Monday, November 10, 2008

How Obama dealt with McCain

Josh at TPM has a great post about how Obama dealt with McCain. This hasn't gotten enough attention yet, but it will, because it is key to how Obama will govern as President. Josh points out that when McCain suspended his campaign, what was key was not just what McCain did, but how Obama reacted. I'm quoting him at length:

It wasn't just that McCain suspended his campaign (and tried to postpone the debate). That wasn't the point at all. He unilaterally suspended his campaign and dared Obama not to suspend his. That was the key. Either Obama had to follow McCain's lead and suspend his campaign or reveal himself as the self-serving, all-about-himself, unpatriotic freak McCain's campaign had spent so many millions of dollars to portray him as. It was a classic play at the Republicans' 'bitch-slap' theory of electoral politics, with all the gendered weight and macho-hierarchy-setting the unlovely phrase implies.

But Obama didn't budge. I think there were a lot of Democrats who were really worried that McCain had put Obama in some kind of box or that Obama would see it as such and react accordingly. But he didn't.
Bingo. I would add that it's also key to understand why Obama reacted the way he did. First, he had a strong game plan, and he was confident in it. We see that with him repeatedly. He sticks to his game plan. Second, he gave himself, as he always does, time to think before he reacted. He could take that time to think because he knew his strategy was working, which it was. And third, both of those factors meant that he did not let McCain rattle him. McCain's suspension of his campaign was totally unexpected, but Obama dealt with it well because he was prepared, and because he had confidence in his ability to deal with it appropriately, and from a position of strength. All qualities I am very much looking forward to in a president I mostly agree with.

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