Conventional wisdom says the GOP is in trouble. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. is the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. is the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party. Obama is young, black, tall and rhetorically polished; McCain is old, white, short and rhetorically mediocre. Obama is above the fray, a godlike figure spouting high ideals; McCain is quite human, a career politician talking business as usual. Obama thrills his base; McCain alienates much of his base.
There is no doubt that Obama has cultivated a messianic image. His base treats him like the Second Coming. Every time he speaks, his supporters faint in the aisles. Then he heals them with bottles of water.
McCain can't beat Obama by arguing experience. Obama's dramatic lack of credentials doesn't hurt him -- many Americans are so eager to elect an African-American president, they don't care whether the candidate is qualified. Obama's winning message is explicitly anti-experience; he's campaigning as an outsider. He's posing as something new and fresh, and being new and fresh automatically precludes being a seasoned veteran. Obama has run on his inexperience -- and he's crushed the Democrats' "experience" candidate, Hillary Clinton, like a bug.
How, then, can McCain tackle Obama? He can attack Obama's "change" message.
Master political strategist Karl Rove spoke to the American Jewish University this week. He stated that the key to attacking opponents isn't to attack their strengths -- it's to attack weaknesses they perceive as strengths. In 2004, Democratic nominee John Kerry staked his campaign on his perceived strength: his military experience. But, as Rove explained, that wasn't his strength -- he was vulnerable on foreign policy, a candidate with a record of attacking the military. By pointing out Kerry's weakness on the military, the Bush campaign was able to completely undercut Kerry.
Obama perceives his greatest strength to be his "change" message. He never shuts up about "change." His website touts his candidacy as "Change We Can Believe In." "We will change this country, and change the world," he states. His speeches are studded with the word "change." In his January 26 speech after the South Carolina primary, he used the word "change" 12 times. In his February 9 speech to Virginia's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, he used it eight times. In his February 12 speech following the Potomac primaries, he used it 11 times. In his Wisconsin primary victory speech on February 19, he used it 33 times. For the love of God, somebody buy this man a thesaurus.