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November 02, 2008

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Somewhat related: in Rachel Maddow's interview with Obama, she points out that he made an effort to link McCain specifically with George W. Bush, but never by saying "they are both Republicans," or by attacking the Republican party more sweepingly. His response made it clear that this was a conscious strategy, based on the fact the hoped to win the election, after which he was going to try to work with Republicans to get things done, and didn't want to poison the relationship from the start.

It's an impressively forward-thinking attitude. One of many times I've thought, "that guy sure knows a lot more than I do about how to run a campaign." (Which should be a low bar, but other politicians rarely clear it.)

This may not be totally appropos, but I have also felt that some of Obama's confidence lay with the team that he has put together. Unlike a lot of candidates, he seems to trust those who are working with him to do what needs to be done in a manner of which he would approve. Just one more indication that this is a man who thinks things through, lays his game plan, and then executes. Oh, Lord, please let him be elected President on Tuesday!!!

One of the things that has made the McCain campaign's harping on Obama's celebrity, "The One", etc., so surreal to me is that like Newton-Small, it has often seemed to me that Obama is deliberately not using his rhetorical gifts as much as he might have. There are exceptions to this: his speech on race is the obvious example. But he has often seemed to me to be quite deliberately downplaying his sheer oratorical force in favor of substance and solidity. It's as though he's thinking: I could use style and eloquence alone, but I'd prefer something more durable, and more respectful.

Uhhh...this seems over the top, IMHO.

Obama reminds me of a true scholar, scientist, or philosopher. He does his work based on how he apprehends the world and his (our) place in it. The fashions of the day, which drive the shallow scientist, historian, or philosopher, are noticed, but ignored. Consequently, his work is done with great style and has great substance...much to the chagrin of his political opponents, who are only now grasping this truth. We are deep in a ditch that may be impossible to get out of. It will be impossible to right ourselves unless Barack Obama is our next president.

"Somewhat related: in Rachel Maddow's interview with Obama,"

For which, see here.

I read an article recently, perhaps in Wired though I can't be sure, which talked about training sprinters for the 100 meter dash, and how the human body can't actually go flat-out for a hundred meters. It breaks down before then, so the best strategy is actually to hold back just enough for the first 60 meters so that you're hitting your fastest possible speed just before hitting the tape.

It seems to me that that's what you're describing with the Obama campaign here. He paced himself so that not only would he make it to the finish line first, but so that he would be peaking as he got there, so as to leave no doubt. Sure, he's been helped by the economic crisis, but he ran this race so tightly that he was in a position to react to any unexpected event.

Concur with ugh (nothing new there), but wanted to note something that jwo's comment jogged loose: McCain's staffers seem more visible than Obama's. Are the former angling for jobs post 11/4 while the latter are focused on WINNING 11/4?

the forward thinking has been remarkable. and it's a huge reason for his success.

I mean, you can basically chalk up the primaries to Obama gaming out the elections and primaries throughout the entire season. and their message has been almost eerily consistent from Day 1 (contra mccain).

but to riff on sean's point, he's also put himself in a great position to *govern*. i've been meaning to do a post on this, but didn't want to jinx it until post-election. but obama's deliberate strategy of non-polarization and not riling up evangelicals, etc. has left well-positioned to establish a working majority.

now, that's always hard, and events intervene. but all you can do at this point is put yourself in the best *position* possible to govern, and he's done that. health care is a great example. on balance, i probably prefer a mandate, but his position makes real reform much more likely to happen.

I read an article recently, perhaps in Wired though I can't be sure, which talked about training sprinters for the 100 meter dash, and how the human body can't actually go flat-out for a hundred meters. It breaks down before then, so the best strategy is actually to hold back just enough for the first 60 meters so that you're hitting your fastest possible speed just before hitting the tape.

OT obviously, but I was a sprinter and believe me this is wrong. You go flat out from the very first step or you lose badly. I think the brilliance of Obama is that he realized this was never a sprint.

Despite Obama's strategy of non-polarization and not riling up the opposition, they seem to have gotten pretty riled up on their own and think he's the devil incarnate, or at least Stalin/Pol Pot/Jim Jones. You think they were ugly in the Clinton years, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

don't miss the union ties, publius. he'll need to pay them back, especially if the Teamsters steal Indiana for him.

true, he's marginalized Bubba The Fundamentalist--ding dong the witch is dead--and, true, he owes nothing to the feminists and other civil rights advocates, having broken all ceilings.

but he's going to get embarrassed (and hammered) by Liberal Human Rights advocates. Nationist's leaders in Africa in particular know they're not going to be able to play the race card with him, so they're probably going to commit some ugly actions in order to scare him away. Methinks that is why the Congo is heating up now. They're panicking.

He'll also have his hips tied to Isreal's Netanyahu, which will not be comfortable, especially if the nut decides to take some pre-emptory action with Iran.

But he has often seemed to me to be quite deliberately downplaying his sheer oratorical force in favor of substance and solidity. It's as though he's thinking: I could use style and eloquence alone, but I'd prefer something more durable, and more respectful.

wow, some tired old distinctions in there, hilzoy.

try it again with the premise that style is the substance that distinguishes us from one another.

I mean there's walking and there's walking. : )

Well, this is clearly upsetting some people. But the real issue seems to me to have been pointed out by the commenters which is that oratory and speeches alone, good or bad, inspirational or wonky, are not what has gotten Obama to this point. It is his sense of timing, of pacing, and his ability to pick great people and let them run. Every article that covers his team and his ground game reveals a man who has chosen wisely as to his team, and whose team repeats that job more or less perfectly all the way down the line. The GOTV that 538 has been covering in detail proves that.

And look at *how* it proves that--they spent their money and their time grooming local activists and neighborhood groups instead of with ad buys and signs. When they advertise it is sharp, professional, timely, and never self parodic or self destructive. In every category of campaign organization--from finance to egos, from advertising to staffing they have been the exact opposite of McCain's campaign. And its clear that one is a winning strategy and the other isn't.

We know from watching Bush II that mere eloquence (good speeches) and popularity isn't enough for any candidate. Bush II wouldn't have won without his ground game and Obama wouldn't have won without his. If it weren't for Dean and the 50 state strategy, the rage and the hope of the previously dissaffected dems, and a lot of other stuff things wouldn't be breaking Obama's way. But the true genius of the guy as a politician is that because of his approach, which is to a marathon and not to a sprint, he was poised to take advantage of each moment of the campaign and each piece of ground game while McCain's team simply see sawed fromo ne thing to another.

(and what on earth was the crack about "owing nothing to feminists and civil rights activists?" Is there some actual history of "feminists" gumming up the works of government with their demands? What did we get all those years? I never got a check.)

aimai

I agree with Brent, having been a sprinter.

If you're thinking "strategy" in the blocks for the 100 meter as the starting gun goes off, you've lost.

You run like your hair is on fire every inch of the way.

Maybe in the quarter mile, but certainly in the half-mile and above, you come up with a strategy.

You want to have a "kick" at the end, so you pace yourself relative to the other competitors.

Obama has "kick".

but to riff on sean's point, he's also put himself in a great position to *govern*.

I think this is exactly right. Obama has, IMO, consistently made a point of not alienating people who don't agree with him. Not just during this campaign, but throughout his political career.

I think this is frustrating to liberals and progressives, who would like him to be their champion, but IMO it's wise on his part.

My impression is that this approach is natural to him, but it may just be a matter of political calculation. I don't much care either way.

Should he win, all of this will be in his favor, because he is going to have to be president of the whole country, not just of his own base.

I will, personally, look forward to a political environment in which people can disagree and still get something constructive done.

You think they were ugly in the Clinton years, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Oddly enough, I also think this is true. Should Obama win, there are going to be a very sizeable hard core of folks who are, basically, just going to hate the fact that he's in office, and they will do their utmost to shred him, one way or another.

I also think, somewhat in line with redwood, that he's going to piss off a lot of liberals and progressives, although perhaps not for the reasons redwood names.

It's going to be a weird and probably disturbing 4 to 8 years, no matter who wins. If Obama wins the day, however, I think the some of the flavors of insanity in the mix will be especially vivid.

Odder still, should Obama win, I think there will *also* be a huge opportunity for us to move past the general virtiolic hostility of the last 8 (or 35) years. What it will require is for all us -- right and left -- to put aside our resentments in the interest of the common good.

As a world-class grudge holder, I don't mind saying that I, personally, will find this challenging. But I think it's what we'll need to do, otherwise we're headed for being a truly second-rate nation. That won't be a good thing, for anyone.

I don't think the same opportunity will exist under a McCain presidency. In spite of his talk about being a "maverick" and "reaching across the aisle", that *has not* been the basis of his campaign, and I don't see it as being what motivates his base.

So, for that reason along with lots of others, I'm hoping for an Obama win.

Phones and money, folks. There's still a day left.

Thanks -

One word: basketball.

BO is a guy who actually PLAYS sports and understands the rhythms of a game -- its small progresses vs ultimate objectives, etc -- rather than some broken down loser like, well most pols, and especially repubs, who like to prattle in sports metaphors.

Ask yourself when you last heard of a politician who had to warn himself away from solitude, or who saw dying alone, without friends or family, as among his possible fates.

1988. Mike Dukakis. It made him too seem oddly out-of-place, and he too was given an unusually heavy dose of "he's not American"/ "he's not patriotic". I wonder if maybe there's some cause/effect there. And while it didn't seem to me like a trait that would make him an effective president, I liked the man more than I've liked anyone the Democrats nominated from '92 to '04, and I'd've liked to see him get a chance.

Obama's strategy of trying to win the month rather than trying to win the day reminds me so much of the Moneyball revolution in baseball. As you may know, there's been a shift in baseball over the years toward a more patient style of play, rooted in steady, incremental (even boring) gains like taking walks, finding small advantages on defense, avoiding home runs by the other team, etc. It is a numbers game, like playing the role of the House in black jack, in stark contrast to the scratching and clawing that dominated baseball strategy for most of the past century. That style of play was more rooted in the moment, in emotion, in lunging for one run, right now. That's so Old School, so McCain. The future is Obama.

Is redwood considered a serious poster on this forum?

On sprinting: Incertus, could you have this backward? My recollection of 100-meter sprint kinesiology is that the challenge of the last third of the race is to hold form; no one is accelerating at that point. (But maybe Usain Bolt will rewrite all the books.)

Is one of Obama's strengths that he doesn't put too much stake in sports, or combat, or other potentially misleading metaphors?

Obama's strategy of trying to win the month rather than trying to win the day reminds me so much of the Moneyball revolution in baseball.

I'm not sure I see a particularly good parallel between Billy Beane and Barack Obama. You have, however, made me wish that Michael Lewis was doing a campaign diary again. Ah, those were good times. Fortunately, he has a new book coming out this month on the financial crisis.

I think that you implicitly assume that rhetorical style is something different from substance. But, because of the separation of powers of the US Constitution, the key power of the US Presidency is the bully pulpit. In a very real sense, a President's eloquence is his key power -- to persuade, to cajole, to justify, to shame, to inspire. Every single time that Senator Obama has demonstrated his rhetorical gifts, he was also demonstrating his political substance.

Sprinting works like this: You go like hell the whole way and everyone starts to slow down at about 60 meters. The people who pull ahead at the end are the ones who *slow down slower* than everyone else, ie; have the best technique that is less fatiguing. See Carl Lewis (always the skinniest guy on the track) for details.

What does this tell you about Obama? Hmmmm...

On what russell said: I think it's going to be important, should the polls bear out, to keep a conversation going with people who self-identify on the other side of the conservative-liberal axis, and have productive disagreements.

History suggests that excessive partisanship ends with a realignment. But that also requires a degree of, let's say, 'shields down' openness that may leave us vulnerable to the dead-ender hyper-partisans. That's a price worth paying, though, and if there's going to be a maxim for the next four years, I think it'll be 'ignore the trolls'.

Hilzoy - thanks for that. It's not exactly the target of the comments but the latter part of the post, zeroing in on Obama's fear that he might have taken refuge in solitude, holds perfect resonance with me. The idea that he understood this, and wrote about it, is thrilling.

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