Posted at 8:34 a.m. ET
There are some signs that Barack Obama may realize he has a bit of a problem. The Politico reports:
TERRE HAUTE, Ind.—His shirtsleeves are rolled up higher, his tone is a bit more biting. Stirring up supporters at a fairgrounds show barn here with a sharp critique of John McCain, Barack Obama looks and sounds like a candidate who realizes time is running out.
Haven't seen any observation like that so far in this campaign. Obama has been looking at numbers.
With an expiration date in sight on a presidential campaign that once seemed interminable, Obama enters the final 58 days with the polls tight, his opponents appropriating his mantra of change, and the political deck reshuffled with a new wild card in the first female Republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin.
I wonder if he's thinking, "I should've picked Hillary." If he had, his current problems might have been avoided. He left an opening for McCain to choose a woman, and McCain chose.
Obama arrived in this battleground state Saturday with a renewed urgency and a modified stump speech, delivering his most unforgiving assessment of his challengers since the Democratic National Convention, when the Illinois senator began lambasting McCain as someone who “doesn’t get it.”
And the more he does this, the more he sounds like a conventional politician. He risks losing the enthusiasm of his supporters, many of them young, who saw him as something different. He isn't different.
Honing an “us-versus-them” battle cry, Obama is positioning himself as the champion of the working class. Venturing into towns and counties in the past week that Hillary Rodham Clinton carried by 2-to-1 margins in the Democratic primary, Obama could sound strikingly similar to his one-time rival.
“They haven’t spent any time talking about problems that ordinary Americans are going through every single day,” Obama said last week in York, Pa., echoing a theme repeated throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Michigan. “Not a word about how we are going to make college more affordable, how we are going to create more jobs here in the United States. Not a word about how to increase people’s incomes.
Apparently, he hasn't been listening to Sarah. Sarah Palin exudes a genuineness on bread-and-butter issues that Obama can't hope to match. She's been there, struggled to make ends meet, and never pulled in the fortunes that the Obamas made. Obama is late on this one.
On Saturday, standing on a show barn floor layered with hay, Obama feigned disbelief as he railed against McCain for telling Republican convention delegates last week that “change is coming” to Washington.
“Now think about this coming from the party that’s been in charge for 8 years, they’ve been running the show,” Obama said. “John McCain brags, ‘90% of the time I have voted with George Bush. He and I, we were right there’ and suddenly he’s the change agent. Hah!
“What are these guys talking about?” Obama asked near the end of his riff. “Do you think we haven’t been paying attention over the past 8 years?”
The trouble is, McCain and Palin have now successfully carved out an image of themselves as renegades, and both have records to prove it. Where's Obama's actual record? He's never taken on any entrenched interest. The McCain ads will hammer that home.
You get the sense that the McCain team has outmaneuvered the Obama group, and that it's starting to show. Just look at the two conventions. The Democratic convention was a coronation. The Republican convention was scrappy and alive. The Dems connected with the political establishment and the self-appointed "observers." The Republicans connected with Sarah Palin's people. Impact made.
September 7, 2008.