It appears to me that the McCain campaign may be executing a classic “Race? Not me!” campaign.
The past 24 hours reflect exactly how to pull it off with nary a fingerprint that matters.
First you help inject race into the campaign and raise its focus as an issue (as the McCain campaign did yesterday with a little door opening from Obama himself).
Second – this unleashes energy and anger in the African American community (energy that often the African American candidate, Obama, can not control). Leaders like James Clyburn take to the airwaves – and cable channels have two African Americans debate who is or isn’t raising race. In any case black faces dominate the cable airwaves and some of those faces are angry.
Third – McCain then appears to speak in front of an all black audience. White swing voters think “see, he isn’t racist”. And if the crowd applauds so much the better, if it boos him for tactics real or imagined white swing voters see a white guy “who is at least trying” and angry blacks who are not being duly appreciative of his effort– either way it isn’t good for Obama. McCain speaks today before the largely African American National Urban League.
Ever since McCain’s NAACP speech that seemed to me to be directed at white swing voters and not at African Americans I have believed that the McCain campaign is adept at understanding how to raise race as an issue and use it to its advantage.
Is a pattern emerging?
Note: In 1982 I served as Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley’s Deputy Campaign Manager for Governor of California. A lot has been made of the so called “Bradely Effect” — I may have been only in my 20’s at the time — but I saw, first hand, a campaign that used the “Race? Not me” tactic with success.