The Battle Begins
McCain vs. Obama.
11:00 PM, Feb 12, 2008 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
JOHN MCCAIN AND Barack Obama swept the Chesapeake Primaries, as expected. With his victories last night, McCain further solidified his status as the almost-certain nominee of his party. Obama, meanwhile, has taken a lead among delegates to the Democratic convention and is now arguably the frontrunner.
With the outcomes last night widely expected, aides to both Obama and McCain had plenty of time to craft victory speeches that would reflect their candidate's thinking on the state of the race. And with varying degrees of intensity, both men used that freedom to begin to frame a McCain-versus-Obama general election contest, something that is starting to look more likely than not. If that happens, viewers watching the speeches tonight saw a preview of the coming debate.
McCain, for his part, borrowed extensively from Hillary Clinton's dualist critique of Barack Obama: Hope is no substitute for action, and experience matters.
Here is the relevant excerpt:
When Omaba challenges McCain, he begins with a show of respect. "John McCain, the likely Republican nominee, is a hero. And we honor his service to our nation."
It is a signature Obama rhetorical technique. He offers praise for an individual, idea, or policy before calmly explaining why he holds something close to the opposite view. The effect is that listeners come away thinking that even where they disagree with Obama he is respectful of other views. (Obama supporters say that he is able to convey this respect because he is genuinely interested in ideas--including conservative, ideas.) In Iowa, back in December, I saw him do this several times on issues ranging from gun control to immigration. (See here for a long look at how he does it.)
In his speech last night in Madison, Wisconsin, Obama moved from his show of respect toward McCain to drawing sharp contrasts with him. "We honor his service but his priorities don't address the real problems of the American people because they are bound to the failed policies of the past."
Obama noted that although George Bush and Dick Cheney won't be on the ballot this November--loud applause--"the Bush-Cheney war and the Bush-Cheney tax cuts for the wealthy, those will be on the ballot. If I am the nominee, John McCain won't be able to say that I ever supported this war in Iraq, because I opposed it from the start. Senator McCain said the other day that we might be mired for a hundred years in Iraq. A hundred years, which is reason enough not to give him four years in the White House."
Then, Obama turned populist. "Instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Baghdad, we could have put that money into our schools and our hospitals, rebuilding our roads and bridges. And that's what the American people need us to do right now!"