Yesterday, Talking Points Memo posted an item about the Obama campaign's new strategy of portraying McCain as a reckless hothead.
Today, McCain gave Obama the gift of the summer by forgetting how many houses he has. The Obama campaign, quite reasonably, has pounced: as Kagro X reported, they are throwing together events in 16 different states in order to call attention to McCain's own personal "housing crisis."
So... if the Obama campaign is pushing the "out of touch plutocrat" line of attack, does that mean they need to drop the hothead strategy? Are the messages and images of the two lines of attack working at cross-purposes? Do they cancel each other out?
See below the jump for the answer! (hint: "No")
No, I don't think so-- and that's why I like the hothead strategy so damn much.
A long-term strategy framing McCain as a reckless, hair-trigger pol can complement almost any other attack, and not just on the subject of foreign policy, either: Take energy. One might point out that McCain rashly jumps to solutions that every expert knows won't work (gas tax holiday! "Drill here! drill now!"), and lashes out at anyone who calls him on the carpet. And you can always show angry-confused-hothead McCain yelling, "Anyone else as sick as I am of paying four dollars, uh bucks a d--uhhh Paying four gallons!").
More importantly, the hothead strategy allows Obama to answer McCain's jabs without seeming reactive. Today (and for a while ahead, I presume and hope), Obama is flogging McCain's riches. What does the McCain campaign do? As usual, they answer with a flailing rejoinder filled with cheap ad hominem attacks and threats of further mudslinging. To paraphrase:
Unlike Obama, John McCain isn't "an arugula-eating, pointy headed professor type." Oh, and, if you haven't heard, McCain was totally a POW. That stands for "prisoner of war."
We have chosen to interpret Obama's attack as a signal that anything goes, so we're going to open up the flood gates and start hitting Barry with the really nasty stuff now: The holy wingnut trinity of Ayers, Wright, Rezko.
As illustrated by today's attacks, the McCain campaign's regular hissy fits and downright nasty ads offer the Obama campaign a perfect opportunity to continually reintroduce the "hothead" frame. They might consider responding with something like the following:
Today, when confronted with the fact that their candidate is so out of touch with regular Americans that he doesn't even know how many houses he owns, the McCain campaign flew off the handle yet again. This time, they promised to smear Barack Obama with the kind of same sort of bogus, ad hominem attacks that they used to condemn. They don't just attack countries without learning the facts first -- that's also how they attack their political opponents. Since he has no plan to strengthen the middle class, John McCain relies on personal smears and wild accusations about Barack Obama. If McCain runs his country the way he runs his campaign, you'll certainly be able to take him at his word when he says, "there will be more wars."
The Obama campaign's response to John McCain's negative campaigning shouldn't be disappointment ("He's an honorable man running an increasingly dishonorable campaign") or false outrage and indignation (that's the McCain campaign's job). No, every McCain attack is another opportunity to hammer home the message that McCain is a hothead. McCain shoots first and asks questions later -- he's a hothead who's frequently wrong, but never in doubt (and what other political figure does that remind you of...?)
There will be many issues that push themselves onto the front burner during the next 2.5 months. It's the Obama campaign's job (and ours as well! Remember: we are the campaign) to ensure that the hothead frame stays a-cookin' at a steady boil on the back burner.
(crossposted at TPM)