Both the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns released statements responding to the foreign policy speech that John McCain gave today. Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton released a statement that tried to contrast the old (McCain) with the new (Obama).
“John McCain is determined to carry out four more years of George Bush’s failed policies, including an open-ended war in Iraq that has cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars while making us less safe. Barack Obama will change our foreign policy and renew America’s leadership by responsibly ending the war in Iraq, finishing the fight in Afghanistan, and focusing on the 21st century challenges that conventional Washington has ignored for too long – al Qaeda’s core leadership and nuclear proliferation, poverty and genocide, climate change and disease,” Burton said.
The Clinton statement tried to tie McCain to President Bush. “While there is much to praise in Senator McCain’s speech, he and I continue to have a fundamental disagreement on Iraq. Like President Bush, Senator McCain continues to oppose a swift and responsible withdrawal from Iraq. Like President Bush, Senator McCain discounts the warnings of our senior military leadership of the consequences of the Iraq war on the readiness of our armed forces, and on the need to focus on the forgotten front line in Afghanistan. Like President Bush, Senator McCain wants to keep us tied to another country’s civil war, and said “it would be fine with me” if U.S. troops were in Iraq for 50 or even 100 years. That in a nutshell is the Bush/McCain Iraq policy.”
Even though both of these statements made the same basic point that a vote for McCain is a vote for more war, each of the campaigns showed a little of the strategy behind how they would plan to approach a campaign against John McCain. Obama would likely make much the same argument that he has used against Clinton that it isn’t experience, but judgment that matters most. I would look for the Obama people to use the age issue by subtly linking McCain to the past as often as they can.
The Clinton campaign would want to make the general election about George W. Bush, not John McCain. It seems that they think that Clinton’s best chance at victory comes by turning John McCain into Bush’s ideological heir. I think that Obama would have the easier time against McCain.
Clinton has too much baggage, and she runs the risk of the general election becoming about her. Plus, the visual contrast created by McCain and Obama sharing a debate stage would make a powerful impression on voters. Not surprisingly, the two Democrats have similar messages, but the difference between victory and defeat could be the way that they are delivered in the fall.
For more on McCain’s speech, click here.