Thursday, October 11, 2007

Obama Ready For Next Phase

From the moment he took the podium at the 2004 convention, the man has been a popular sensation the likes of which have not been seen in American politics in some time, if ever. He has graced magazine covers from publications ranging from Time and Newsweek to GQ and Vibe. Upon announcing his intentions to run for the Presidency, the Facebook group Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack) grew at a blistering pace, with hundreds of thousands of young people joining within a matter of days. His style of speech is both measured and genuine. His stances on honesty and ethics, government transparency, and an end to partisan divisiveness have resonated amongst those that have generally avoided politics in the past. His winning smile, good looks, and comfortable style make him something of a total package. In the first two fiscal quarters, his campaign smashed fund-raising records by drawing on an enormous pool of small donations.

Yet, for months now,
Barack Obama's campaign for the Presidency has seemed to slow itself down. He hasn't committed any major gaffes. He hasn't bombed in the debates. He hasn't been revealed to be a devil-loving baby eater. But he hasn't quite distinguished himself either. He hasn't mobilized his grassroots supporters, hasn't converted the momentum behind him into something that touches mainstream voters. His fund-raising, his early poll numbers made him an immediate threat to take the nomination. But recent poll numbers nationally and in early primary states have shown him to be losing ground to Hillary Clinton. During the third quarter, Senator Clinton out-raised Obama for the first time.

Last month
, I noted almost in exasperation, that Hillary Clinton's rivals were letting her get off easy on a number of issues. In particular, the Norman
Hsu scandal and her overall corporate and insider support base were largely ignored. Obama, for his part, couldn't seem to move past the ineffective strategy of repeating over and over again that Clinton supported the Iraq war resolution when a large majority of voters made the same mistake she did and has shown absolutely zero inclination that they will be holding her responsible.

Now, however, CNN is about to air an interview with
Obama in which he announces that his campaign will be moving in a new direction.

"There's no doubt we are moving into a different phase of the campaign," Obama told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an interview slated to air on The Situation Room later today.

"The first part of a campaign is to offer some biography and give people a sense of where I've been and what I am about.

"In this next phase we want to make sure that voters understand that on big issues, like the decision to go into the war in Iraq, I had real differences with the other candidates and that reflects on my judgment," he continued.

In what could easily be seen as a direct shot at Clinton, Obama also suggested he could better unite the country and offer "something new, as opposed to looking backwards and simply duplicating some of the politics that we've become so accustomed to that frankly the American people are sick of."

Already today, Obama has taken a strong stance against Hillary Clinton's decision to vote in favor of declaring the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. Of course Obama was campaigning at the time and blew off the vote entirely (it would have passed anyway), but we'll move on for now. In the Blitzer interview, Obama blasts the bill as having the potential to be used by Bush to legally justify an attack on Iran, deriding Clinton's recent 'yea' vote as emblematic of the same poor judgment Clinton used in authorizing the Iraq war.

Yet, there is still reason to be skeptical. Might this be a desperate attempt to rejuvenate interest in a campaign that has sagged?

Even today, as he announces a 'new phase,' the Obama campaign sent out an email to supporters further attacking the 2002 Iraq resolution.

I want you to think back and remember something. Five years ago today was a dark day for our party and for our country. Too many Democrats followed the politics of the moment and voted to let George Bush invade Iraq...

...Many Republicans and even a few Democrats refuse to admit the mistake they made five years ago. And now we're seeing history repeat itself as the drumbeat builds for a war with Iran.

Once again, some politicians are more afraid of appearing weak than they are of being dragged into another war...

...Watch this video about the blank check too many Democrats gave George Bush five years ago today:

While tying Clinton's recent Iran vote to her support for that fateful resolution of five years ago is a new, more potent twist, Obama is still bringing the conversation back to the same topic. Last month, I tried to provide evidence that Senator Clinton's greatest weakness is her well-known ties to insider corporate and political establishments. I asked then:

[W]hen will her rivals begin to really criticize her at her greatest point of weakness: the very insider support for which she has garnered so much positive attention?

If Obama's 'new phase' is indeed new, he will have to come at her on issues related to fund raising. Saying that Hillary Clinton supported the War in Iraq in a louder voice does not make it a different line of attack. He has got to do more. If he is the different type of politician he says he is, now is the time to point out how. By announcing that he is ready to really roll up his sleeves for phase two, people will be looking for him to deliver, and quickly. Let's see what you've got.

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