Aug 22, 2008

The Conventions

In today's Wall Street Journal Karl Rove previews the two conventions and sets out the objectives the two candidates need to achieve at them

For McCain

Mr. McCain's handlers must achieve three things. First is a greater public awareness of the character that makes him worthy of the Oval Office. Mr. McCain's warrior ethic makes it difficult for him to share his interior life, though his conversation with Rick Warren did provide moving glimpses into it. To win, Mr. McCain will need to show more.
Mr. McCain's second goal is to persuade Americans he can tackle domestic challenges. Voters trust him as commander in chief. The doubts are whether he understands their concerns about their jobs, their family's health care, their children's education, the culture's coarseness, and their neighborhood's safety.
Third, Mr. McCain must show voters he remains a maverick who will, as president, work across party lines as he has as senator. Naming a Democrat or two he will draw into his cabinet would remind people of his bi-partisanship.

For Obama

Mr. Obama, on the other hand, needs to reassure Americans he is up to the job. Voters recognize he represents change, yet they are unsettled. Does he have the experience to be president? There are growing concerns, which the McCain campaign has tapped, that Mr. Obama is an inexperienced celebrity-politician smitten with his own press clippings.
And is there really a "there" there? Besides withdrawing from Iraq, it's not clear what issues are really important to him. Does he do his homework or is he intellectually lazy? Is there an issue on which he would do the unpopular thing or break with party orthodoxy? Is his candidacy about important answers or simply about us being the "change we've been waiting for"? Substance will help diminish concerns about his heft and fitness for the job.
Mr. Obama's performance this summer has added to voter doubts, putting a large burden on his acceptance speech. There are challenges in a speech staged with 75,000 screaming partisans at INVESCO Field. Will it deepen the impression that he's more of a rock star than a person of serious public purpose, or can Mr. Obama have the serious conversation he needs to reassure Americans?