Tony Blankley

There is a famous story -- perhaps apocryphal -- of Richard Nixon being told by a reporter after the 1968 close election victory over Hubert Humphrey that if the election had been held a week later, Humphrey's last-minute surge would have succeeded. Nixon reputedly sneeringly responded, "I knew the date of the damned election." The point being that the strategy and rhythm of a campaign is designed to reach its maximum vote-getting potential on the day that the votes are actually cast.

With the trend of recent years toward early voting and greater use of absentee ballots, it has already become harder to design a presidential campaign rhythm to peek at an exactly optimum moment -- as the Nixon 1968 campaign did. But although I have worked on or around several presidential primary and general election campaigns (my first was Goldwater's primary and general election campaign in 1964), I confess to being puzzled by the technical implications of a presidential election cycle that will run at a high level of intensity for a full year before the first primary votes are cast. I suspect that the current crop of veteran strategists and tacticians working on the various campaigns must also doubt their own instincts and rules of thumb that have served them well in prior campaigns.

For example, what does it mean to be a "fresh face" in a 12-month primary campaign in an Interneted, 24-7 news cycle environment? This, of course, must be a question that Sen. Barack Obama and his people are puzzling over now. He will be as familiar as an old shoe to Democratic Party primary voters by next January and February. He may still be appealing next year, but he will no longer be fresh.

Therein is the logic of both the Clinton hit on him and his fairly vigorous response. The Clintons couldn't let him float above the crowd and build up his positives for months and months, and I assume Obama understood that in a long campaign he would inevitably have to respond to the attacks -- so he might as well punch back early and let the Clintons know right away the price they will have to pay for their future tough tactics.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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