Obama Can't Win Against Palin
By KARL ROVE
September 11, 2008
Of all the advantages Gov. Sarah Palin has brought to the GOP ticket, the most important may be that she has gotten into Barack Obama's head. How else to explain Sen. Obama's decision to go one-on-one against "Sarah Barracuda," captain of the Wasilla High state basketball champs?
It's a matchup he'll lose. If Mr. Obama wants to win, he needs to remember he's running against John McCain for president, not Mrs. Palin for vice president.
Michael Dukakis spent the last months of the 1988 campaign calling his opponent's running mate, Dan Quayle, a risky choice and even ran a TV ad blasting Mr. Quayle. The Bush/Quayle ticket carried 40 states.
Adlai Stevenson spent the fall of 1952 bashing Dwight Eisenhower's running mate, Richard Nixon, calling him "the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, and then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation." The Republican ticket carried 39 of 48 states.
If Mr. Obama keeps attacking Mrs. Palin, he could suffer the fate of his Democratic predecessors. These assaults highlight his own tissue-thin résumé, waste precious time better spent reassuring voters he is up for the job, and diminish him -- not her.
Consider Mr. Obama's response to CNN's Anderson Cooper, who asked him about Republican claims that Mrs. Palin beats him on executive experience. Mr. Obama responded by comparing Wasilla's 50 city workers with his campaign's 2,500 employees and dismissed its budget of about $12 million a year by saying "we have a budget of about three times that just for the month." He claimed his campaign "made clear" his "ability to manage large systems and to execute."
Of course, this ignores the fact that Mrs. Palin is now governor. She manages an $11 billion operating budget, a $1.7 billion capital expenditure budget, and nearly 29,000 full- and part-time state employees. In two years as governor, she's vetoed over $499 million from Alaska's capital budget -- more money than Mr. Obama is likely to spend on his entire campaign.
And Mr. Obama is not running his campaign's day-to-day operation. His manager, David Plouffe, assisted by others, makes the decisions about the $335 million the campaign has spent. Even if Mr. Obama is his own campaign manager, does that qualify him for president?
A debate between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Palin over executive experience also isn't smart politics for Democrats. As Mr. Obama talks down Mrs. Palin's record, voters may start comparing backgrounds. He won't come off well.
Then there was Mr. Obama's blast Saturday about Mrs. Palin's record on earmarks. He went at her personally, saying, "you been taking all these earmarks when it is convenient and then suddenly you are the champion anti-earmark person."
It's true. Mrs. Palin did seek earmarks as Wasilla's mayor. But as governor, she ratcheted down the state's requests for federal dollars, telling the legislature last year Alaska "cannot and must not rely so heavily on federal government earmarks." Her budget chief directed state agencies to reduce earmark requests to only "the most compelling needs" with "a strong national purpose," explaining to reporters "we really want to skinny it down."
Mr. Obama has again started a debate he can't win. As senator, he has requested nearly $936 million in earmarks, ratcheting up his requests each year he's been in the Senate. If voters dislike earmarks -- and they do -- they may conclude Mrs. Palin cut them, while Mr. Obama grabs for more each year.
Mr. Obama may also pay a price for his "lipstick on a pig" comment. The last time the word "lipstick" showed up in this campaign was during Mrs. Palin's memorable ad-lib in her acceptance speech. Mr. Obama says he didn't mean to aim the comment at Mrs. Palin, but he deserves all the negative flashback he gets from the snarky aside.
Sen. Joe Biden has now joined the attack on Mrs. Palin, saying this week that her views on issues show she's "obviously a backwards step for women." This is a mistake. Mr. Obama is already finding it difficult to win over independent women and Hillary Clinton voters. If it looks like he's going out of his way to attack Mrs. Palin, these voters may conclude it's because he has a problem with strong women.
In Denver two weeks ago, Mr. Obama said, "If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from." That's what he's trying to do, only the object of his painting is Sarah Palin, not John McCain.
In Mrs. Palin, Mr. Obama faces a political phenomenon who has altered the election's dynamics. Americans have rarely seen someone who immediately connects with large numbers of voters at such a visceral level. Mrs. Palin may be the first vice presidential candidate since Lyndon B. Johnson to change an election's outcome. If Mr. Obama keeps attacking her, the odds of Gov. Palin becoming Vice President Palin increase significantly.
Mr. Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
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Woman Honor Thyself
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Posted by No Apology at 11:00 PM