As Barack Obama and John McCain campaign into the electoral homestretch, both candidates continue battling for the “change” mantel. Following the Sarah Palin-led surge and the Republican National Convention, a Washington Post poll actually had McCain leading Obama in the quest for the change label among voters. That is good news for Republicans, but even better, Democrats seem content to concede to McCain the “fighter” label, which ultimately could prove more important.
When Barack Obama chose Senator Joe Biden of Delaware as his vice-presidential nominee, Democrats praised the selection given Biden's blue-collar toughness. Drudge Report featured a headline referring to Obama’s “Bare-Knuckle Fighter.” In his acceptance speech in Denver, Biden spoke of his mother once telling young Joey to “bloody their nose so you can walk down the street the next day” in reference to the kids who bullied Biden as a child. One could envision this sentiment having wide appeal through working-class Pennsylvania, Appalachian Ohio, and Middle America. Many also regarded Obama's nomination acceptance speech as surprisingly forceful for its direct attack on John McCain.
Clearly, the Obama camp feels compelled to combat the image of Obama as soft. The Democratic nominee has talked tough on Iran recently, saying in July that he would not take any options off the table, despite contradictory statements last year when he said
"I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance." It should be obvious to anyone who has been listening that Obama is walking into McCain’s territory.
Whereas John McCain spent less time directly attacking Barack Obama by name or the Democratic Party in his nomination acceptance speech a couple of weeks ago, McCain unquestionably solidified himself as the fighter in this election. He used a derivation of the word “fight” 25 times in his speech, compared to just two mentions by Obama in his. Even vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin used the word more often than Biden and Obama combined.