I don’t mean the Democratic Primary, I mean the general election. The whole thing. Barack Obama is going to walk over John McCain like a piece of gum on the sidewalk.
Watching John McCain speak tonight, I was reminded of a principle my Go teachers often mentioned: don’t make a move to which your opponent’s best response would be a move he wanted to make anyway. I often did that: I’d put a stone down on the board, and my opponent’s response would simultaneously counter what I had done and serve some other purpose useful to my opponent. Those opponents who were trying to teach me would ask “Why did you make me stronger? I wanted to go there anyway.”
John McCain is making this mistake with Barack Obama. He’s handing Obama exactly the debating points Obama wants. He accuses Obama of thinking that government can provide solutions, but people remember Katrina, and Obama wants a chance to say specifically what he thinks government can do. He accuses Obama of being willing to engage in diplomacy with rogue regimes, but people remember Iraq, and Obama has a whole foreign policy debate he’d just love to get into with John McCain. He accuses Obama of turning to the past for answers; but people look back fondly on the past, because the present is so tarnished. Obama is only too happy to remind people how much better this country used to be run.
When you get right down to it, Obama just understands how this game is played, and McCain apparently does not. Yes, it helps that Obama is smarter, more charismatic, and genuinely has better policies. (That golden baritone voice and his so-ready-for-this wife
Jacqueline Michelle don’t hurt either.) But it also helps that John McCain doesn’t seem to realize how easy it is going to be for Obama to turn McCain’s talking points into a real debate, and win it.
Of course, due to the electoral college mess, it’s hard to predict how close things will be in the fall. But something would have to go seriously wrong for Obama not to pull this one off by a wide margin in the popular vote. John McCain is going to give Obama opportunity after opportunity to show how different he really is, and it’s only going to persuade more people to vote for Obama.
If I were running John McCain’s campaign, I’d start reading some Go books.