Central to our analysis of this election is the idea that the campaign itself is a story and moves through the story elements in sequence. The primaries are about who can fire up the party base and get them Passionate about politics. At the convention each party nominates its Hero. In the months after Labor Day each candidate works to define the Antagonist – showing that the other party’s candidate is what stands between the voters and a better tomorrow. This is when candidates and surrogates go at in hammer and tongs. In the final three days before the election Awareness dawns and voters make their real decision of who to vote for. The result is a Transformation - for better or worse.
As we have said before each candidate has story strength. Obama’s is his ability to inspire Passion, particularly among the young. McCain’s is his skill as an Antagonist (that is he defines himself by what he stands against - corruption, lobbyist influence, whatever). McCain's maverick persona is the natural outgrowth of this - he is even opposes his own party at times. This doesn't mean he can't be the Repub Hero. In fact, it gives the Repubs the current home court advantage because we are in the Antagonist phase of the campaign. This is when “fighting words” are key. And here the Repubs shine.
Two new attack ads came out today that make this point. “Still” is the new Dem ad. It is clearly true, but so what? Is it really news? “Disrespectful” is the new Repub ad.. It might better be called “Uppity”. FactCheck says it is demonstrably false - click here to see why - but it generates lots of adrenalin. Which candidates name is more likely to stick in your memory?
It is starting to look like Obama brought a knife to a gun fight after all. He does have two prime surrogates – the Clintons - he has yet to unleash fully, but if Obama doesn’t decide that winning is more important than looking good he – and the Dems – are going to be in for a world of hurt.