It’s not that it’s wrong to criticize a campaign, or that some criticisms don’t ring true. The Obama campaign and its surrogates need to stop saying that McCain is such a great man before they tear him apart. (Joe Biden, for one, has already gotten the message.) They could be doing a better job sending out rapid responders on the state level, but it’s clear they’re not in a bubble. They understand the concerns of their supporters. Still, they are on the offensive — that sex-education smear by McCain was actually a response to an Obama attack ad that ran that morning. The Obama campaign, day-in and day-out, is extraordinarily disciplined about delivering its message.
Obama is essentially tied in the polls with McCain, even as the Republican senator experiences his convention bounce. These numbers will change with events, especially with the debates, and as the sheen wears off Palin. (A reminder: She has been known nationally for less than two weeks.) Obama has invested in a much larger field operation than McCain. The press seems to be developing a spine, if these comments criticizing the media’s “outrageous” cowering before the McCain campaign from conventional wisdom apparatchik Mark Halperin are any indication.
But it certainly doesn’t help to have Democrats wringing their hands and complaining about problems Obama doesn’t have. Enthusiasm is the big indicator in an election that will ride on turnout, and Democrats have every reason to be enthusiastic.
Every time I express optimism in this race, I get really skeptical looks. I’ve started to think that I’m intermittently sprouting a second head. But there are in fact three reasons why I’m optimistic, and I will tell you them now:
1. I have to be. For my own sanity. For my own sense that things will be okay, I just have to believe.
2. As Fernholz notes, being pessimistic when we should be enthusiastically rallying behind our candidate doesn’t help us. Not by a long shot. Now, that doesn’t mean we can’t criticize Obama. I think at this point we ought to be thinking carefully about whether or not it’s worth it when we do, but he’s not in any way immune to accountability. It does mean that moaning about how “Obama will lose” is only going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy if it keeps catching on. Right now, it does in fact look like Obama will win. It has for a while. But do you hear Republicans publicly whining about how John McCain is an idiot who’s going to lose because of X, Y, and Z? No, really, do you? Because I don’t.
3. This may be naive, and I’m aware of that. But I really, honestly, truly do believe that for the most part . . . Obama has got this. Have we forgotten that the man has a political operation with a professionalism and efficiency that we have not seen in a long time? Have we forgotten that he managed to go from almost completely unknown to upsetting expected nominee Hillary Clinton? And have we forgotten how he did it — by quietly and strategically targeting key districts to win important delegates, a tactic that set up the campaign perfectly to play the electoral college politics of the national race? Because I have not. Obama’s not the messiah. I don’t even agree with him on quite a few issues. But I do think he’s an incredibly intelligent man who knows what the fuck he’s doing, and who could run strategic circles around John Kerry with one leg tied behind his back.
We’ve still got a few months ahead of us. Lots of things could happen, and we should definitely be vigilant. But am I particularly worried? Nah. And it’s my humble opinion that you shouldn’t be either.