I wrote a month ago in this space that the greatest threats to the Obama and Clinton campaigns were their own campaign strategists, who were too infatuated with their own long-held theories of politics to adjust to the particular demands of this year’s electorate. So I’m disappointed to read that in the wake of Super Standoff Tuesday, and Barack Obama’s rise to at least co-frontrunnerhood, guru David Axelrod still thinks it’s all about his conceptual genius. Quoth the Financial Times today:
"Obama represents the change the people are looking for," said David Axelrod, the Illinois senator’s campaign chief-of-staff, as he yesterday savoured victories in a majority of Super Tuesday states. "The more they are exposed to him, the more they get his message."
. . . Its substance, long on inspiring rhetoric but sometimes short on detail, according to his opponents, will not change. "It’s the message that’s going to lead him to the nomination of this party," Mr Axelrod says.
This is ironic, since what’s had everyone talking over the last couple days about Obama as the emerging favorite in the campaign isn’t his message — it’s his daunting advantage in raising money, which is becoming the same tool of perceived inevitability that Hillary Clinton’s circle no doubt thought their fundraising prowess would be a year or so ago.
If Clinton does manage to overcome Obama’s lead in ready cash, it’ll be because she found an effective way to undermine the superficiality of Barack’s platitude-laden ads and speeches. That’s the weak underbelly of his campaign, and if Axelrod was
less egotistical smarter he’d be looking for a way to shore up Obama’s high-concept appeal by connecting it to more specific and tangible policy results before it starts to wear thin under prolonged media scrutiny.