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As the presidential election heads to the kill, Democratic candidate, Senator Barack Obama appears to be losing his voice and his magic touch. I did not vote for Obama in the primaries and I gave my reasons in two articles titled: “Why Barack Obama May Not Be the First Black President” and “Why I Voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton” published in Nigeriavillagesquare.com on Tuesday October 16, 2007 and Tuesday February 19, 2008 respectively.
However, after Obama has dusted Senator Hillary Clinton and became the democratic presumptive nominee, I had no choice than to abide by the will of the majority of democrats that preferred Obama over Senator Clinton whom I still believe was a better candidate against the Republicans’ antics in November. I received lots of criticisms from the Obamamanians who in most cases were arguing with their hearts. But the aim of this article is to suggest ways that Obama’s campaign would salvage his slipping life-time opportunity of becoming the first black president. I do not intend this article to be an “I told you so” kind of write up but trying to proffer solution on how best Obama can beat his rival in November. I also do not intend to belabor the issue that the republicans play dirty politics. It has worked for them on many presidential election cycles and they do not intend to change their strategy that has given them access to the White House. It was their rough and tumble strategy that denied Dukakis in 1988 against former the then Vice President George H. W. Bush; it was the same thing that denied both former Vice President Al Gore in 2000 and Senator John F. Kerry in 2004. After Obama won the primaries and after his vanquished opponent conceded to him, Obama and his handlers, and even some of his supporters believed that for them to have beaten the Clintons, Republican presumptive nominee, Senator John Sidney McCain III would be a run in the mill. I have argued in many for a; that though McCain has many negatives, he could still beat anybody.
For his side, Senator McCain has high negatives: He is a grumpy old man; and if he becomes president at 73 years old, he would be the oldest American president. He seems to have been afflicted by senile amnesia and he kept mixing things up. Remember his “Shiite and Sunni” and “Pakistan-Iraqi border” gaffes. He appears to have lost touch about the economy as he admitted during an interview that he is not an expert about economic issues. He is a Washington Insider, and if Washington is broke, McCain is part of the broken system having been in Congress for almost thirty years. He has a short fuse; he does not have the temperament to be president of the United States. His party is suspicious of him since he is a maverick and they do not trust that he has pure conservative ideals. His base is yet to be excited about his candidacy. Right now, majority of Americans are not happy about the direction of the country. Most people believe that America is in a wrong direction, and republicans are in the helm of affairs. The economy is in shambles, mortgage crisis, energy crisis, inflation, mismanaged war in both Iraq and Afghanistan etc. Evidence shows that if a country in a wrong direction, the incumbent’s party pays the political price. Also McCain voted to authorize an unpopular war in Iraq and had been voting for funding the war. McCain is an ardent supporter of President George Bush even when the president is awfully wrong in order for McCain to win the nomination. His entire principled stand on issue was reversed for political purposes. For instance, Senator McCain opposed President Bush’s Tax Cuts that favor mostly the rich, but now he is in support of the Tax Cuts.
He championed Immigration Reforms with Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, but when he found out that his party was against it, he backed off and started preaching “Border Security First”. McCain was an ardent opponent of offshore drilling; now he is in full support of drilling despite the environmental consequences that would be occasioned by that and despite the fact that energy crisis would not be solved by more drilling. On his personal life, McCain had married three times; which normally is a ‘disability’ for conservatives. He was said to have dumped his first wife after she was crippled by a terrible accident. He is said to have appetite for women. On the other hand, Obama is young, fresh, articulate, orator, inspirational, good American life-story. Obama is a Washington outsider and would bring fresh idea. He has a thin resume that to some may be a liability, but as a Senator, it is a huge advantage over his opponent since he does not have a lot of votes on his belt which his adversary will cherry-pick to attack him with. Americans are tired of the way the country is moving and that is why they want a new direction for the country. Obama to his credit was against the war being waged and spoke out against it. During the primaries, he was able to excite young voters and brought new voters to the process. He also extended the voting bloc for the democrats. He was able to raise tons of money using the former presidential candidate, Governor Howard Dean’s model of using the internet to attract donations from small donors. He out-raised McCain in July by 51 million to McCain’s 27 million dollars. Obama should use his superior campaign financial status to swamp McCain.
The above should be negatives of McCain should be to Obama’s huge advantage. However, the reverse appears to be the case. In opinion polls, when voters are asked which party should be taking over the White House, majority would say “democrats”. But, when Obama, a democratic presumptive nominee, is matched with McCain, the game is always tied. Obama has been leading McCain in national polls ever since Obama defeated Senator Clinton until now. One of the reasons is that McCain is a known commodity; he has already proved to be a man of his words, even though he recently started changing his position for political gains, but by and large, voters already know much about him unlike Obama that is still new. McCain is also known to disagree with his party on certain issues like Campaign Finance Reforms, Immigration, excessive spending etc. People are still trying to figure out Obama and currently, he is not doing a good job in giving a solid impression of himself especially now that the country is at war and to many people; a steady and older hand is needed. It is up to Obama to show that he is up to the job. In a recently released opinion poll conducted between 14th and 16th of August, 2008, Senator McCain has taken over the lead by six points in the national polls. The lead is the first time for McCain since the nomination battle was over for both parties. The McCain lead in not unconnected with lots of unfortunate shift in of positions by Obama. Even McCain also took the lead by nine points on who is best suited to handle the economy, a position that has been a safe turf for democrats. That should be a red alert for Obama! Prior to his nomination, Obama was against the Foreign Intelligence Act otherwise known as FISA. FISA is an Act of Congress which prescribes procedures for the physical and electronic surveillance and collection of "foreign intelligence information" between "foreign powers" and "agents of foreign powers" (which may include American citizens and permanent residents suspected of being engaged in espionage and violating U.S. law on territory under United States control. Liberal democrats are staunchly against FISA and Obama was against it too.
However, after his nomination, he made a u-turn and voted in favor of FISA in his attempt to move from the far left to the center. The Act came into public prominence in December 2005 following publication by the New York Times of an article that described a program of warrantless domestic wiretapping ordered by the Bush administration and carried out by the NSA (National Security Agency) from around June 2000. Many critics have asserted that the Administration's warrantless spying program is a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution against warrantless search and a criminal violation of FISA. Many liberals that supported Obama against Hillary Clinton saw this as a slap in the face. Also Obama was against off-shore drilling which the Environmentalists are against. But recently, Obama changed his position and now in support of drilling eventhough studies show that new drilling will not solve the energy crisis. A well-known Texas oil man, T. Boone Pickens, a Republican that financed the infamous “Swift Boat Veterans For Truth” that vanquished Senator John Kerry in 2004presidential election; has said that America cannot drill its way out of energy crisis. Mr Pickens with his experience knows that energy issue would never be solved unless America changes course and minize its dependence on oil. Even at that, Obama still changed his position on drilling eventhough he knew that the problem is about American addiction to oil and not because of lack of new drilling. But because the polls show that Americans are in favor of new drilling in their mistaken belief that it would the energy crisis, Obama recently said that he would support a limited expansion as part of the comprehensive energy plan. To some, it is a nuance but to others, it is a flip flop and it is hurting Obama. he appears to be blown away by the political wind. Apart from the policy shifts, the Republican John McCain has consistently attacked Obama and tries to highlight Obama’s lack of foreign policy credentials, lack of experience, soft on national security and mocked Obama’s foreign trips. McCain tries to use Obama’s strenght and make it a weakness. His antics seems to be working as the poll shows. According to John Zogby of the famous Zogby Polls, “There is no doubt the campaign to discredit Obama is paying off for McCain right now. This is a significant ebb for Obama” McCain now has a 9-point edge or 49% to 40% over Obama on critical question of who would be the best manager of the economy, an issue that about half of voters said was their top concern in the November 4 presidential election. That margin reversed Obama’s 4 point advantage alst month on the economy over McCain. McCain has been on the offensive against Obama during the last month over energy concerns.
However, what is taking a greater toll on Obama is his perceived shift when under pressure. Americans may not like your stand on an issue, but when they see that though they are against you on an issue, but that you show consistency and resilience, they will admire and respect you. To them it is a test of character and fortitude. Also the shift in position is hurting him among democrats and self-described liberals. According to Zogby poll, Obama’s support among democrats fell by 9% points this month (from 83% to 74%) while McCain has the backing of 81% of Republicans. Support for Obama fell 12% points among liberals, with 10% of liberals still undecided compared to 9% of conservatives. Obama did not help matters by going on vacation in Hawaii and ceding the political spotlight to his opponent. Also to some, by going on vacation while the energy crisis subsists and the American families are reeling under the biting effect of the economy, Obama did not show sensitivity to the issue. McCain used the vacuum created by Obama’s vacation to drive home his attack on Obama as a liberal. He painted Obama with the “L” word and charged that if elected, Obama would increase taxes on Americans trying to eke out a living in this period of recession, and that America would be unsafe to trust a rookie senator with the security of the country. This plays into the stereotype of conservatives that might be open to Obama, and would make them withdraw their open disposition towards Obama. Having came back from his vacation, I am sure that Obama is ready for battle. The democrats are not happy with the state of affairs in Obama campaign. Obama is not fighting hard enough for the presidency. Conservatives are supposed to be the problem for McCain unlike liberals for Obama, but the reverse appears to be the case. Obama needs to work hard on his base. There is an appreciable dip in support for Obama and this cuts across ideological and even demographic lines. Recent polls by Zogby shows that he has slipped among catholics, born-again christians, women, independents and younger voters. However, he retained the support of black voters by 90%. Obama’s support among voters between 18-29 years, which has been one of his core strengths, slipped 12% (from 64% to 52%). On the other hand, McCain who turns 72 next week is currently winning 40% of younger votes! However, the good news is that some polls like the MSNBC/Gallop poll and some other polls still have Obama leading in the national polls by 44%-42% among registered voters. However, Obama has to work hard to bring the younger voters back to his column. If the young voters stay home on 4th November, Obama would not be president. So he needs to re-energize them. Obama also needs to show some teeth as he heads toward the Convention next week in Denver. He cannot afford to cede the national security turf to McCain. He should also not back down to charges that he is soft on terror. He should not let McCain dictate the debate of the day. He should immediately take charge of the debate be it about the economy, job, healthcare, education, immigration, national security, war on terror and so on. He should fight back ferociously whenever John McCain tries to question his patriotism and commitment to the war on terror. Obama should right away attack McCain’s credibility and intergrity. McCain has many negatives for Obama to exploit. It was the press that is idolizing McCain as regards his POW status. Many people were turtured in Vietnam even longer before he became a prisoner and there were lots of his colleagues that are unsung heroes. McCain was a known as an erratic and wild among other things as testified in an article published in www.military.com on 27th March 2008, and titled: “Why I Will Not Vote for John McCain” by Dr. Phillip Butler, a fellow POW with John McCain. See http://www.military.com/opinion/0,15202,164859_1,00.html Also Obama should not shy away from telling his ‘American Story’. Yes, it is only in America that the son of a black goat herder that came from Africa and married a white lady from Kansas and begot a son named Barack Hussein Obama; is possible. He should use his life story to connect with voters.
The fact that his father abandoned him when he was 3 years old and the fact that he was raised by a single mom with the help of his white grand-parents should resonate with majority of Americans especially the low and middle income families where he did not do well against Senator Clinton. On the charge of being aloof and elitist, Obama should hit back showing how with hard work, dedication and perseverance, he was able to pay his way through an Ivy League (Harvard Law School) and rose to become the first black presidential nominee of a major party in America. Just like Bill Clinton did in 1992 against a war hero and an incumbent President; when Clinton was able to connect with voters and showing that the then President H. W. Bush was disconnected with reality. Obama can do the same thing. Afterall John McCain was a military brat having been brought up in a family with a father and a grand-father who were both Admirals. Moreover, McCain’s current wife, Cindy Lou Hensley McCain is from a wealth family and she is a heiress to millions of dollars the chair of Hensley & Co, one of the largest Anheuser-Busch beer distributors in the United States. Who is elitist between a person from a privileged family and a person born without a silver spoon in his mouth. The glove should be off by now for Obama. He should not hesitate to fight back against McCain’s attack against Obama’s intergrity and patriotism. It would be a mistake for Obama to maintain the “shed no blood” stance against McCain. If the republican attack dogs question Obama’s intergrity and patriotism, I do not know why Obama should not do the same. Obama Campaign and his sorrogates should immediately mine McCain’s military and senate records and counter-attack. If it is fair game for McCain to attack Obama’s records and credibility, then it’s fair game for Obama to do the same thing. McCain’s military records should not off-limit since he always mention his military service and the fact that he was a POW; as giving him an edge over Obama on national security. Obama’s campaign should waste no time in ‘drilling’ through his records, everything in his records should be a fair game. There is also another McCain's base that Obama can exploit: the military. From Obama's foreign tour, you could see that the military has many young men and women in the service of the country, both overseas and in the Continental United States (CONUS). One could also see how these young men and women who are mostly from low and middle income families were excited by his visit. Obama can turn these enthusiasm into votes. No democrat as far as I could remember in the presidential election, has carried the military voting bloc. Obama people could tap into that and see whether hiscampaign make them start early to fill out their absentee ballots. Obama should not concede any voting bloc to McCain. He could use these young service members to counter McCain's older service members votes. It is about perception. If the electorates see Obama as weak or to put it bluntly, a wimp, he will not win in November. I was disappointed at Obama’s performance at the Saddleback Church Forum last week. Obama demurred when he was asked about when life begins, saying that determination of such a thing was above his “pay grade” which send murmurs throughout the audience. But McCain simply said “at the moment of conception” Obama should avoid looking like the typical politician that will play on words and tells people what they want to hear. He should speak from his heart about what he believes. You cannot be pro-life and pro-choice at the same time. If you are pro-choice (supports abortion) say so clearly and firmly. State the reasons why you are supporting that position; if they want don’t agree with you, at least they will know that you are man enough to disagree with them. Afterall, it was his ‘Washington outsider’ status and the fact that he is a new kind of politician that attracted independents to his side during the primaries. By trying to be everything to every people is not the way to win. He must show that he can take charge of emergency situations and that he can make a seasoned calls when the chips are down. It was the same thing that finished Senator John Kerry in 2004. Remember the infamous Kerry’s “I voted for the 87 billion before I voted against it” statement that reinforced some voters believe that he was a flip-flopper. Obama should say what he means and means what he says, otherwise that flip-flopper label would stick, and if it does, he should kiss bye-bye to the White House. No matter how unpopular his position is or how hostile his audience is, he should state his position clearly and unequivocally. Equivocating on his position to satisfy his audience will cut his credibility and forthrightness in half. He is a potential Commander-In-Chief, and he cannot be a Commander-In-Chief in a time of war if the troops on the ground are unsure of the mission and your orders. There should be no mixed signals. If he speaks with two side of his mouth, it is going to hurt him on the long run. He would not win over critics by trying to play to the gallery or by telling them what they want to hear.
Voters would see him, not as a fresh face but as a ‘politician’ which tag he tries to avoid in his attempt to attract younger voters who initially were apathetic about politics and about politicians. There are people that will not vote for him anyway, because of his race, so no matter what he says, they still would not vote for him. So to pander to them would make him lose the voters he already have in his column. However, he would win respect and trust from even his enemies if he stop being apologetic about his position or any of his senate votes. He should stop answering question like a professor or as a lawyer since he is supposed to be connecting with voters; majority of whom are not sophisticated or policy wonks. He should break it down to a lay man’s level, otherwise voters would see him as disconnected or aloof. Democrats have always fall into the trap every presidential election cycle. They allow the republicans define them as “tax and spend liberals”. Democrats most times are always finding themselves having to be on defense against the republicans. They always fail to stand for something. When Kerry was campaigning in 2004, it was hard to find out what his position was. He kept changing his position under attack by republicans. That is not how to appeal to voters and Obama should avoid falling into that trap. He should be more direct and straight with his answers and his positions. No more nuances and ambiguous answers. Another thing is the issue of rural white Americans. Hillary Clinton dusted Obama in those area sometimes with about 30%-40% percentage points. That should not be the case in the general election if he works harder. Obama should use the retail politics that worked for him in the majority white Iowa caucus. He should start to engage the rural folk and talk to them in the manner they will understand. He has the charisma, let him use it to his full advantage. Let him connect the war efforts in Iraq as draining up the economy and ballooned the national debt; he should also connect the middle east with the price of gasoline back home and make folks to start to know what he would do in practical terms, not rhetorics, to solve their bread and butter issues. Obama has lots of qualities that appeal to local people. He can shoot the basketball, he has been a grassroot activist, he is a good family man, he rose from grass to grace, he is a good speaker. Right now, the rural white people don’t know him and they form opinion about him based on what others say about him. They form opinions based on lies peddled by conservative operatives. Those rural white people still believe that Obama is a closeted muslim and that he does not place his hand on his chest when the national anthem is sang or the pledge of allegiance being recited. They also still believed that Obama did not go to see wounded soldiers when he went to Germany on his foreign policy trips. Republicans stoke that flame of racism and intolerance and make these locals retain doubts about Obama. It is up to Obama Campaign to show them whom he is and have them have a feel about what he stands for.
Profess your faith
Also democrats always feel uncomfortable to talk about their faith. It is wrong. Let people know your fate, there is nothing wrong in professing your faith and telling them how it has helped you over the years in times of uncertainties; and how it has helped you form opinions about certain issues and how it has helped take some decisions that affects common people. It would not hurt to cite some biblical examples in discussing issues if you do it in a manner that is genuine. This is what an average values voter wants to know about whom they are trying to vote for to be president. Finally he has to close the deal with the older folks especially older white women who voted overwhemingly for Hillary Clinton. According to recent polls, only 52% of her supporters are ready to vote for Obama, 22% for McCain and 27% still undecided. Obama boasted during the primaries campaign that he would easily get her supporters on his side if she becomes the nominee. However, with the polls showing that the contrary is the case. Obama still has a lot of work to do to bring them home. History shows that that demogragh always show up to vote in large numbers. I believe that the number of Senator Clinton’s older supporters switching for Obama would not be higher since reports show that they are still not impressed with Obama. In fact, Senator Clinton cannot even make them to back Obama. They took it personal; and they are still sore that she lost and they still believe that the press was not fair to her. They still believe rightly or wrongly that the press used sexism against her and that she was a victim of male chauvinism. Their hopes of seeing that a female becomes president in their lifetime went up the smoke. No one can blame them if they don’t jump into the Obama train. In fact, Obama may have no choice than to pick her as his running mate. It seems to be a forgotten issue but with Obama doing badly in the polls especially in those swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and even in Virginia; where a little thing can make the difference, he might want to consider a winning formular which is to put her in the ticket. I believe that it is not too late to turn out disgruntled Clinton voters back to Obama’s column. I strongly believe that if he is able to close the deal with his base of young voters, women, and blacks and then get the hispanics that voted for democrats in the primaries, if he could split older voters and values voters with McCain, he would be the first black President of the United States.