McCain Surrogates Employ Nuanced Messaging on Obama

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Jun 10, 2008 8:51 AM
As I noted yesterday, the McCain campaign has stepped-up efforts to connect bloggers with campaign surrogates. 

Yesterday, I participated in calls with two different McCain surrogates.  In both cases, they made interesting and nuanced statements.

The first call was a blogger conference call with Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, who said of Obama:

"Now is not the time to adopt the policies of Herbert Hoover -- of protectionism and higher taxes ..."
Aside from comparing Obama to a Republican president, what interested me most about this statement was the context.  When Hoover raised taxes, the economy was already a complete mess.  Of course, Hoover's actions only made matters much worse ...

Is this a tacit admission that the economy is already in the tank?  And is he also sort of comparing Hoover to Bush?  ... If so, this may be a shrewd way to run against both Bush and Obama.

Why is this an interesting strategy?  Rather than arguing the economy is fine -- or that it will rebound -- this McCain surrogate seems to be admitting we are in deep trouble -- just as we were when Hoover raised taxes.

The second instance was an interview I conducted with Glenn McCall,  the South Carolina GOP’s first-ever African-American National Committeeman, who said of Obama:

“... I think at this point ... history has been made … and this is where I think it needs to end for this candidate … and for several reasons.”
This also struck me as a somewhat remarkable statement.  This African-American surrogate seems to be saying that Obama has already made history.  The implication, of course, is that we can take solace in the fact that Obama has already made history just by being the nominee -- so there's no need to elect him president.  ... Of course, it is factually correct to say that Obama has already made history.

In fairness, McCall buttresses his argument by pointing to Obama's lack of experience -- and liberal positions -- as the reasons why Obama should not be elected president.

Still, I can't help but see this as an interesting and nuanced message. 

Traditionally, Republicans might have argued that making history doesn't matter -- or that we should have different criteria for selecting presidents.  But this surrogate seems to be acknowledging the desire to make history -- but at the same time, dismissing it as something that has already been accomplished.

It appears McCain's surrogates are doing things a bit differently.  Instead of using the normal campaign talking points and strategies, they appear to be conceding some things (usually a no-no in politics), in order to make other, more nuanced, points ...