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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Race to the Bottom

If you're thinking to yourself that there's little more than two weeks before election day and Obama has a solid lead in the polls, don't be so sure.

Yes, it looks good for the Democrats. But you need to play close attention to the McCain campaign's final weeks' strategy under and just above the radar. McCain's fina strategy relies on two pillars. The first is aggressively playing to voters' fears of electing a black president. Make no mistake: not just his campaign in a general sense, but McCain himself and his top handful of advisers, are banking on the residual racism in a changing America to get them over the finish line. The second is an aggressive use of innuendo to convince casual voters that Obama is in league with Islamic terrorists bent on killing Americans.

Many people have asked whether enough Americans really care any more about the cultural convulsions of the 1960s. The answer? It doesn't matter. For the McCain campaign, Bill Ayers has nothing to do with 60s radicalism. Ayers is nothing more than a tool that permits McCain, Palin and all their surrogates to use the noun "terrorist" in polite company in the same sentence as "Obama," over and over and over again. It allows them to cobble together a 'respectable' version of those Obama smear emails they can push in commercials and robocalls and surrogate talking points every hour of every day.

Stripped down to its components McCain's message to voters is this: "Don't forget. He's definitely black. And he may be a terrorist." That's the message. The nuts and bolts is a concerted effort to keep Democrats from voting -- through intimidation, by striking new voters from the rolls, which is going to happen to lots of them, clogging polling stations to create delays that keep late day (predominantly) Obama voters from voting altogether. Smears in the air and voter suppression on the ground.

Many people say, well ... all this stuff just hasn't worked. But the truth is that the really corrupt and vicious part of McCain's effort only comes now because it's only in the last couple weeks that you can pull stuff that the press won't get to call you on before election day -- after which it doesn't matter. Will it take Obama down? So far McCain's gutter campaign has hurt him more than helped. But there's no reason to be sure it will continue that way. And many Obama supporters, sure the election is basically wrapped up, appear ready to slack in the stretch and let McCain smear and cheat his way into office.

--Josh Marshall

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