Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

07/16/2008 (11:13 am)

Obama the Toe Marksman? Updated

I’ve laid off the campaign for a while, since it’s early and the candidates are just sort of jockeying for position. A little surprisingly, we’ve been treated to one of the most cynical and dramatic makeovers in recent political history, with Barack Obama making enough policy changes in his attempt to appeal to the political center to prompt Patterico to call for an exhaustive list of Obama’s flip-flops (he received 300+ responses). It’s not just the list of advisors and friends whom he suddenly discovered were unacceptably radical; he’s adopting moderate positions on the Iraq war (after declaring it lost), on FISA reform (after promising to lead the filibuster against telecomm immunity), on public campaign funding (rejecting it after declaring how deeply he believes in it), and on and on.

It’s not unheard of for a politician to re-invent him- or herself between the primary and the general election, although this makeover is remarkably cynical and transparent. However, Obama’s not just losing his advantage by doing it, he may just be losing his funding.

Allahpundit at Hot Air rolls out his reading of a 33-page poll conducted by the New York Times and CBS News (complete results here), with the headline that when asked, “Do you think Barack Obama says what he believes most of the time, or does he say what he thinks people want to hear?” 51% now think he says what people want to hear, while only 37% think he says what he believes. This stands opposed to the same question last July yielding 46% who thought he said what he believed, and only 32% who thought he said what people wanted to hear. Clearly, the public’s perception of Obama is changing, and not in a positive way. Byron York reflects on Obama’s brand damage today, quoting a Democratic pol complaining “If McCain can turn him into a politician, Obama has lost his advantage.” (To which I reply, “It will not have been McCain who’s turned Obama into a politician.” But I digress.)

Most ominous for Obama, however, is the possible effect on his most fervent followers, who have howled in agony as Obama abandons their favorite hot points. The problem is that a lot of Obama’s prodigious funding has come from these folks, and if they stop contributing at the rate they have been, his campaign will suffer in the fall. York again:

What was the source of Obama’s miraculous fundraising prowess? It was people who cared a lot about things like FISA. “Where FISA and Iraq hurt him is with small donors on the Internet,” the source says. “If the brand is really damaged, then the decision to opt out [of the campaign finance system] becomes a lot riskier, because the $100 donor is the donor who pays a lot of attention to that stuff. It’s the FISA-head who gave him 100 bucks.”

Pundits have been watching the Obama campaign’s fundraising numbers, and they’ve been dropping off. From Sean Oxendine at the Next Right:

Obama’s then-record-breaking $32M fundraising haul in January was released on February 4. Which just happened to be right before Super Tuesday.

Obama’s record-breaking $55M fundraising haul in February was announced on March 6. Two days after the Ohio/Texas campaigns, when he desperately needed to release some good news.

Obama’s pretty-darned-good $40M+ fundraising haul in March was announced on April 3, early in the month.

But Obama’s now-under-expectations $31M in April wasn’t announced until May 20. You remember, the day of the Oregon and Kentucky primary, when everyone was talking about things other than fundraising numbers?

And the May numbers ($22M) weren’t announced until June 20. A Friday, aka “bury news day.”

Oxendine was focusing on the timing of the releases, but the more relevant fact is the declining take. It might be due to the tapering primary activity; then again, it might be due to tapering interest.

Matt Stoller from Open Left blogs about how he refused to contribute to the Obama campaign because of the FISA vote, and how the Obamanian caller had the FISA talking points right at hand to answer him — as though they were used to hearing that objection. Stoller thinks the party is blaming Obama’s fundraising dropoff on progressives; he’s probably right.

Finally, Patrick Ruffini, jumping off from Stoller’s piece, notes the following appeal from David Plouffe (rhymes with “puff”), Obama’s campaign manager, highlighting the sweet cash position of the RNC versus the poverty of the DNC (without mentioning the cash position of the Obama campaign itself, which was a healthy $43 million at the end of May,) and mentioning that the McCain campaign has outspent Obama 3 to 1 on TV ads since April.

The bottom line is actually part of the “inexperience” picture. Obama has never had to perform a shift in his position like the one he’s performing now, and apparently did not think about how it would affect his fund-raising. His missing toes may teach him the hard way to do something different next time — if there is a next time — but we might just be watching a novice destroying his own chance at the presidency.

Patrick Ruffini has a pretty solid analysis of the Obama campaign’s money problems here.

The RNC has responded to Obama’s Iraq flip-flop, which apparently included his purging his own web site of criticism of the Iraq surge over the weekend, with the following brutal takedown ad. Read ’em & cringe.

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