Published: Sep 16, 2008 08:26 PM
Modified: Sep 16, 2008 12:26 PM
Is there anything old North Carolina political wisdom can teach Barack Obama as he responds to John McCain's choice of a running mate?
Here is a summary of some good advice I have heard over the years from North Carolina political old timers.
1. The Battleship Rule -- set your course and stay on it. Your campaign is like a warship that has an assigned mission. If you change direction every time an enemy ship fires a shot across your bow, you will let your enemy set your course for you. And your enemy will not lead you where you need to go. Translation: Do not let the Sarah Palin phenomenon turn your campaign away from its strengths of hope, change, and strength for our country.
2. The Sanford Rule -- respond with speed and strength. Back in 1950 when a young Terry Sanford was trying to help Frank Graham win a U.S. Senate election, he saw Graham ignore his opponent's substantive negative messages. Graham lost. So, in Sanford's own campaigns for governor in 1960 and the U.S Senate in 1986, he responded quickly to every important negative message against him. His response always took the opponent's claim and turned it around into something that showed Sanford's positive message. He showed that he was a fighter, but he did not violate the "Battleship Rule." Were Sanford in Obama's shoes today, he would be pounding McCain for his weak, impulsive, careless choice of a running mate. Nor would Sanford bow to the whines of Republicans that Palin is being unfairly treated by an examination of her record. I can hear him saying, "Since McCain forgot about vetting Palin, somebody has to do the job for the American people."
3. The Sheriff's Rule -- don't despair if the sheriff is for your opponent. In the old days in North Carolina, sheriffs had great power on election day. Therefore every candidate wanted the sheriff's support. However, the Sheriff's Rule reminded candidates that, no matter how popular the sheriff was, he also had lots of enemies. Those enemies would be good prospects to be supporters of anyone the sheriff was against. The message for Obama in the Sheriff's Rule is this: While Sarah Palin is gathering supporters for McCain, she is also making many enemies. These people are waiting for Obama to rally them.
4. The "Pay Attention to Your Base" Rule -- never forget the importance of keeping your core base energized. John McCain had this rule in mind when he chose Palin. Obama needs to tend to his base, but not pander to it as McCain did. (See the next rule.) Obama's supporters deserve to get the information, positive about their candidates and negative about their opponents, that give them the spirit to work enthusiastically. For instance, they should be asking their friends every day, "When do you think Sarah Palin is going to stop lying about the Bridge to Nowhere?"
5. The "Remember the Middle" Rule -- elections are usually decided by the "persuadable" voters. Usually they are moderates. A candidate who is perceived as too far to the left or to the right loses those voters. McCain probably forgot about this rule when he chose his running mate.
6. Finally, the "Keep Your Sense of Humor" Rule -- stay cheerful and upbeat and tell jokes that make a point. This one came from Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr:
"Does anybody know what the difference between a bulldog and a hockey mom is?" Answer: "The bulldog gets vetted."
D.G. Martin will discuss this column at 8:18 a.m. Sept. 17 on WCHL-1360 AM.