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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Obama and Reagan

In a New York Times op-ed piece today, Michael Cohen suggests that John McCain may be fatally overplaying his criticisms of Barack Obama’s lack of experience. And he cites a historical analogy that may well be highly relevant:

[B]y continually attacking Mr. Obama’s understanding of policy issues, John McCain runs the risk of actually helping the Democrat neutralize the experience issue. In 1980, supporters of President Jimmy Carter regularly intimated that Ronald Reagan was an intellectual lightweight not to mention a warmonger and a racist. But when the two men debated, and Americans saw that Reagan wasn’t the caricature that he was being presented as, poll numbers showed a huge shift toward the Republican.

I’d go further than Cohen on the Reagan-Obama parallels. Like 1980, this is an election year in which Americans emphatically want change. As in 1980, the “out-party” challenger, who’s carefully identified himself with the case for decisive change, has a relatively low threshold of acceptability to meet. The constant suggestions by McCain and the GOP that Barack Obama couldn’t find his way around a world map should be easy to rebut for a candidate who at his best can match Reagan’s communications skills, while comfortably exceeding the late president’s ability to demonstrate intelligence and a clear grasp of issues.

3 comments on “Obama and Reagan

  1. Kevin Powers on

    Sen. McCain’s camp is really making a serious mistake with their relentless attacks on Sen. Obama. By setting the “competency bar” so low, Sen. McCain is simply giving our candidate more of an opportunity to prove him wrong in an embarrassingly public setting. It would only take Sen. Obama correcting Sen. McCain once or twice on some foreign policy points to shatter this image the Republican Party has constructed.

  2. ducdebrabant on

    Another analogy is 1960. JFK was portrayed as callow, but in the debate with Nixon, the voters saw a confident and knowledgeable figure.


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