Race Card Politics

Now on the defensive, the Obama campaign is pushing back against the suggestion that it is playing the race card. Jonathan Martin reports that an Obama spokesman denied that Obama was talking about race when he accused Republicans of wanting to scare voters by reminding them that he doesn’t “look like all those other Presidents on those dollar bills.” Meanwhile, Marc Ambinder writes that:

Obama “doesn’t have the typical biography that others do,” and he “doesn’t come to this the way that others did,” says his chief message maven, Robert Gibbs. And that’s what Obama means, Gibbs says, when he points to the faceplate of currency.

This is totally absurd. He didn’t say, that he “came form a different background than all those other Presidents on those dollar bills,” he explicitly said he didn’t look like the other presidents.

Furthermore, this isn’t an isolated example. As I noted below, Obama said on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday that, “I don’t look like previous commanders in chief.” Back in June fundraiser, Obama predicted, “They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?”

During the Democratic primary, Obama could get away with such comments, because his constintuency was composed mainly of blacks and upper class white liberals who were sympathetic to such grievances, whether or not they were true. Now that he’s trying to appeal to a broader electorate, playing the race card is a huge blunder.

McCain Campaign Responds to Obama’s Straw Man

The McCain campaign just released the following statement:

“Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck. It’s divisive, negative, shameful and wrong.”

I wonder if the McCain campaign would have been better off letting the blowback play out in the media, rather than officially accusing Obama of playing the race card, regardless of the fact that it’s pretty clear that’s what Obama is doing.

Obama’s Straw Man

Here’s what Obama had to say at an appearance in Missouri yesterday:

“Nobody thinks that Bush and McCain have a real answer to the challenges we face. So what they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me,” Obama said. “You know, he’s not patriotic enough, he’s got a funny name, you know, he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”

Over the course of answering a question on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday on why polls show McCain would make the better commander in chief, Obama said, “But, as I’ve said before, this is a big leap for people. You know, I don’t look like previous commanders in chief.”

Re: Obama, McGovern, and Dukakis

Another thing to keep in mind is that in both 1972 and 1988, the Republican incumbent presidents were much more popular than Bush. In July 1988, Reagan‘s approval rating was at 54 percent, while in June of 1972, Nixon‘s was at 57 percent. As I write, Bush is at 32 percent.

It’s only fair to note, per Stacy’s point, that McCain’s own favorable rating is still at a strong 62 percent, so there’s certainly an opening for him if Obama comes to be seen as too liberal. I just wonder how McCain gets more of those people who seem to have a favorable view of him actually vote for him, especially given the Republican fatigue.

Re: Obama’s Polling Trend

If you look at the Gallup daily tracking chart, Obama’s numbers have been in the 45-49 percent range and McCain’s have been in the 40-44 percent range. While I can think of many things that can keep Obama’s numbers down, I wonder what it would take to get McCain’s numbers up into the high 40s, let alone low 50s. The larger point I’m making is that historically, convincing voters that your opponent is bad can only get you so far. At some point, you have to give voters a reason to vote for you rather than merely against the other guy. In 2004, for instance, anti-Bush sentiment got John Kerry more than 48 percent of the vote, but because people weren’t particularly hot for him, it couldn’t put him over the top. Even if he can raise doubts about Obama, what does McCain have to do to get more people to rally behind him? I’m not so sure.

Olmert to Resign

It seemed like this day would never come, but Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced he would resign after his Kadima party elects a new leader in September. This could mean either another Prime Minister from the centrist Kadima party, or potentially new elections, in which Likud would have a chance to regain power.

Obama Aide Calls Ludacris a ‘Talented Individual’

The Obama campaign has bungled its initial response to the Ludacris firestorm. Via the Brody File, I see that campaign spokesman Bill Burton has issued the following statement:

“As Barack Obama has said many, many times in the past, rap lyrics today too often perpetuate misogyny, materialism, and degrading images that he doesn’t want his daughters or any children exposed to. This song is not only outrageously offensive to Senator Clinton, Reverend Jackson, Senator McCain, and President Bush, it is offensive to all of us who are trying to raise our children with the values we hold dear. While Ludacris is a talented individual he should be ashamed of these lyrics.”

The need to add the qualifier, “While Ludacris is a talented individual” is absolutely outrageous. Most Americans won’t see talent in these lyrics –they’ll see them for what they are — blatantly racist and sexist garbage. This is a major bungle by the Obama campaign.

Re: Ludacris

Obama met with one of his favorite rappers back in November of 2006, while contemplating a run for president, and the two reportedly spoke of “empowering the youth.”

Not only does the song reference Hillary Clinton as a “bi&ch,”it includes the line, “McCain don’t belong in ANY chair unless he’s paralyzed.” To say that about a war hero who suffered permanent injuries as a result of his service to his country, is absolutely disgusting.

The Hubris Narrative

It has mostly been confinced to the right thus far (see Charles Krauthammer, our own John Tabin), but in this morning’s Washington Post, Dana Milbank dubs Obama the “presumptuous nominee,” and catalogues how he is acting as if he is already president. While Americans like to see confidence in their politicians, I think this is the one narrative that has the potential to hurt Obama, because his hubris is inversely proportional to his experience.