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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

My first reaction upon hearing Barack Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” remark was that it was deliberate. Not a deliberate attempt to smear Sarah Palin per se, but a deliberate attempt to provoke exactly the sort of fanatical reaction that they have gotten from the Republicans. The McCain campaign has spent a week campaigning on big themes and big personalities, and gotten a fair amount of mileage out of it. This takes everyone back down a notch, back down to the tedium and banality of partisan politics. It would be wishful thinking to call it a momentum-changer, but it may by default be a momentum-stopper. The convention/Palinmania phase of the news cycle — a phase the Republicans clearly thought they were winning — is now over.

This is not to call this some sort of brilliant strategy; I have no idea how any of this is going to play out. But it may, in conjunction with the Obama campaign’s pushback on the Bridge To Nowhere, be part of a developing Obama counter-narrative. That narrative might go something like this; imagine these words in Obama’s voice:

My opponent’s chief strategest just said, “this campaign isn’t about the issues.” Well, I’ve got news for you, America. The Republican Party is desperate. They are going to do anything to try and hold onto their power, because they know the damage they’ve done to our country, and they don’t know how to fix it. They know that people are out of work, and they don’t know how to help them. They know that people are dying because they don’t have health insurance, and they don’t know to save them. They know that families are struggling to put food on the table, and they know don’t know how to provide for them.

So they’re going to try and distract you, America, because that’s the only thing they know how to do. They’re going to try and scare you. They’re going to try and tell you stories, instead of offering solutions. And yes, folks — these are the same people that have been lying to you for the last eight years — and they’re going to lie to you again.

Okay, so I’m not Jon Favreau. But I think something along these lines would be toward the more effective end of Obama’s potential post-convention messaging. And the “distractions, not solutions” meme is something Obama is going to have to trot out anyway once the 527′s (including very probably the reincarnation of Jeremiah Wright) really begin to hit.

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