by Mark Halper
There are certain lines candidates from the same party cannot cross when trying to win. In general election battles, there are fewer rules and constraints.If Clinton is not able to come back and beat Obama, there will be a fair amount of (to borrow one of her phrases) coulda-shoulda-woulda on behalf of her campaign: things she could have done that she chose not to do -– or was not able to do.
The McCain campaign is staffed with savvy, experienced operatives who have closely watched the rise of Obama, and they have learned from Clinton’s failure to take down her Democratic rival.Things McCain can do when running against Obama that Clinton has been unable to do well or at all:
1. Play the national security card without hesitation.
2. Talk about the Iraq War without apologies or perceived contradiction.
3. Go at Obama unambiguously from the right.
4. Encourage interest groups, bloggers, and right-leaning media to explore Obama’s past.
5. Make an issue of Obama’s acknowledged drug use.
6. Allow some supporters to risk being accused of using the race card when criticizing Obama.
7. Exploit Michelle Obama’s mistakes and address her controversial remarks with unrestricted censure.
8. Play dirty without alienating his party.
9. Dismiss Obama’s brief national tenure from his own lofty platform of decades in the Senate – there will be no ambiguity about who has more experience as conventionally defined.
10. Use his sterling war record to reinforce his image of patriotism and valor – and contrast it with his opponent’s.
11. Emphasize Barack Hussein Obama’s unusual name and exotic background through a Manchurian Candidate prism.
12. Employ third party groups like the NRA to hit Obama on issues that might turn off general election voters. Perhaps an ad such as this will run in Ohio: “So, what do you really know about Barack Obama? Did you know he supports meeting with the head of terrorist states? Do you know he wants to get rid of your right to own a handgun? Do you know he is calling for the repeal of the law preventing gay marriage? Do you know he is for a trillion-dollar tax increase? What do you really know about Barack Obama?”
13. Face an electorate less consumed with “change change change” (the main priority for Democratic voters) and keenly interested in “ready from day one” as an equally important ideal.
14. Link biography (experience/courage) and leadership (straight talk) to a vision animated by detail – accentuating Obama’s relative lack of specificity.
15. Give Obama his first real race against a credible Republican. (Clinton has always asserted that Obama would wilt before a fierce Republican assault.)
16. Confront Obama with a united, focused campaign absent of second-guessing, which hits the same themes and message every day.