dear obama,

Posted on October 28, 2007


We know that things haven’t been going swell for your presidential bid lately. Yes, we’ve all noticed how you have lost the momentum that you seem to have had at the start of your campaign.

You are trailing Hillary in the polls by a wide margin. Your other former bragging right of raising more campaign contributions than Hillary has also been snatched from you when she started revving things up recently and overtook you in the fundraising category.

But really, you should not, and cannot, shift from your earlier position of not focusing on criticizing your chief rival or refusing to run a negative and angry campaign. Nor should you play the dirty political game of attacking her policy positions. And attacking her character and perceived personality faults is an even bigger no-no.

Trust your gut, Obama. The reason you were such a hit was because you came into the game offering people hope and more importantly, the promise of being above politics as usual. People latched on to you because they believed that you were different from the tired old politicians that they had grown disillusioned with. You were fresh, you were positive and you offered them hope that not all politicians had to be negative and play dirty to win.

Instead what you ought to do now is not lose your nerve and start playing the kind of political game that voters hate about politicians. Run on your policies, your strengths and your convictions. It’s always better to take the high road and if you lose, you lose with your head held high. If you start attacking Hillary, you will not only disappoint those who support you and regard you as better than the rest, you’d also become just another sad politician who wants to win at all cost, compromising your beliefs and values, and losing the respect of your supporters. You’d look desperate and inexperienced, and these are words you do not want associated with you.

It makes you vulnerable to attacks yourself. Indeed Hillary’s spokesman Howard Wolfson had told the New York Times, in response to your newfound aggressiveness towards Hillary, “Senator Obama once promised Americans a politics of hope. But now that his campaign has stalled he is abandoning that strategy and is engaging in the same old-style personal attacks that he once rejected. We are confident that voters will reject this strategy, especially from a candidate who told us he would do better.”

Take a cue from McCain’s experience. In the 2000 elections, he had pledged not to go negative in his campaign ads. When he was under pressure from Bush and his camp, McCain’s campaign started panicking and backtracking from his original pledge. Foolishly, they started running negative ads attacking Bush in South Carolina. That was a death knell as far as McCain’s supporters were concerned. McCain was seen as just another cynical career politician who hits below the belt. As we now know, his campaign never recovered and Bush ended up winning the Republican Party’s nomination, and the presidency.

It’s really still early yet – polls may put Hillary out in front but it’s not sewn up water-tight for her. Remember, people like McCain and Howard Dean were the frontrunners too during the early stage, but eventually lost steam. Hillary might yet lose steam herself, and more dirt could be dug up on her in the coming months. It’s not like you’re already on the home stretch and all would be lost if you didn’t do something drastic now. So don’t resort to gutter politics. Rise above that.

Psst, one last thing – don’t waste your energy attacking Clinton on her Social Security stand. The American people don’t put that issue at the top of their agenda. Work on the things that matter, like the Iraq war, health care or the economy. Stick to spelling out your plans on those areas in detail and convince the electorate on your policies, not the weaknesses of other candidates. Display strength of character, not your ability to tear other characters apart. Now that would shift the conversation and give your campaign the type of publicity and the support that you need.