Campaigns usually collapse because of gaffes -- off-the-cuff actions that accidentally reveal the true nature of candidates. And the Barack Obama campaign has had more than its share of revealing gaffes: Obama's statement that rural voters turn to God, guns and racism because they have no jobs; his explanation that proper tire gauge use would fix high gas prices; his self-aggrandizing exhortation that he has "become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions"; his associations with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko; the list goes on and on.
But gaffes are not the real reason for the stagnation of the Obama campaign. That stagnation is due to one factor: successful distribution of the Obama message.
Gaffes highlight the discrepancy between the message a campaign seeks to push and the message the campaign actually believes. When Americans recognize such discrepancies, they sense dishonesty and vote against it.
In certain rare cases, however, campaigns are killed not by gaffes, but by success: a campaign carefully plans, produces, and pushes its message, and the American people reject that message. George McGovern's campaign was honest, open and diligent. And Richard Nixon trounced him because Americans did not like his message.
The last several weeks demonstrate one vital fact: The Barack Obama campaign is floundering not because of gaffes, but because of its success. They have portrayed their candidate and his message precisely the way they want to. They have controlled every media situation. They have not been plagued by a rash of mistakes in the last few weeks. The Obama campaign is drowning because Americans simply do not like the message.
The last months should have been a boon for the Obama camp. Obama began with a five-point lead in the Gallup daily tracking polls. He traveled to the Middle East, meeting with Muslim and Jewish leaders. He spoke repeatedly in Europe to throngs of wildly cheering crowds. He returned to the United States, and, after taking a well-deserved break, picked a vice presidential candidate, voluble Senator Joe Biden. He then embarked on a four-day commercial in the form of the Democratic National Convention.
And as of Tuesday afternoon, Barack Obama was trailing John McCain in the Gallup daily tracking polls.
Obama trails because Americans do not like his message. His ill-advised European victory tour illustrated his elitism and international identity. His choice of Joe Biden exhibited his comfortableness with arrogance, his vindictiveness (in not even considering Hillary Clinton) and his lack of confidence in his own experience.