Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Vice Presidential Candidate? What Vice Presidential Candidate?

Today on CNN, I watched a top Obama spokesman receive a softball question from a commentator who asked about Sarah Palin's lack of experience to be Vice President. It was the perfect opportunity to pummel Palin for her qualifications or at the very least criticize McCain for picking her.

The Obama spokeman though immediately ducked the question, instead saying the election is not about Vice President but rather who is at the top of the ticket. He then proceeded to link McCain to Bush and question McCain on economic issues. Palin's name was never mentioned again, except when the spokesman remarked that he expected Palin to give an excellent speech. (Building up expectations so high that a person falls short of meeting them and thus is considered to have failed, is a tried and true political strategy.)

The Republican VP selection was made last Friday. Immediately the Obama people went on the offensive, attacking Palin as being unqualified for Vice President. In addition, details about Palin's personal and family life have been reported by the media and bloggers, which information many politicos thought Palin in a bad light.

Why did the Obama spokesman duck the Palin softball and redirect the conversation to the Obama-McCain matchup? The message conveyed by spokespeople for presidential candidates is no accident. That message is constantly being tested by polls and focus groups and refined accordingly. It is clear to me that the Obama spokesman ducked the Palin question and redirected the conversation to the McCain v. Obama matchup because the initial polling by the Obama people showed that intial attacks on Palin were not working and could back fire.

I'm not terribly suprised. Given Obama's dearth of experience for a presidential candidate, it would seem a questionable strategy to attack the vice president candidate on the other ticket for a lack of experience. Apparently the polling confirmed the folly of the initial Obama strategy of attacking Palin directly or McCain for having made the selection.

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