2000 and 2004 were elections where the country felt it was in a relatively good place. Sure 2004 had the War in Iraq but the war was not universally loathed at that point in time and Bush still had a 50% approval rating. Bush strategist Karl Rove ran a campaign based largely on smoke and mirrors. He focused on cultural and other distraction issues designed to fire up his base and win on turn out and voter suppression.
Fast forward to 2008 and Rove protege Steve Schmidt is running the McCain campaign. Schmidt is a veteran of the Bush campaign and he headed up the war room in 04. He spent his time learning at Rove's right hand. He has a masters in GOP campaigning. Unfortunately for him the election is not taking place in 2000 or 2004. The country is in a bad way. For the first time in a generation an election is about more than cultural issues. Sadly for the GOP those are the only things they know how to do.
With the coming article on the McCain teamwe are going to be able to observe all of this and the evidence for it. The basic premise is that they lack the ability to run on things other than the cultural issues. they are completely inflexible. They have boxed themselves in tot he extent that they have one choice in how to run campaigns and they are unable to deviate from that with success. Call it the audible theory if you will. They have ability to recognize when what they are doing is not working. They have the poll data to support that. Hell, they change narratives every day so they must understand that what they are doing does not work. Despite this recognition they are totally unable to capitalize on it. They cannot switch effectively to new lines of attack or a new way to campaign. Here is one example,
And the decision may have been even more impulsive than initially thought. Gov. Sarah Palin, who had never been on the VP shortlist, was advanced at the last minute by Schmidt and Rick Davis, and was picked after a less-than-hour-long chat in with McCain at his ranch in Arizona.
They had a list of serious and qualified, if somewhat boring and lackluster, candidates for the position. Schmidt and co though saw they lay of the land and decided that they needed an audible. And change the play they did. They went with palin not so much a hail mary as a puntfake from their own 40. not a good call.
Another example of McCain teams ability to recognize the importance of a situation and still fail totally to take advantage of it is the financial crisis.
Then there is Schmidt's -- perhaps fatal -- push for McCain to "go all in," leave the campaign trail and head to Washington to work on the financial bailout package.
"Schmidt evidently saw the financial crisis as a 'true character' moment that would advance his candidate's narrative."
Schmidt was actually right about that being a major defining moment of the campaign. sadly for McCain they were unable to take advantage of it. It was a situation that cried out for an audible. They needed a switch to real policy, substance and seriousness. Instead they went gimmick. gimmick and shallow is all they know how to do.
Commentators and Bloggers have been looking at the mccain campaign and asking why they persist with ayers, acorn, etc when that stuff is totally unimportant to the public. it seems to make no sense. The answer is that this is all these people know how to do. it has been their specialty for the past two decades. It is all they have ever needed. Now though they are being asked to do something new and different and they are totally out of their depth. So they try to up the game using what they do know -- getting slimier and slimier. Unsurprisingly they are not succeeding. Schmidt and co is out of their depth.
This of course frustrates them. They lash out and they look desperate, because they are. They simply dont have a handle on what to do against obama and in the face of an actual crisis because they have waged the past elections with smoke and mirrors. Now, when it comes time to deal with problems tricks dont get it done. Crisis in campaigns are situations that require a campaign to leave the game plan and to try something new and unplanned. You have to audible. Schmidt and company have proven they simply cant do this right. Maybe it should not be so surprising given schmidts history as a war room guy and someone who thrives on relentless message discpline. That type of rigidity only works so long as everything proceeds according to plan. When does not, well we see what has happened to McCain.
From the pages of the gaucho politico