary Clinton in order to win. So, while hard work has always been the ethic, a hard-working narrative has yet to be introduced to the voter directly.

  • Hard work is a frame that will directly impact the demographics that are the hardest for Obama/Biden to reach: working class Democrats, struggling middle-class independents, and non-ideological/moderate Republicans. Heck, even racists might get past the half-black thing if they are convinced that Obama/Biden will work hard. Much of "racism" in America is actually not racism, but culturalism -- a belief that blacks in America simply don't want to work hard to get ahead, and expect our tax dollars to subsidize their lifestyle.

There is certain obviousness to this that is far too easy to overlook, and therefore not too difficult to explain, nor to prove. Obama/Biden have already proven they're willing to work hard to make America great again, and when the voter comparison shops based on this frame, they will see I'm-72-and-I-don't-work-on-weekends McCain and I'm-a-mouthpiece-and-not-a-worker--just-like-Bush-and-who-by-the-way-has-five-kids-to-raise Palin don't even have to be called out explicitly on these issues. The voters already implicitly feel these truths.

Beyond the rationale, there are two compelling attributes to this being a killer final frame:

  • There is no down-side to introducing the frame of working harder. There can be no media blow-back (it's not negative, and it's a subjective assertion), and there's really no counter-punch opportunity (McCain simply can't afford to make his age and energy level a focus at this stage in the game, especially with his wildly unqualified VP pick waiting in the wings).

  • It is incredibly simple to introduce as a campaign message. Just two steps are required: 1) Alert the media that you will be introducing the new working harder message so that the analysts and pundits get their ears tuned. 2) Simply sprinkle the working harder message into existing speeches wherever it makes sense (i.e., "America needs and deserves new leadership. Leadership that will work harder for you.")

When the campaign introduces this final frame, the American people will not only feel better about the ticket than they already do, but they will instinctively connect the dots around the age and qualification gap between the tickets, and hand the election over to Obama/Biden with a decisive victory.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

And Then There Was One

My Fellow Americans,

As members of a capitalist society and culture, we are all tuned into the value and long-term strength created by healthy, fair competition. This extends well beyond the free market -- our Presidential races follow the same model. We whittle down our candidates through a primary process, and the winners compete for votes in the general election.

Yet, one of these winners has just suspended his campaign for President. For those of you counting at home, that leaves us with one presidential campaign. I am quite concerned about this development, as I think an Obama campaign without healthy competition will overwhelm our nation in vast swaths of hope and change. Unencumbered by distractions like pig cosmetics and lies like sexy kindergarteners, the Obama campaign will ruthlessly rampage our electorate with their savvy policies, relevant philosophies, and wicked smarts to boot.

John McCain has not only let this country down by suspending his campaign, but he has also shown the American voter that, even if he does re-start his campaign, John McCain is the kind of no-email, no-internet, single-tasking guy that reminds us more of our grandfathers than our CEOs.

Here are some other things that we've learned from McCain's decision:

  • America requires fundamentally strong leaders as Presidents who can handle a crisis without suspending their responsibilities. We've already had 8 years of a President who has panicked in a crisis. Look where that's gotten us.
  • The job of the American President requires juggling 20 crises in any given hour. John McCain has just demonstrated to us that he can't handle any more than one at a time.
  • We know John McCain doesn't use email or the internet. But what we didn't think about is how that means he needs to be everywhere in person for every single event that affects him. Times have changed since the 1970's, John. We now can do a web conference without having to fly anywhere. We now can check our emails on our Blackberries and monitor situations remotely.
  • We now better understand and appreciate Carly Fiorina's assessment that John McCain couldn't run a company.

And while these new insights into John McCain's character and nature are revealing, I have left the most fascinating observation for last:

In his heart of hearts, John McCain is a Senator, not a President. When looking at the choice of how to spend his time during a crisis, he would rather legislate than lead.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Don't Debate. Debase.


There are two success factors for you in your first debate with John McCain:

  1. Make him look unelectable.
  2. Make him look unelectable.

I bet you were thinking that one of them was going to be "make yourself look electable." However, that would be the politics of hope, and as your campaign as already acknowledged, that page has turned. This is no longer about whether America can deal with a black candidate, whether you're experienced or not, or how "liberal" you might be.

Now the race is down to simply what kind of President Americans want. And because you are who you are (thoughtful, courteous, silently tough, contemplative, nuanced), there's really no point in emphasizing these characteristics because these are not what Americans generally look for in their President.

Americans want our presidents to be passionate, ideological, visionary, and likable. John McCain actually fits this bill pretty well (other than the visionary and some ideological bits) -- which explains why he is even above 20% in the polls as a Republican this season. For those who are already in your camp, you clearly are seen having these assets as well. But for those key 10% undecideds (and possible converts) it's critical to acknowledge that these people are not fully enamored enough with your candidacy, and may still be drawn to McCain's folksy, narrative-oriented style. When you boil it all down, these debates are for those remaining 10%, so best to tailor your debate for them.

Which, ironically, puts you in the deficit column in terms of who will "win" the debate. This is why your two success factors are about being on offense, and are focused around tearing down vs. building up. And, if you do it right, you will not only win the debate, you will effectively end the race by opening up an 8-10 point lead.

Let's look at John McCain's attributes that make him seem like he might be a better President to undecided voters, and what we can do to eviscerate them:

John's passion is contagious because he makes you feel he's really going to do something about it. It's just how interpersonal communications work.

Passionate behavior can be undermined by creating a contrast: Passion only works when it matches the perceived need for the amount of energy being expended on a topic. There are many situations in life when a passionate person losses out to the measured, reasoned and sober person because the latter made the former appear to let their emotions get the best of them. In other words, the passionate person can be made to be seen as someone who loses sight of the big picture because their emotions don't allow them to see clearly. To this end, there are plenty of opportunities to make McCain seem too emotional. Little quips like "I see John is quite passionate about this subject" or "I think we all need to settle down a little so we can get our heads around this problem."

John is a traditional Republican candidate in one fundamental way: he has a strong ideology in terms of foreign policy, and has a basic "not my job" approach to domestic policies. Like most modern Republicans, John believes that the government should get deeply involved in how all other countries govern themselves, but should stay out of America's business.

This can be deconstructed and turned against him in two very easy ways:

  • On foreign policy, simply argue that John is an ideologue just like George Bush and Dick Cheney; that all three of them wanted to go to war with Iraq right after 9/11, and focused more on their "grand scheme" than the safety, security, and budget of the American people.
  • On domestic policy, it's quite easy to argue that the last thing America needs right now is a "limited government" President who wants the government to get out of the way. People all over this nation are demanding better health care, safer communities, better education and, of course, a reliable and trustworthy financial industry. Government has been "getting out of the way" for eight years, and now we're seeing firsthand how the Republican approach to domestic issues pans out.

This will be the most difficult attribute to undermine. John is charismatic, has a good sense of humor, and definitely comes off with a folksy wisdom vibe.

What I say about McCain's likability is: easy come, easy go. For as much John gets ahead with his likability score, he can also completely undermine it with a single eruption. And everyone knows what I mean by an eruption. Your job is to get him to erupt. To do so, you need to infuriate him by asserting something that he knows to be false, but will have a difficult time defending because it will force him off his talking points:

  • Challenge his wisdom and his experience in foreign affairs (make him tell the nation that he has spent almost 30 years crawling around Washington).
  • Challenge his ability to lead us out of an economic crisis (make him explain his free-market, low-regulation philosophy).
  • Challenge his notion of "Country First" when he picks a VP candidate who is clearly not ready to be President, but who has energized his Republican base. In other words, he's put winning first, country second.

Of course during the debate you will be dapper, substantive and have the right answers for all of the looming challenges that we face. This is a given -- nobody as far as I can see is questioning your intellect or your relative youth. The challenge for you, however, is to also view the debate through the personality lens: Despite the conventional wisdom in Democratic circles, it's not entirely about how well you address the issues -- it's about how these 10% undecideds compare the two of you as people, and who they think best fits their model of an ideal President.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Drill, Baby, Drill

Obama Campaign,

You've made good progress drilling into people's minds that John McCain voted with President Bush over 90% of the time. This groundwork will now come in handy as we build upon it to drill the McCain campaign into the ground:

Since John McCain is a 90% investor in the Bush administration's strategies, he is to be held responsible for 90% of the problems we're experiencing today.

I understand that the more decent-minded among us might be troubled by the notion of directly linking McCain's voting record to all of the problems we have in America today. Hardly seems fair to hold a mere Senator accountable for everything, right?

Wrong. John McCain's voting record is the best indication the voters have as to how he would run his White House. McCain's votes mirror the Bush policies that got us here. President Bush's policies might have made our current national problems possible, but they've been fully supported by McCain. Some in the Obama campaign will surely not be comfortable with this kind of free-form extrapolation.

Correlating McCain's voting record to all of today's problems is solid politics that it will be revered for it's political savvy rather than be seen as dirty, nasty, politics-as-usual. At a minimum, the audacity of it all (audacious, that is, for the otherwise highbrow Obama campaign) will generate press interest, and propagate this frame.

We can message this (at a minimum) in two ways. The first approach is to touch on each of today's problems individually, and attribute them to McCain:

The "Thanks, John!" Campaign

"600,000 jobs lost and growing unemployment... Thanks, John McCain, for your hands-off approach to the economy."

Today's big-business bail-outs are using your tax dollars... Thanks, John McCain, for supporting the bailing out of Wall Street investment firms."

John McCain said 'Government should be on businesses' side, not in their way'... Thanks, John McCain, for being Big Business's Best Friend."

Companies are outsourcing jobs like yours every day... Thanks, John McCain, for voting NO on repealing tax subsidies for companies that move U.S. jobs offshore."

"Global Warming is threatening our very existence... Thanks, John McCain, for voting NO on reducing oil usage by 40% by 2025."

"We're addicted to foreign oil, and rely on undemocratic nations for our livelihood... Thanks, John McCain, for opposing energy independence at every turn." (McCain has a 17% rating by CAF, indicating opposition to energy independence)

The second approach is to turn John McCain's voting record into a narrative -- the very same noose that the Republicans planned on hanging Hillary Clinton with:

The "His Votes Tell the Story" Campaign:
"His votes tell the story: John McCain voted for this economy, for the never-ending Iraq War, and for 90% of the problems we have today. In November, you will have a choice: vote for the candidate and his party who brought us 90% of our problems, or vote for the new, Democratic candidate. It's your choice, America."

"His votes tell the story: As someone who is 90% in agreement with the Bush administration, John McCain has told us more about his beliefs with his voting record than his words ever will."

"His votes tell the story: Want more pro-business, pro-oil-industry, pro-war, pro-debt and pro-fessional lobbyists getting in the way of progress? Good news: the Republicans have found someone who votes just like the guys leaving the White House."

"His votes tell the story: John McCain voted against penalizing companies for shipping American jobs overseas. John McCain votes against your interests, and John McCain hopes you'll vote against your best interests, too."

"His votes tell the story: John McCain voted for the Iraq War, a war that is draining us of our resources, straining our military, and didn't even help us find Osama Bin Laden."

It's time to drill, baby. Drill into the minds of all Americans that votes matter, and that McCain's voting record provides us with a view into his politics that words, speeches, and Alaskan adventures simply cannot cover up. Sure, there are plenty of reasonable McCain votes (after all, he used to be a reasonable guy), but that shouldn't stop you from focusing on the votes that paint McCain into a corner.

NOTE: All assertions made in this article are sourceable.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Turning the Corner by Cornering McCain

Obama Campaign Team,

Maybe you just relish the idea of a close race. Or maybe you revel in everyone worrying about a tight race all the while knowing that you'll win outright in November due to your stellar ground game. But I have to tell you, this would be a much easier race for all of us if you would start painting your competition into a political corner.

Before you get all righteous on me and say that "we're running this campaign based on the highest of standards and integrity" and "we're not going to engage in politics as usual," I argue that painting your opponent into a political corner is simply an exercise to provide the voters with information about the opposition's views -- views that the opposition would rather keep secret.

So, you have to ask yourselves: is it worth hoping that voters figure out where McCain/Palin stand on the issues on their own, or is it your responsibility to not only inform voters about what Obama stands for, but also what McCain/Palin really stand for?

It's time to turn the corner. It's time to focus on the fact that you're in a competition, and that it's part of your responsibility to shed light on your opponent as a service to the voters. To do this effectively, you need to do three things simultaneously:

  1. Hold McCain accountable for everything he and his running mate have said and stand for.
  2. Have the gumption to direct your questions towards McCain personally so that he feels the need to respond personally.
  3. Ask questions designed to corner McCain into answering questions one of three ways: attack (temper, temper!), deny (makes for great media meat), or heartily accept (television ad bait).

The following are examples of questions designed to corner McCain that not only uncover information for voters, but help ensure his responses provide further political mileage:

"You have a woman on your ticket, yet you would support nominating Supreme Court justices that would take away women's choices. Do you think your new female supporters know that?"

"Sarah Palin thinks the Iraq war was sanctioned by G-d. Do you agree with your VP nominee?"

"Sarah Palin thinks that a community organizer has no responsibilities. Do you agree or disagree with her that community service is a waste of time?"

"Why do you support drilling for oil when you also know that it will contribute to global warming? You can't be for both. Are you for drilling or for cleaning up our environment? Pick one."

"I'm proud to be a Democrat, yet I notice that you never mention you're a Republican. Are you a proud Republican? You know, like the current administration?"

"You say you put your country first. Yet you picked the next-in-line for Commander-in-Chief after only meeting Sarah Palin twice. I think putting such little effort into such a critical decision really worries people out there. So, on behalf of the American people, I have to ask: Do you make all your decisions that impulsively and with that little preparation?"

"You used to rail against the Bush tax cuts, and now you are for them. You tried to pass reasonable immigration reform, and now you want to shut down the border. You used to be against offshore drilling, and now you're all for it. So, I'm really curious: Are there any other critical issues for America you're going to flip-flop on between now and November 4th?"

"Your most recent TV ads are simply ridiculous, petty and downright comical. Some say that you can tell how a President will lead by the way he runs his campaign. Is your campaign indeed a sneak preview of how your White House would operate?"

There are plenty more where these come from (if you need more, email me), but I think you get the point: I'm not talking about engaging in silly season politics. No; I'm talking about forcing John McCain to answer questions that the media won't ask, and forcing him to answer questions himself instead of hiding behind well-produced ads.

And, yes, there is an added benefit to asking questions that corner him into answering in ways that can be politically expedient. I know it's not within the Obama brand to be this way, but I think it's a reasonable concession in exchange for helping the voters learn about the Real McCain.