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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

Seinfeld Strategy Keeps Working for McCain

June 6, 2008

With the Democratic presidential primary process over there remains a lot of questions on both the Democratic and Republican side. Both candidates are gearing up for the general election, and the issue of Hillary Clinton continues to hang over the process.

It’s apparent that Clinton wants to be vice president, and she would be Obama’s strongest choice – although she may be his weakest choice as well. Clinton’s surrogates are campaigning for her to get the nod but this could work against her. It is also possible for the convention delegates to play a role in the selection process – after all it is the delegates who actually nominate both the nominee and his or her running mate.

Clinton has a lot of strengths. She is a good campaigner who has proven she can win in swing states and is popular among women, seniors, Hispanics, and Reagan Democrats. These are voters that Obama is losing but needs if he is to be elected President over John McCain.

There are equally compelling reasons why Obama shouldn’t pick Clinton. She is not the fresh change Obama has been championing, and her position on the ticket will further energize and unite Republicans behind McCain. There is also the issue of merging these two rival campaign staffs as well as the critical question of carving out a suitable campaign role for former President Bill Clinton.

Finally, there is the compatibility question. Obama may simply not want Clinton on the ticket with him which is the reason that in the end it doesn’t look like Clinton will be picked.

Still, Obama has to be careful in handling this situation. Clinton’s convention delegates want her on the ticket, and you can bet there will be a full demonstration on her behalf at the convention. If not handled right, things could also get testy on the convention floor itself.

Imagine how times have changed.  In 1960 it was Philip Graham, publisher of the Washington Post and Newsweek, who first proposed the idea of a Kennedy-Johnson ticket to Jack Kennedy at breakfast on the morning of his nomination.  Kennedy initially brushed the idea off but later that evening decided Johnson was indeed his man after securing the Democratic nomination at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles.

McCain is also pondering his running mate selection. One name conservatives would like to see is Mitt Romney. Romney helps in Michigan, Nevada , and Colorado – states where Obama believes he can win and he helps tremendously in two other areas: fundraising and an understanding of how the national economy works -- two problem areas for McCain. But do they get along - that’s a key question.

McCain has had the advantage of getting his campaign organized for the fall. He has a talented group of operatives working for him, and they know the election will probably come down to the final weeks and that it will be close. They need to stay the course and keep close to Obama and watch for him to make mistakes. It’s a good strategy – a "Seinfeld" strategy.

The McCain camp has been busy and active – but to the general public – with the Democrats fighting it out – McCain has been largely invisible. Yet he keeps climbing in the polls. This is because of Obama’s problems with his personal associations – namely persons involved in his Chicago church. These issues have dogged Obama and allowed McCain to reap the benefit without seemingly doing much of anything – or as in the case of "Seinfeld" – the whole thing has been about nothing.

Yet it’s been successful. The McCain campaign is much like the fictional character George Costanza on "Seinfeld." In describing his idea for a television series George pitched a CBS executive asking, "What did you do this morning?" The executive responded, "I got up." Costanza retorted, "That’s a show."

Now we know. Success is sometimes just getting up in the morning.

Ask John McCain.