Wednesday, September 03, 2008

McCain campaign abandons issues, focuses on "personalities"

Throughout this election, we've certainly seen the McCain campaign play their PR-strategy of campaigning on the "issues," while engaging in character attacks against Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. McCain campaign manager Rick Davis issued a memo in March, 2008, urging supporters to stick with the issues message, rather than engaging in character attacks against Obama. Davis wrote:

John McCain is now the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. It is critical, as we prepare to face off with whomever the Democrats select as their nominee, that we all follow John's lead and run a respectful campaign focused on the issues and values that are important to the American people.

Throughout the primary election we saw John McCain reject the type of politics that degrade our civics, and this will not change as he prepares to run head-to-head against the Democratic nominee.

John McCain will continue to run on his principles and will focus on the future of our country. The stakes could not be higher in this election, and John will contrast his vision for America with that of Senators Clinton and Obama. He will draw sharp contrasts: victory versus surrender to Islamic extremism; lower taxes and spending versus more big government; free-market solutions to health care versus costly mandates; and the appointment of strict constructionist judges versus those who legislate from the bench.

Overheated rhetoric and personal attacks on our opponents distract from the big differences between John McCain's vision for the future of our nation and the Democrats'. This campaign is about John McCain: his vision, leadership, experience, courage, service to his country and ability to lead as commander in chief from day one.

Throughout his life John McCain has held himself to the highest standards and he will continue to run a respectful campaign based on the issues. We expect that all supporters, surrogates and staff will hold themselves to similarly high standards when they are representing the campaign.

Of course, as the McCain campaign was issuing this memo, the campaign was also engaged in their own character attacks against Obama. Now this is all old news, since the McCain campaign strategy has been engaged in such hypocrisy over the past three months.

But now, the McCain campaign has taken a completely different turn. From The

Rick Davis, campaign manager for John McCain's presidential bid, insisted that the presidential race will be decided more over personalities than issues during an interview with Post editors this morning.

"This election is not about issues," said Davis. "This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates."

Davis added that issues will no doubt play a major role in the decisions undecided voters will make but that they won't ultimately be conclusive. He added that the campaign has "ultimate faith" in the idea that the more voters get to know McCain and Barack Obama, the better the Republican nominee will do.

And you can watch the video here:

The hypocrisy within the McCain campaign is endless. Davis first issues a memo in March, 2008, urging McCain supporters to focus on the issues for this election, but then turns around in September to say that "issues" will take a back seat on "personalities." And John McCain has the better personality than Barack Obama, meaning that John McCain should be elected president. It is an especially cynical position for a politician to make--especially on record. It also shows a deep weakness within the McCain campaign. The Republican Party is on the wrong side of all the issues, and the McCain campaign knows they cannot compete against the Obama campaign on the issues. If the election is about the issues, the American public will vote Obama into the White House. So the McCain campaign has to change the focus of the election from the issues to the personalities, and present McCain as a candidate of strength, character, an American patriot, and a POW. And that was exactly what happened at the Republican National Convention last night:

John McCain was celebrated for bucking entrenched interests, even in his own party. He was praised for standing up to Republican icon Ronald Reagan just after Reagan had been heralded with a video. Sarah Palin was also cheered for bucking her party. The crowd roared to hear that McCain would change Washington, D.C.—even though that same crowd had just cheered loudly for George Bush, the leader of their party and the person most responsible for the situation that needs changing.

Contradictions aside, the actual theme of the first night was "putting country first." At times in the hall, it felt as if we were all in a Discovery Channel special. In video tributes to pilots George H.W. Bush and McCain, there was lots of black-and-white footage of explosions and planes in formation. In the audience, crowd members waved signs with "Service" written on one side and "Country First" written on the other.

Expect more McCain personality themes coming from the convention over the next couple of days.

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