Thursday, August 28, 2008

What Barack Obama needs to do to win

If it hasn’t been clear by now, then I’ll go ahead and say it here: I won’t be voting for Barack Obama. The reason mainly is because he disappointed me. The thing is, I shouldn’t have been disappointed, because he’s a politician, and it is the very nature of politicians to say what people want to hear. He said that he wanted to make a change in Washington, and for a brief moment, I believed that he was sincere. But once I found out more about his past history and how he’s voted on issues in the past (and not just on the abortion issue), I saw that he’s more of the same as far as politicians go.

But even though I won’t be voting for him, I know many, many people who will be voting for him. I can dig that, because this is America, and there is little that is more American than having different viewpoints and still getting along. And even though I have my likes and dislikes about the various candidates out there, I also very much enjoy the game of figuring out what this or that politician needs to do to win. It then occurred to me that I should bring that up on my blog. So with that, and because the Democratic convention is currently going on, I’ll start with Obama and what I feel that he needs to do to win. Next week when the GOP convention is going on, I’ll talk about John McCain.

Obama’s strengths

•Young, handsome, and articulate. He gives awesome speeches, and he knows very well how to work a crowd.

•Is very knowledgeable about using modern methods of communication, such as Facebook and text-messaging. This helps him to connect with young voters, which helps to convey the image that he’s one of them and not an old fogey like McCain. He has that magic touch of being hip and cool to the younger crowd, which is not easy for many of today’s politicians to do.

•Despite his youth, he has demonstrated a savvy toughness that has allowed him to outlast even well-seasoned Democrats such as John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. No small feat by any means! This trial by fire should serve him well for dueling with John McCain.

Obama’s weaknesses

• A spotty past, some of which at face value seems to conflict with the messages that he’s been giving during his campaign.

• A voting record with too many “present” votes. A vote of “present” simply says that he was there when the bill was being discussed without saying what stand he took on the issue at hand. Obama probably did that in order to avoid having any "controversial" votes on his record, but ultimately it gives people who review his voting record - especially potential voters - very little to go on.

• Has occasional difficulty explaining his positions on issues, which is surprising given how well he gives speeches. For me, a classic example was when he tried to define when he believed life began. Rather than give the “beyond my pay grade” comment, he should have said what he really believed – namely, that life begins at birth. At that time, he was thinking too much like a politician, instead of what response made the most sense.

Strategies for Obama to win

• Concentrate on making more speeches, which is his strength. This also gives material to post to YouTube so that others - especially the young crowd - to return to at their leisure.

• Continue concentrating on the young voters. This has the potential to benefit us all if he can get the notoriously fickle young crowd to participate in the election process, whether or not they vote for him.

• Work on learning how to state his views on issues succinctly and with clarity. Yes, it’s the nature of all politicians to speak in ways that allow “outs” in case a given issue loses its appeal, but he can do better than what he’s been doing now, which at its worst looks awkward and clumsy.

And one last thing Obama needs to work on: he needs to make sure his messages and those of his campaign staff and supporters avoid “loser talk”; that is, statements that convey doubt or gloom and doom on whether he can get elected – including what will happen if he isn’t elected. Imagining yourself in second place assures that you’ll finish there.

Obama needs to concentrate on the here and now and stay positive, and he needs to convey that message to his staff and supporters so that they convey that optimism as well. He did that very well at first, but began to show doubts later as the campaign against Hillary lasted longer than he or anyone expected. Save the loser talk and post-game analysis of what went wrong for when he actually loses, and not before. Do I believe that he can win? Yes, I do, but he has work to do to get it done.

Coming next week: John McCain.