The Mack the Knife Technique
By Al Giordano
In the context of what I've referred to as "the Mack the Knife technique" of politics - that in which you slip the dagger in quietly and cleanly so there's "not a trace of red" on your white gloves - NBC's First Read seems to have smelt the blood in the water:
Obama's stealth ad campaign: Over the past week, we've gotten our hands on a number of negative TV ads Obama's been running against McCain in key states like Ohio and Michigan. This is in addition to the tough spot, uncovered by Politico, that Obama's airing in Indiana. Clearly, the Obama campaign isn't interested in telling the media about every single McCain attack ad they're running. Perhaps this is because Obama's brand can't afford to be tarnished too much if he's seen as constantly running negative TV ads. So the campaign simply puts them on the air in key markets, doesn't tell the press about them, and layers those ads with positive ones being run nationally during the Olympics. Also, by not releasing to the media, it forces the McCain camp to wait a day or two before they see the ad. McCain's camp is much more comfortable unveiling their negative ads, perhaps because they want the free press that comes with them. But make no mistake, Obama's running plenty of negative TV ads, particularly in the industrial Midwestern states. In fact, one of Obama's biggest candidate strengths -- which doesn't get the attention it deserves -- is that he plays political hardball as well as his opponents; he just sometimes does it under the radar.
That's the Indiana stealth ad, above.
What's also going on is, I think, the use of specific ads and messages in specific states to then test - through polls and focus groups - whether and what kind of effect they have, for possible use in other states or nationwide.
We're seeing other national media begin to recognize, as Mark Halperin headlined an entry the other day: "This Man Won't Be Swift Boated."
There's a big difference (especially among Democrats) between putting out a press release that claims that you're playing tough, and actually being tough. That the Obama campaign doesn't see it necessary to call a press conference each time it smacks down its rival or airs a new comparative TV ad on the local, swing state, level is a sign of the kind of quiet confidence and execution of game plan that won it the nomination.
Just as the primary victory was the result of a plan laid out before a single state voted, the general election strategy seems - to this observer - to be the execution of a playbook that was drawn weeks or months ago and remains largely unchanged and immune to the armchair counsel and protestations out there.
And while some complain or worry that national level Democratic Party leaders and politicians aren't visibly on the attack sufficiently against McCain & Co., you have to, at least, concede this: neither are they prattling off-message much either. On the Republican side you've got Huckabee attacking a possible Romney pick as VP, while top religious right leaders gripe aloud about the potential McCain running mates Ridge and Lieberman (because they have moderate pro-choice positions on abortion), but the Democratic pols, unions and national organization leaders - who also have their favorites and their nemeses on the rumored "short lists" - are mainly keeping their counsel direct and under the radar of the press, for the most part. That's unprecedented for the traditionally splintered and rancorous Democrats, and a sign that Chicago has done what's necessary to promote discipline among competing leaders. It's better to keep some folks quiet altogether when they have a penchant for yakking in ways that distract.
Now, I have no problem with the Stop-Bayh Facebook page (I in fact agree with its sentiment but I haven't joined it mainly because I don't think such efforts are effective; I still don't think he'll be the running mate, but if it turns out he is, I wouldn't want to have to walk back from there). I also have no issue with Senator Clinton's name being put into nomination. I think that was also planned long ago, and that "Greek Drama Week" and its feigned Clintonian soap opera has been successful beyond my predictions (thanks, sort of, John Edwards!) at sucking the oxygen out of McCain's hospital bubble while Obama - who heads back to the mainland today - was able to recharge his batteries in Hawaii without incident. What a lost opportunity vacation week was for McCain!
Obama will come back sprinting and I'm sure the next few days will bring plenty of new developments for us - and an increasingly attentive nation - to analyze and talk about... now that Mackie's back in town!