Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 28, 2008
POLITICS: Jay Cost on Obama's Job Chapter 38 Problem

The Lord who speaketh out of the whirlwind=not a 'regular guy':

On his website:

If Democrats are wondering why Republicans have taken to sarcastically calling Obama "The Messiah," this is a good indication. On nearly every page, we are greeted with a picture of an illuminated Obama issuing a challenge from the clouds: if you believe this special man can change Washington, rally behind him.

This is a shaky foundation for a voting coalition. Most voters will be skeptical that Obama is so grand. So, why should they vote for him?

Yes, in the movie version, Obama will be played by Morgan Freeman...On his convention speech:

The lasting value of a good nomination speech is that it frames the general election campaign on the candidate's terms. By choosing such a venue, the Obama campaign will again frame the contest as one in which voters are asked to decide about the grandeur of Obama himself.

This is a poor way to frame a general election campaign. Everybody thinks the economy is lousy and a strong majority thinks George W. Bush has done a poor job, but not everybody thinks Obama is the greatest thing since sliced bread. To get to half-plus-one, he must persuade people who are resistant to this claim. He must frame this election in a way that appeals to them.

You will recall that I found the last Democratic convention ineffective, and Obama's me-first keynote speech was a part of that. We'll see how they frame their message this time. The irony, of course, is that he's running a George Washington campaign with a John Edwards resume; he's selling greatness but he has nothing to back it up. On the "regular guy" factor:

The common touch is not a trifling quality. Most voters are not policy experts, and they lack detailed political information. Yet they must still make a choice. In that situation, what should swing voters (i.e. those not guided by partisanship) do? It makes sense for them to vote for the guy with whom they can relate. That's a candidate who can be trusted to do what the voters would want him to do.

Obama's narrative seems to preclude this quality. The claim of greatness carries with it an implication of distance. If Obama is great, and the rest of us are average, how can we identify with Obama, or he with us?

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:26 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)

The problem Crank is that McCain as an alternative impresses me even less. He's now saying "16 months is a good timetable" after Maliki announced his desire for US withdrawl at the same time polling data supports a withdrawl too. Except McCain hedges to say it would have to be "conditions based" or "approved by his Generals on the ground". That's even weaker than Obama; ceding his commander in chief duties to the unelected Generals who serve to carry out, not determine, the president's plan. It's as I've been predicting on here over the last week, McCain has thrown his entire "stay until victory" position under the bus now. Obama is at least taking ownership of his position, not waffling after a week of bad press and polls like McCain is doing...and always has done. Go Bob Barr.

Posted by: robert at July 29, 2008 12:37 AM

More importantly McCain today abandoned his "no new taxes" pledge by leaving the door open to payroll taxes in the Social Security arena. Is there any issue, conservative or otherwise, that this guy keeps his word on?

Posted by: Master Po at July 29, 2008 12:53 AM

So, evidently the new lefty meme on McCain is he is a centrist fix it guy driven solely by pragmatism. Funny, weren;t these the same people finding belated respect for Bush's father not having "the vision thing" and dealing only with attainable short term goals, even if it alienated his political base.

Bush 41 is looking better as time goes on. Then again, Harry Reid isn;t fit to polish George Mitchell's shoes

The alternative is Obama, who seems to be a 21st century national version of one John V. Lindsay Perhaps we will be told during some crisis he is ill prepared to manage that we all live in a "fun country"

Posted by: ironman at July 29, 2008 6:27 AM

I don't deny the fundamental weakness of the Democratic Party when campaigning for President. It is always looking for the next savior, instead of developing a series of policies that are a bedrock. Doesn't make the Republican Party better, since once you are wed to a policy, it becomes almost impossible to shake it off, much less admit it's not working.

FDR was very much the combination of the two. Charismatic, smart, savvy, clever, he also knew how to get the right people and realize when things needed to be done. Reagan had a lot of that in him too. The "vision thing" is important. Oh so important. Remember when Dave Marash asked Ted Kennedy why he wanted to be President? He had no clear answer, which buried him early. Bush 1 had much the same response, and that is really why he lost after such a brilliant triumph as Desert Storm. You can't be President simply because it's the next step on the resume.

So Obama is cultivating the aura because it's in his Democratic DNA. And McCain is cultivating a right wing agenda that he really has trouble in totally believing in. If Obama wants to bridge across the experience and agenda gap, he should probably pick Joe Biden as his VP candidate. Biden is dull, but smart and knowledgable. If he takes the aura approach, then he should talk Caroline Kennedy into it. Nothing wrong with either. If certain candidates pick guys like Andrew Johnson and Alban Barkley for VEEP, then you know that everyone just wants to win.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at July 29, 2008 8:54 AM

The article reminded me that this election has now evolved into you are either voting for Obama or against Obama. Exact situation in '04 when you were either voting for or against GWB.

I admit myself that I am voting against Obama. I have a lot of respect for McCain personally, but he has at least two things going against him: 1) the media pays minimal attention to him 2) he is not an inspiring candidate to less informed and independent voters.

I do think the generally informed and independent voters recognize that Obama is a creation of the media and a brilliant campaign staff. I mean how else can a man with no resume, virtually no experience rise as meteorically fast as this guy? I also know that informed voters realize that an Obama administration will not unite Washington nor the country. If anything, the nation will be more divided than ever as Obama is more partisan than the Clintons were.

Bottom line: Obama will win in November. The Republicans did not offer one candidate they could rally around and get the general less-informed public excited about. This election is so similar to '96. Bob Dole, great American with a credible resume. He just wasn't a general election candidate that the less informed public could get excited about. Same thing with this campain. How else can you explain that the Dems are going to win with a candidate who gives a no-detailed speech that SOUNDS great, but has no resume? Well, it's going to happen.

Maybe the Republicans can convince Jesse Ventura to join their party and run in '12. I'll sure get a good laugh then when the Dems claim he has no experience nor credible resume!

Posted by: CaptainKirk at July 29, 2008 10:35 AM

McCain's tax plan would also generate an additional 1.5 trillion more in federal debt by 2018 compared to Obama's plan. Whatever else you may want to call that, fiscal conservatism it is not.

Posted by: dante at July 29, 2008 12:08 PM

Wow, someone in 2008 actually still putting forth the notion, despite mountains of proof to the contrary, that tax rate cuts lead to less tax revenue. Wow

Posted by: dch at July 29, 2008 7:16 PM

Well dch its not just "someone" , its the Tax Policy Center's analysis of the two candidates tax plans. They are affiliated with the Brookings Institute, a center right institution. McCain's cuts for the middle class are less than Obama's. Fact, pure fact. Plus McCain is now backing off his new tax pledge anyway, ready to hit payroll taxes to fund SS. Another incovenient fact.

Posted by: dante at July 29, 2008 11:00 PM

"Brookings Institute, a center right institution"

If you think the Brookings folks are right of center, you are probably on the wrong side of the median strip when you drive on an expressway

How about we compare records? McCain is a spending hawk and would have rather not had the high end rate cuts in the 2001 rax cuts. But why let the facts get in the way of an ideological argument?

Posted by: Ironman at July 30, 2008 7:09 AM

Yeah, Brookings is firmly on the left side of the spectrum - they're not far-left, but they are definitely left of center. I'd be willing to bet without looking that Brookings still uses static scoring for those tax plans (i.e., assumes that tax rates have little or no effect on the economy) despite copious evidence to the contrary.

dante, you are ignoring Crank's First Law of Government Financial Forecasts - they are always, always wrong. If you can accurately predict the performance of the economy and the amount of outlays on all domestic, entitlement and defense spending between now and 2018, you should be able to retire on that knowledge.

Also, as I always say, I'm more interested in the economy's bottom line than the government's.

Posted by: The Crank at July 30, 2008 9:45 AM

"Wow, someone in 2008 actually still putting forth the notion, despite mountains of proof to the contrary, that tax rate cuts lead to less tax revenue. Wow"

DCH is right, but it's important not to oversell the argument that tax cuts lead to more revenue. From what I've read, tax cuts do lead to more revenue collected, but not enough to compensate for the revenue lost entirely. If I recall, you get about 1/3 of it back through increased revenue collection. The bottom line is that tax cuts will still lead to greater deficits unless government spending is also reduced.

Posted by: MVH at July 30, 2008 10:25 AM

"I don't deny the fundamental weakness of the Democratic Party when campaigning for President. It is always looking for the next savior, instead of developing a series of policies that are a bedrock. Doesn't make the Republican Party better, since once you are wed to a policy, it becomes almost impossible to shake it off, much less admit it's not working."

I don't agree with this assessment at all. I don't think the Democrats constantly have a JFK fixation, nor do I think that the Republicans run on a bedrock of consistent policies. Yes, Obama is charismatic figure, but he didn't exactly run away with the Democratic primary, and as everyone here was so quick to point out, Hillary had more popular votes if you count Michigan and Florida. Hillary, an older, experienced candidate, gave him a strong run for his money, and but for the caucus process, the Michigan/Florida problem and an ineffective campaign strategy, probably would have beat him. Someone's going to have to explain to me how the Democrats have a JFK fixation when they select Jimmy Carter as a presidential nominee (and most of the other Democratic nominees since JFK) and ultimately reject candidates like Gary Hart. It's an argument that doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

Posted by: MVH at July 30, 2008 10:51 AM

I'm so happy! More people aware that tax cuts does not equal more revenue.

"Also, as I always say, I'm more interested in the economy's bottom line than the government's."
The problem being both debt and inflation. I think we're now at 10% of spending to be interest. That could have been much lower if targeted, instead of being embraced by Yet Another Borrow And Spend Republican.

The second problem is inflation - I think someone from the Chicago School of Economics(not sure) put out something a few years ago that $100B of continued deficit adds into .1% inflation. Adding that into the CPI(which under-rates inflation), and this is problematic.

Posted by: Dave at July 31, 2008 4:58 PM
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