How Obama Can Close the Deal

April 23, 2008 at 6:54 pm

Barack Obama has fought quite a primary race so far against Hillary Clinton, coming from more than 20 points down to draw even with Hillary. But some argue that he can’t close the deal.

Here is what is happening and a couple ideas on how he closes.

Hillary is using the Republican strategy of making the opponent look weak. Her new tag line is: “if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”

Obama’s issue is that he has built his campaign as a positive campaign. If he goes negative, Hillary has changed the game. He will be playing by her rules and guess what? Looking weak because he has compromised. In effect, he proves her argument.

On the other hand, he has to fight back. In fact, this has been the Democrats biggest weakness against Republican opponents using this same strategy: they don’t have an answer to the “weak” argument. In a nutshell, what Obama has to do is force Clinton to play his game. Here’s the easiest way to do this:

  • Challenge her publicly to a positive campaign in the interests of the Democratic party

If she says ‘yes,’ she is playing his game. If she says ‘no,’ she appears selfish. Either way, Obama wins.

Also, Obama, rather than go negative and play her game needs to continue to explain why his position is actually stronger than hers.

Here is Clinton’s argument in a sound bite: I am stronger because I can go negative and beat the Republicans.

Obama needs to make his case. He is stronger because he is firm in his beliefs.

Clinton, on the other hand, is compromising her ideals to win. If she does this in the primary, odds are she will do this as President. Do we want a President who compromises her ideals?

Again, Obama wins if she is playing on his turf.

But, in order for this strategy to work, Obama must at all costs remain true to his principles and not compromise. If he continues to go negative, he has changed his game and looks weak. Hillary wins.

David Plouffe and David Axelrod, if you’re out there, take note!