In the extremely complicated game of politics, few things are for certain in the subject of strategy, especially the outcome of an already press-plagued presidential race for history — from every standpoint. And when the fact that the race has had arguably the most strings and skeletons attached then ever before is thrown in to the equation, the expression: “Its politics — anything can happen” truly goes literal. 

But in the same sense, the presidential debates have been what many would call the most uneventful part of the campaign, when many bloggers (including me), strategists and the press alike stressed that the debates would do the opposite: setting off major gaffes and swinging the polls. 

And as contradicting as this may sound, I am staying with my prior claim with one event in mind — the final presidential debate. This is because (in a nutshell) McCain must successfully make debate waves or he will lose. 

 Why? The final debate is essentially McCain’s last public  stand against his opponent before the election, and both  campaigns know that McCain does not want to enter an  election with the poll deficit that he has today. 

 And because of this, McCain will have to look for holes to  punch at more now than ever.

Am I suggesting he will attempt to pull off a: Lloyd Bentsen? No, but Bentsen’s “You are no Jack Kennedy” debate stab makes a good strategic point — if McCain intends to win the debate with some sort of effect carried out in the polls, he must not attack Obama in the way that he has but rather all in — with one soundbite. 

If I can refer to one of my famous analogies, McCain’s theoretical sling shot has endless ammuntion and is relatively cheap, but won’t win him anything in the long run, as opposed to an expensive one shot Bazooka — A.K.A a knockout soundbite. 

But does this exist? In my opinion, no. 

If Obama uses the same common sense debate strategy he has been using so far, he will essentially know the above points. And if he does, he will simply prepare for the debate like the previous two — calmly presenting his policies and safely pointing out contradictions and points by McCain. With this strategy, Obama simply saves himself from politically falling on his face.

But also, in doing this, Obama also presents the best defense to the only offense that McCain can throw at him. What do I mean? In short, while McCain is searching for a throw his soundbite through the crowd, Obama has the ability to see McCain’s strategy before it starts — and possibly intercepting the soundbite when it comes. 

So I’ll open this up to the commenters: “Is McCain going to try this, and what would the outcome be?”

As an American, I have recently been surrounded at all angles by the financial crisis, both presidential and vice-presidential debates, and already interestingly enough, the ongoing saga of Sarah Palin. 

So as I tuned in to CNN, passing through images of Wall Street, abandoned houses and OJ Simpson’s Trial, I knew it was only a matter of seconds before I saw Sarah Palin. And when that did in fact become reality, I was completely dumbfounded — not only did I see her, but rather I heard her. 

What do I mean? CNN’s routine coverage of a McCain campaign stop in Carson, California showed Palin addressing the public, but not like I was used to. I’ll get to the point — she wasn’t delivering a stump speech. 

Yes, a non-stump speech wouldn’t have been such a spectacle at any other campaign event in recent history, but the truth is recent history has never seen Sarah Palin. Although today I will lay off the long saga of Palin herself, I must point out something like this has not only been a rarity in the past few months, but to me shows a turning point in the McCain campaign. 

 Although I believe that Joe Biden won the Vice Presidential  debate, I also will point out that Palin didn’t lose it. She  fought, but was taken captive by Biden’s foreign policy  credentials and successful soundbite gambles. 

 But what I think Palin accomplished in the debate gave her  more long term firepower than any single thing she has  done as running mate for John McCain (and sorry for the  bluntness) — she is now no longer a joke.

 If you asked strategists from both the right an the left on  the morning of the VP debate, there would be no disputing  from them across the board that Sarah Palin has been in the public’s eye a PR ploy. Whether that is what the McCain campaign intended to accomplish is another analysis in itself, but my blunt point here is that the Vice Presidential debate simply changed the way people thought of Palin. 

She didn’t have any coupe-de-grace moments, she didn’t gaffe, and she certainly didn’t win, but Palin kept up. And in doing that she passed a certain point of public status — from more of a joke and PR stunt to a vice presidential candidate. This will admittedly not change opinions on her policies, especially mine, but as pointed out in a rather comic tone by one of my friends, “Palin achieved the expectations of stringing together multiple coherent and complete sentences.” 

Although that comment wasn’t exactly correct, it was essentially in the right direction. Palin’s expectations were in fact incredibly low, and because she exceeded them in such a national stage, my guess is that Palin became a valid political figure to many people. 

So what does that have to do with Palin not delivering a stump speech? In truth, a lot.

In more of a bold statement, because of Palin’s renewed status, she has essentially set herself into the position to carefully open herself up to the MSM and public alike. My point here is that because of her partial success in the debate, Palin was either herself motivated or given the green light by the McCain campaign to open herself up to the press.

And this of course temps the question: what would have happened if Palin had gaffed and knocked herself out of the debate?

In my opinion the McCain campaign would be very hard pressed to do virtually anything in that situation. They would face a press fire if they didn’t bring Palin to an event, but would also face a brutal media wall if they let her speak.  

So I’ll let the commentators have a say at this.

It would be put well quoting that tonight’s debate “almost wasn’t,” far exceeding my expectations of a full out brawl.

But before I start, in a nutshell, what really occurred the most to me is that there never really was a knockout punch, a home-run swing — a bold statement or attack that either tore off the roof or declared a real winner. There were really more or less small policy jabs, and in that respect I think that Barack Obama came out on top strategically. 

 A conservative CNN guest commentator put it extremely  well, pointing out that in a social sense, there were truly  two different people debating — a confident foreign policy  candidate who will accuse, accuse, and accuse, and then an  intellectual candidate who very acknowledges his opponents  rights and points out his wrongs, playing out the debate on  the defensive. 

 Although I am not sure that I agree with the statement on  offense and defense, I think that the man raises a very good  point — that Obama will win a debate through his policies,  not his soundbites.  

And this is really where Obama came right off the bat strong, starting by discussing the economic crisis. His first message was ripe and straight to the point, first throwing out the problem and what he will do to fix it, then proclaiming in a more subdued way that his opponent will take a different and less successful path more towards our president. And I also think that he brought out the point of: “Do you want the next four years under a president similar to ours, who is by the way the same person who you give approval ratings below freezing to?” 

And I think that the general audience thought a second about that, liberal, moderate or conservative, and make their own decision. 

And I think at the same time, McCain felt his grasp slipping. CNN provided a audience reaction poll (it obviously debatable if it is accurate) which showed a huge advantage out of the gate to Obama. 

And this was a very decisive moment in the debate. 

When the topic switched to foreign policy, I noticed a McCain taking chances. The pinnacle of this was a very bold statement from McCain about Russian President Vladimir Putin, quoting:

“I looked into the eyes of Vladimir Putin, and I saw three letters — a K, a G, and a B.”

And although the strongly conservative crowd went nothing less than “ga-ga” about that comment, I think that in the long term that really lost the debate for McCain. But it essentially wasn’t the point itself, rather a small turning point in the debate showing the larger and larger chances that McCain was taking to make his points. And in the end, I think that people will think about the debate in a whole and move towards the conclusion that Barack Obama was more in control, not jumpy, and factual. But most of all, he wasn’t trying to start a World War Three inside that Mississippi auditorium, rather pointing out what is wrong and right. 
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The Need For A Debate

September 25, 2008

*** After a non-partisan post on the strategic side of John McCain’s campaign “suspension” as well as some comments questioning my views on it, this is my partisan take on this issue: ***

Although the economy is in desperate need of help one way or another, I think that the American people desperately need a debate. Both candidates have different plans to fix the economy crisis, and both won’t release something for the press without mentioning that President Bush’s plan has major flaws in it. And to say it in a warm way, our president is “retiring” in a matter of days, and if elected, both candidates, mostly Barack Obama, will lead our country in a different matter. 

 And this is precisely why I am personally disgusted to see  John McCain suspend his campaign to chime into  Washington’s bailout plan, because when he knows that if  elected, he will chose to (at the least) push congress to  tweak what is being discussed right now. 

 And in a more broad sense, I am surprised to see both  Barack Obama and John McCain with president Bush and  bailout officials at a high profile White House meeting. In  my opinion, as far as taking action with a bailout, both  candidates are still senators. This contradicts the fact that  these two “senators” are seemingly of a higher authority then anyone else in this issue. 

But the main point that I would like to make is the need for a direct debate. For years now we have had to make our own media points based on attack ads and press statements shot to and from campaign headquarters. I, as well as the rest of the american people, deserve a straight-faced talk between both candidates, and see what they stand for as opposed to what they campaigns release to the press.

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I was recently asked by a friend of mine about my stance on the elections. And although I try to keep non-partisan in my posts for the sake of the blog as well as my reputation, I will admit that I am an Obama supporter. And as a thirteen year old seventh-grader, I would like to point out that I don’t think he is something of a Messia or persuasive cult leader, as the frankly true stereotype for political teens would suggest. 

I support him. My job here on this blog is to follow both parties’ political moves and strategies, and this has also opened me up to his policies, which I do believe can send America in the right way.

But I don’t, however, think that John McCain is any sort of enemy. He isn’t running for president because he is a communist intent on dissolving our government, he is running for office because he wants to change the direction that we are headed in. I just believe in my opinion that he will not change America in the way that we want him to, and that his health is a serious risk. 

Which takes me to Palin. 

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I would call myself a strategic commentator as far as my preferred topics, and I will say without doubt that McCain’s choosing of Sarah Palin was pure genius. It took the media by storm and was prepared long in advance (I’ll get to it). The story of a extremely-far right woman governor as the Vice President of the United States with a chance to become the leader of the free world had added a new chapter to politics, getting five-paragraph opinion pieces out of food bloggers and leading to complete chaos inside the media. It got everyone’s voice out, and that is exactly what it intended.

And meanwhile, it let Sarah Palin prep for the debates. Setting a fire inside the press as well as the blogosphere, the pick not only let the media go opinion-galore in arguments and editorials, but it let Palin go out of the MSM and prepare for what is to come – mandatory debates that she must complete without falling flat. 

But it was a PR stunt. 

Politically, it placed a rocket under the Republican party, but what people fail to understand in my opinion is the permanent placement here is the fact that one must think of a vice presidential pick as a vice president, not a burst of nitrous on a racecar. A CNN news commentator put in extremely well: 

As a Democrat and political strategist, I am excited [with the pick of Sarah Palin], but as an American I am scared out of my mind.

I completely share this man’s point. I am both scared and offended that in a time needing drastic change, a campaign would choose someone to not only place the second highest office in the most powerful country in the world, but pick with such strategic care and literately no thought of the future. Obama told the media after the Sarah Palin frenzy that he choose his running mate Joe Biden because he wanted to change America and he thought that Biden was the best person for that cause. 

And this is precisely why I both pushed far away from supporting the McCain campaign and now have a fascination towards Sarah Palin and what she will do next. As a non-voting 13 year old who (by definition) shouldn’t be talking about this stuff — rather playing outside in the sprinklers), is also a political commentator, I am terrified of the McCain campaign because this seems like their plans for America, and completely amazed with the strategic marvel of Sarah Palin. 

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When the first concepts of blogging were tested, no one could have imagined its impact on national press and its credibility. But furthermore, blogging was not imagined (and certainly not intended) to not only effect the way we look at the political center-stage, but slant it all together. 

But how has blogging done this? The answer is simple and obvious, but otherwise a genius long-term formula that has overblown its projected stardom. Blogging is everywhere, in politics, sports, health, cooking, business, schools and education. But more importantly, its everyone

And this essentially has two meanings. Anyone who wants a say in their interests has a blog, and if they are credible and truthful, people in higher places will recognize that by quoting and linking them, thus sending the blogger up the ranks. And because blogging has this concept of rising through the ranks, every person who has an interest in something can try it, while being anonymous or not. And this has not only created great bloggers, but famous bloggers. Hence bloggers like Matt Yglesias, who have risen through the ranks based on their credibility and their ability to pump out interesting posts. Then there are also strike-it-rich bloggers like Perez Hilton, but then again this post is about politics.

The second meaning of this would be the necessity for all high-up people and corporations to have blogs. For example, although blogging is truly headed towards the destruction of credible news, Rupert Murdoch is forced to have his own blog. Why? Blogging is not just a trend, it is truly the future of media, and everyone is grabbing their share of stock. And furthermore, hence online webzines and newspapers like The Huffington Post and numerous other smaller magazines, created and run by bloggers. 

But above all of this, the effect blogging puts on politics is not only fascinating, but a serious factor in the 2008 Election.

Before blogging, political press would take their time publishing articles about what they wanted to point out, and now the web has completely changed this habit into a thing of the past. 

An example would be the simple gaffe of the McCain campaign’s economic adviser Carly Fiorina, who pointed out that both McCain and Palin wouldn’t be fit to be the head of a major corporation. The gaffe, routinely covered by think tank Think Progress, was literately handed to bloggers by the press. And the bloggers didn’t leave any mercy — the liberals blasting McCain on how he can’t even pick a loyal campaign advisor and the conservatives lashing back with anything they can find. 

What blogging really can accomplish is unlimited, and this is what has created a new dimension in politics. Both parties know that they can’t get away with anything blatant, and they have to play the press as well as the bloggers.

This is comparable to playing table tennis with a backwind — it can both help and hurt you, depending on if you fight the wind or let it play your shots. And in a sense, all you need to do is let the bloggers bite on something juicy and you have hit a genius spin shot carried to the other side of the table by the wind. 

Hence the vice presidential pick of Sarah Palin, which has created so much noise in the press and blogs that every blogger has featured their own “credible” opinions on, dividing lines in both parties and more importantly creating story after story, claims after claims, and rumors after rumors from everyone on the web. And meanwhile, the McCain campaign, sitting back in their Arizona headquarters had the press and blogs outdoing themselves head over heals, while all they did was simply make a pick and dream up three stump speeches. 

So what’s my point? Blogging, whether you like it or not, is the new media, and the political world knows that they can’t fight it. They need to run with blogging if they want any victory.

One might conclude that political ads and PR is one of a contending campaign’s biggest assets to the public — and the obvious fuel to this fire is money. 

And as we continue to notice the numerous left or right attack ads in what seems like every commercial break we run across, the press can’t help but link this back to their big story, Obama’s 66 million dollars in August. And this is perfectly on the spot — you essentially can’t go anywhere to the left or right (online or on your feet) without being swarmed with donation and fundraising opportunities and events. Recently attending an Obama fundraiser, I was amazed with the amount of excess opportunities to buy and donate to the Obama/Biden camp, especially considering the amount of money it cost to get in the actual venue. 

But when looking at the outcome of all this money steadily flowing into the Democrat’s hands, it begs a comment which has been screaming in my head for the last few days: “Is this what all this money is part of? Negative campaigning?” 

As a PR-focused political commenter, I understand that attack ads are merely defense from the latest opposing attacks, but as Karl Rove pointed out, the ads are really going to far. And although Rove may not be the brightest of politicians, his point is made clear. 

But in my view, the most essential thing here is the fact that the ads are virtually an input-output machine, with the input money, and the output a decline in the polls. 

I always look at a campaign in three stages, the first a reception, the second dinner, and the third a drunken bar fight. In more clarity — the candidates spend the beginning of their campaign introducing themselves, the second sitting down and watching the effects throughout the primaries, and the third picking fights and running negative attack ads. And although this has proven to work in the past, a change in politics is in my view essential to winning the campaign. 

So why, then, it is that as Obama keeps listing the lies of McCain’s attacks, the left slips in the polls? America doesn’t like disputes, they like answers. And so this back and fourth attack — defense media battle thus acts as an eclipse to regular politics, and further lets the conservatives ride on Sarah Palin’s media wave, perhaps right into the White House.

This is also comparable to a basketball game where one team is winning by 5 points. The other team may score, but the leading squad (in this case the McCain camp) will always return with another two points. And although the first team keeps scoring, they will always be down by five points, and in the end, losing the game. 

My point? Although Obama may speak the truth in his attacks, he must sacrifice a good reputation if he wants the White House next Spring. 

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I guess you are pretty obsessed when you light a political fire in your head over Civics homework (yes, I still do homework), but I’ve got to get this out. While reading and highlighting a packet on immigration, the author somehow got his random point across, unleashing his/her demise of the third political party and how the two-party system is the ultimate future of politics. 

So, on a less heated note, I’d like to kindly point out that in fact the third party has essentially been the centerpiece of American political innovation, as supported by Bobby Roth’s: “A Reason To Vote”.

The first people to oppose slavery? We should give the GOP a hand, they founded the Republican Party (at the time) based on abolishing slavery. I’ll also note that most other nation-changing innovations have been conducted by a third party, including women’s rights for voting. 

So although I do admit Bob Parr scares the living daylights out of me, one of the things I am very passionate about when it comes to politics is the fact that it is currently very hard for a third party to get on the ballet — and literally impossible for them to gain any recognition in the general election. 

I haven’t ever agreed with a Green Party candidate nor a Libertarian, but one thing is for certain — every party should have the same chance to present themselves and their candidate’s credentials, and that has been fading away in the US lately.

In a race unlike any other, politics have mixed with mainstream media, PR stunts and campaign tactics cannot be deciphered, and candidates are currently in a full-fledged ad war. First ladies have turned into public enemies, and lines have been drawn inside of political parties.

But the single, most plain asset in this political chaos that we call the 2008 presidential race is most certainly the element of surprise.

Partisan or non-partisan, liberal or conservative, we can all agree on one thing – Sarah Palin was a surprise. The little-known one term Alaskan governor has set political media to a standstill, hitting nerves on everyone, liberal, conservative, or independent. She has changed politics as we know it, stirring so many feelings that can’t all be represented by just one writing. 

So how can we take all of this in? The truth is, we can’t. Which ever party you support, which every race and creed you are, you simply can’t take in Palin without emotion.

And this is exactly what John McCain wanted.

He wanted this news frenzy. He wanted the blogging world, liberal and conservative to explode into opinion. He wanted chaos to erupt in the media world, (i.e. the OK! Magazine bias). He wanted people like me and you to think long and hard about this media bonanza — he wanted a diversion.

Understanding the importance of his vice presidential pick, McCain couldn’t simply choose anyone. He needed to go out of the ordinary, not into the realm of his contenders, middle-aged white males who would be perceived just like they have for two-hundred years.

And no matter how unreliable, local or politically ripe Sarah Palin was, he knew she would create the second big bang. He knew that she would occupy every political blog, think tank, magazine, and newspaper. And finally, he knew that she would provide a wall between both parties, blacking out media solely focused on the Democrats.

Palin’s experience is an issue, but McCain knew he could exploit this to the fullest, initiating a media strategy that could literately absorb any attack from the left.

And in a sense, this has succeeded, with help from Sarah Palin herself.

Her choosing for running mate has acted as a literal smoke bomb, creating only a small explosion, but then spreading over the entire mainstream media, sparking a spreading cloud of mist. Palin, acting as bait, has done all she has needed to do, unleashing attack speeches when needed and sparking controversy with her “troopergate” scandal as well as he pregnant daughter. The media then proceeded to take the bait, igniting a fire within itself and not running a story without the world “Palin” in it.

Meanwhile, Palin actually has stayed away from the media, ignoring any invitations for interviews on sit-down shows and political debate television as well.

Why? She doesn’t need too.

Palin’s one weakness is the one trait that you would assume a running mate would use to his/her advantage – politics. McCain knows that if Palin explodes back into the media, accepting interviews and arguing head-on with the liberal press, she will be beaten to her knees, and a coupe-de-grace will be imminent during her mandatory debate with opposing running mate Joe Biden.

And because of this, the future is more of an enemy to the conservatives than Barack Obama, and if the Democrats plan to exploit this, they must understand that for now, they have lost the battle of the present.

Presidential races have had a history of being dirty and under the rug, and political cheap shots were never hard to find. But this year, in an already breakthrough election, candidates have thrown out more ads recently than ever before. Political standoffs between two parties or campaigns have usually resulted (or been the result) of an attack ad, complicating already very political situations by letting the general public have an unusually high say on the outcome. Thus, TV spots have turned into political weapons — with endings both beneficent and disastrous to their authors. 

Most recently, these political ads taken huge strides in the form of attacks back and forth from the two remaining candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain. Although Obama has just recently started sending out “attack” ads, mostly as responses to McCain’s harsh accusations. The first real sign of this was McCain’s “Celebrity” ad, which was the result of a non lethal (in the sense of attacks) but heated standoff between the two senators.

The ad, sent out by a semingly fearless McCain squad, compared Obama to the star-struck Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, and was responded to in a surprising fashion — by Hilton herself. The response was brilliantly played out to both send a message to McCain, and — as another topic — improve Hilton’s public status. It worked, flooding out McCain’s original ad and setting the stage for Obama’s more political response, which delivered a more serious but at the same time up-beat message. 

This was really the start of McCain’s continuous but mild public downpour, in which his previous political gaffes have come back to haunt him, including his Iraq-Pakistan border nightmare as well as his foreign policy mistake in Jordan, pictured, which occurred during a press confrence.Obama, though, has never capitalized on these public weaknesses. Taking a position many politicians in his would have quickly decided against, the senator will only fight once attacked. This way, not only has he kept a very clean slate, he has had time to asses the attacks aimed at him, quickly differ what he can say, and then release a public spot with many more directions and points to make than McCain. This, however, has never been referred to as “weak.” Obama’s team has carefully picked apart attacks (some of this is public) and assessed where they can attack and how they can cover up their softer political spots.

A great example of this was Obama’s second major attack ad towards McCain, named “Fix the Economy“. The ad was placed a few days after the “celebrity” fiasco, and is applauded by myself as well as many political experts for its seemingly perfect timing.

The spot aired during the dubbed “aftermath” of the war-like celebrity dispute, where the public was waiting for more moves from the two campaigns. Obama immediately recognized the situation and sent out what I like to call his “smoke grenade.” Geared towards a topic not mentioned around that time due to the previous Iraq-centered debates, Obama took footage of McCain claiming the American economy was in good shape and threw it against clips of American’s disagreeing with him intently. The ad was politically and factually sound down to the finest details, even including the states the Americans lived in, which were battleground swing-states for Obama and McCain (Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky ect.) that are currently up for grounds in a political perspective. 

I call the ad a “smoke grenade” because it both did tremendous damage and put a cloud of smoke in-between the conservatives and the general public. The points made in the ad sent the McCain party wheeling for a response, and the eerie gap of time made an effective bad aftertaste towards the republicans publicly. What I mean by this is since political attacks were plentiful up to that point for weeks, the world had prepared itself for a McCain attack. But in a sense, it never came. So who can we credit this to? In my opinion, it has really been the work of Obama’s campaign working together, headed by the smart PR decisions of Jim Messina, the Chief of Staff. 

So as McCain keeps pumping out attack ads (here is the newest and the response), Obama will keep bouncing them back in the same way he always does — sifting through the ad and hitting hard on the facts. And that’s why Obama is not only winning in the PR department as well as the television side — he’s dominating.

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