Goal: Akin mania
Claire McCaskill will be the belle of the ball in Charlotte. And she’ll have plenty of ladies-in-waiting who have flooded the airwaves this week to lead the charge against Akin’s comments. They’ll be tying the congressman to the GOP ticket at every opportunity, as well as the GOP platform and any other item or person Akin has ever touched in an effort to paint the GOP as radical. The backfire potential? Focusing more on the other party and its agenda rather than promoting the Democrats’ agenda stokes what has turned off a lot of moderates and independents in this race: the “lesser of two evils” race to the bottom.
Goal: War on women
Sandra Fluke is speaking — need we say more? The Democrats are using the war on women meme revitalized by the Akin drama. But if they’re smart, they won’t make it all about abortion. The lesser-recognized planks of the war on women platform including the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Violence Against Women Act would be safer bets for greater mileage for the party, and talking about broader women’s rights rather than just reproductive ones.
Goal: Budget scares
This won’t focus on the fact that Senate Democrats last offered a budget eons ago. This is where Dems try to capitalize on the vulnerability of Romney’s running mate. They come into this convention with a tactical leg up as they’ve been flogging Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” budget blueprint since its inception. The Ryan budget is wonkish, but to win on this strategy Democrats will attempt to devote plenty of verbiage to good old-fashioned non-wonkish scare tactics to strike doubt in the hearts of undecideds. Think the verbal equivalence of Ryan pushing wheelchair-bound granny off the cliff.
Goal: Economic transference
The new unemployment numbers will be out the morning after Obama gives his acceptance speech. The president’s oration skills have slipped since his grand 2008 Denver moment, but he’ll have to try to talk himself out of this one in advance. His campaign speeches have been full of talking about trying to pull the country out of the mess he inherited, a bevy of Bush-blaming. But to get a second chance with independents who supported him in 2008 and others who have tiptoed out of his column, Obama will have roll out the carpet for the latest labor statistics (of which there are only three more reports until Election Day) with a buck-stops-with-me message.
Goal: Populism sans hope and change
This is also known as: Romney is a rich guy with a car elevator who doesn’t care about the very poor and cannot simply begin to understand real people like you. Despite his gaffe-factory headlines, Joe Biden has been canvassing the campaign trail with this real-guy message (and does it much better than Obama) in small-town diners and the like; there are some members of Congress who do the populist message well, too. Obama leaned on this in 2008, but then fell short on the hope and change promises. Can they stoke populist sentiment leaning on a class-warfare message? They’ll try.
Goal: Reigniting the 2008 flame
And herein lies a huge reason why they’re stoking the Akin controversy for all it’s worth — it’s easier to get precinct-walkers and voters when you can offer a bogeyman in the flesh. Without hope and change, and with the “give me more time to change” mantra, Democrats need something else in the arsenal to get the original Obama voters back and excited. And most of this falls squarely on Obama’s shoulders in what may be the most critical speech of his career.
Goal: Seizing the advantage of being the second convention
This means rewriting the script at the last minute to integrate every foible or gaffe that emerged from the Tampa party. It means digesting every poll post-RNC and adjusting the message accordingly. The Democrats get to be proactive and reactive in the second half.