With the possible exception of Bill and Hillary Clinton, everyone on this side of the moon realizes that Hillary's quest to become the Democratic nominee for president is over. Employing new math and even newer arguments can't help Hillary at this point. Although the fat lady isn't singing yet, she's already tuning up, waiting for Hillary to exit stage right.
While giving proper deference to the waning days of the campaign, Barack Obama is beginning to focus his attention on his fall campaign against John McCain. Judging from the public comments of the respective camps, the political battlefield is already shaping up.
Approaching 72 years old – the oldest president elected for the first time, if he is successful – McCain's chief argument will be that he is experienced and can be counted on to command a strong defense. Obama will counter that wisdom does not necessarily accompany age. After all, many of George W's military advisers were "experienced" hands from his daddy's administration.
And what did that get us? Troops camped in Afghanistan and an intractable war in Iraq that began with the public being misled about the need for the war and how U.S. troops would be received.
Still, the old McCain POW war footage will be brought out of storage to not-so-subtly portray the GOP candidate as a Vietnam hero. Obama's camp must resist the temptation of some followers to point out that being captured in and of itself does not necessarily make one a hero. Rather, Obama must appear extremely grateful for McCain's military service while noting that it is McCain's post-war voting record that's at issue.
GOP strategist will try to make an issue of Obama not wearing an American flag on his label, though neither McCain, Clinton nor Obama wears one.
Like Hillary, the McCain camp will seek to paint Obama, a graduate of Columbia and Harvard, two Ivy League universities, as an "elitist" who can't connect with Joe and Jo Public. That will be a hard case to make because McCain is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, which isn't on par with your local trade school. And having a wife with assets of more than $100 million doesn't qualify McCain for public housing, either the traditional kind or the White House.
The heaviest Republican fire is likely to be the campaign to brand Obama as an extreme liberal, far away from the basic values of a country that's just to the right of center. Obama will need to show his bread-and-butter concerns are issues on the minds of most citizens.
Obama's best chance of winning hinges on his ability to remain on the offensive about the economy. With rising gas prices, a housing fiasco and an economy teetering on the brink of a recession, the Illinois senator must keep repeating this message. He has to point out that when George W. Bush entered the White House, he was presented with a $236 billion surplus. However, he will leave his successor with a $408 billion deficit. Obama has already begun to argue that electing McCain would be tantamount to giving Bush a third term.
Obama should be able to exploit dissatisfaction with a war that has cost more than $500 billion. According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. is spending $2 billion a week in Iraq. With all that spending on war, Bush still supported and signed into law a tax bill that lowered the tax rate of wealthy Americans. McCain first opposed and now supports those cuts.
Another position that communicates that Obama is not out of step with common people is his plan for universal health care, a position that McCain opposes. With millions of Americans without health insurance and those with insurance paying higher premiums and co-payments, this may be one of the sleeper issues of the general election.
Of course, stated or not, race will be the wildcard factor in this election. As the Democratic contest winds down, a desperate Hillary Clinton argues that White, working-class voters will support her, but not a Black man. However, Black voters will support her no matter what, she claims. If she learned anything from South Carolina, it should have been that African-Americans will not automatically vote for her.
As for what she calls "hard-working Americans, White Americans" – as though Blacks are not hard-working – Democrats lost them to Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and have not won them back. Bill Clinton did not carry them in his two White House victories. In fact, Clinton did not win a majority of the White vote either time. He won the bulk of Black voters and just enough White voters to claim victory. With 90 percent of the Black vote, millions of first-time voters and a sufficient number of White voters, Obama can defeat McCain. Yes, he can.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach.