Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama arrives for a rally at the Veterans Memorial Park in Manchester, N.H., Saturday.
With top Dems fearing Barack Obama is in a hole, the Obama campaign has made a weird decision. It's going to dig that hole deeper, harder and faster.
No more Mr. Nice Guy, Obama vows. He's going to really start hitting John McCain now. He's going to make voters understand that McCain equals four more years of George Bush.
It's a weird decision because Obama has been doing exactly that for four months. The problem is not that Obama hasn't hit McCain hard enough or linked him to Bush often enough. The problem is that he hasn't done anything else.
How about a new idea? How about putting some meat on the bony promise of "change"?
And what happened to that post-partisan uniter who took the country by storm during the early primaries by offering an optimistic vision for America? Why not bring him back?
Apparently that Obama has left the building. He's been replaced with a party man who sees the other side as evil and beneath contempt. Consider these bitter words from campaign boss David Plouffe that outlines the Obama plan for the stretch run.
"John McCain has shown that he is willing to go into the gutter to win this election," Plouffe wrote in a memo circulated Friday. "His campaign has become nothing but a series of smears, lies and cynical attempts to distract from the issues that matter to the American people."
That rant might be comfort food for the nervous base, but will likely alarm independents who already aren't sure about Obama. By further scaring them with scorched-earth partisanship, the Obama team will only cede to McCain the label of the real independent.
Indeed, even as Sarah Palin has rallied the GOP base, McCain himself has ramped up efforts to secure his brand as a maverick willing to cross party lines. Obama's response appears to be surrender of the high ground.
The decision to stick with a mostly-nasty approach should finally end the myth that the Obama campaign is a flawless machine. It had an extraordinarily appealing candidate, a message of change to an unhappy nation and made brilliant tactical decisions that defeated the Clintons.
But that was last season. Since then, it has frittered away four months and, even before Palin rocked the race, Obama was coasting as the presumptive President. He secured his base in Europe, but neglected West Virginia, where Clinton beat him by 40 points. Poll-wise, he remains where he was when Clinton quit in June.
Now faced with an energized and disciplined opponent, Team Obama is doubling-down on an approach that failed to seal the deal despite a beatable McCain, a favorable environment and a fawning media.
The decision is extra odd given what seemed a growing consensus before the Democratic convention that Obama needed to better connect with middle-class voters. That consensus was that hammering home an economic message of hope and help was the answer and the plan, supporters said then.
But Obama didn't do it in his acceptance speech, and he hasn't done it since. Lately he's been so startled by Palin that he took to attacking her himself instead of leaving it to others.
His tax plan is one area where Obama has failed to press an economic advantage. He says his plan, while raising levies on high earners, would mean a tax cut for 95% of the working class. If true, that's a helluva plan. Yet Obama himself has done little to explain the details and how much individuals would benefit at different income levels.
There was even more ominous language in the Plouffe memo. After throwing in the name of Karl Rove, which is boob bait for Bush haters, Plouffe promised to summon the furies of the liberal press to expose McCain and Palin. "We trust that the obvious conflicts between their rhetoric and records, their promises and their plans will not go unreported in the last 53 days of this campaign," Plouffe wrote.
Ah, yes, the press. I guess that means more Charlie Gibsons of the world looking down with disgust at Palin as though she was soiling his shoes. Even The New York Times allowed that Gibson, in his ABC interview, came off as "supercilious," which is a fancy way of saying arrogant.
By all means, more arrogance toward the heartland. Just what Obama needs.