The Obama campaign wishes so badly it could run against a divisive national figure like Sarah Palin that it’s decided to just pretend it actually is. Click here to see Obama’s latest ad, which attacks Palin for calling him a radical.
The strategy of attacking Palin – who is still influential with the conservative base but increasingly marginal in the Republican Party – could be chalked up to Obama’s nostalgia for the 2008 campaign. But it also seems remarkably similar to a communications strategy the White House orchestrated back in 2009, when it tried to elevate another polarizing figure, Rush Limbaugh, to the position of “de facto” Republican leader, thus forcing congressional Republicans to respond to his inflammatory comments. Politico reported on the White House’s internal plan at the time:
Top Democrats believe they have struck political gold by depicting Rush Limbaugh as the new face of the Republican Party, a full-scale effort first hatched by some of the most familiar names in politics and now being guided in part from inside the White House.
Soon it clicked: Democrats realized they could roll out a new GOP bogeyman for the post-Bush era by turning to an old one in Limbaugh, a polarizing figure since he rose to prominence in the 1990s. …
The seeds were planted in October after Democracy Corps, the Democratic polling company run by Carville and Greenberg, included Limbaugh’s name in a survey and found that many Americans just don’t like him.
“His positives for voters under 40 was 11 percent,” Carville recalled with a degree of amazement, alluding to a question about whether voters had a positive or negative view of the talk show host.
Then came what Begala called “the tripwire.”
“I hope he fails,” Limbaugh said of Obama on his show four days before the president was sworn in. It was a time when Obama’s approval ratings were soaring, but more than that, polls showed even people who didn’t vote for him badly wanted him to succeed, coming to office at a time of economic meltdown.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was the first to jump on the statement, sending the video to its membership to raise cash and stir a petition drive.
Come to think of it, this seems to bear a close resemblance to how the White House and Democrats manufactured the whole Susan Fluke/Rush Limbaugh controversy duringthe past few weeks. The strategy goes something like this:
1.) Obama personally responds to inflammatory comments from a loose-cannon conservative figure, in an attempt to raise this person’s standing to the level of a serious Republican leader.
2.) The media reports on the “controversy.”
3.) Right-wing bloggers and Fox News pundits defend the loose-cannon conservative.
4.) Democrats call on Republican candidates to repudiate the comments.
5.) The media asks Republican candidates whether they agree with the polarizing conservative’s comments, which sets up a lose-lose scenario. If the candidate criticizes the comments too forcefully, he risks alienating the Fox News demographic. If the GOP candidate criticizes the comments too gently, Democrats slam him for pandering.
Maybe the anti-Sarah Palin campaign video really is just a sign the Obama team is in completely desperate straits and simply has nothing else to run on or against. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Democrats start trying to emphasize Palin’s influence in the Republican Party, and call on Romney, Santorum, et al, to condemn her comments in the coming weeks.