Six Questions, Washington Babylon — February 13, 2008, 1:08 pm

Six Questions for Cathy Allen on How the Democrats Will Run Against McCain

Cathy Allen is a Democratic political consultant and president of The Connections Group, based in Seattle, Washington. Her firm has worked for hundreds of successful political campaigns around the world, as well as for school districts, natural resource agencies, native tribes, and professional women’s organizations. Allen is a supporter of Hillary Clinton but she’s an admirer of Barack Obama as well. I recently spoke to her by phone about how the Democratic nominee should run against John McCain during the fall election.

1. John McCain came back from the dead in the Republican primaries. How strong of a candidate will he be this November?

He is very vulnerable. He is old news. He looks like someone who should be your grandfather–at a time that you, as a grandchild, think it’s your day. I see it as a generational election, especially if Obama is the nominee. He’s an exciting, inspirational speaker and next to him McCain looks like he’s from your grandfather’s generation. But it’s not just McCain’s age; it also has to do with the issues. McCain will be talking about military issues at a time that most people want to talk about jobs, the environment and affordability issues.

2. I spoke to a Republican consultant yesterday who said McCain’s age might actually be an asset, that he’ll look like an elder statesman and Obama will look like someone very young and inexperienced. Could Obama’s age play against him?

With Obama we will have hundreds of thousands of new voters brought into the process. Last weekend [at the Washington state caucuses] I watched thousands of people turn out to be Obama delegates. I was able to see firsthand as a Hillary delegate what that sort of turnout looks like. But whether it’s Obama or Hillary, it’s going to be about McCain being an older white guy who has a very different take on the world than the rest of us.

3. You live in Seattle, where I suspect the majority of people agree with you. But what about voters in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania? McCain’s take on the world might not be so out of step in those states.

I’ve conducted focus groups with all sorts of voters, young and old, Democrats, Republicans, and independents. People are so exhausted by the last eight years; I’m not seeing a lot of people who want to give the Republicans another chance. They are fed up. We’ve been dealt a stronger hand. People are tired of hearing about how you feed the war machine. I’ve seen the numbers and they just don’t lie. Tried-and-true Republican farmers are infuriated with what they have been fed. They feel duped. It goes to the question of: who are you going to trust now?

4. And what sort of a campaign would you run?

We should run a positive campaign. Democrats are excited. People who have never registered to vote and who have no faith in the system are truly engaged. I’ve been bracing for Swift Boat tactics against Obama but negative ads won’t work against him, they’ll have the reverse effect. At the same time, we need to keep the focus on the past eight years of dismal failures and embarrassment.

5. What are Obama’s strengths?

He can use his speaking abilities as a hammer. His speeches are something we haven’t heard in a long time. Emotion always trumps information – McCain would be the information campaign and Obama would be the emotion campaign. Some people will have a hard time voting for an African-American candidate or might see him as being beholden to younger voters, but his rhetoric inspires us. He is engaged and engaging. Also, there are a lot less negative hits against you when you’ve had a short career. There’s less to shoot at. The freshness will play for him.

6. And what if Hillary comes back and becomes the nominee?

It would be a totally different type of campaign. There’s a great difference between running for office and being in office. She runs for office very well versus the whirlwind of rhetoric that is Obama’s mainstay. He’s a rock star but she’s rock solid. She would win with women and could build bridges to young voters–not as much as Obama but enough to keep McCain on the run.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

March 2015

A Sage in Harlem

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Man Stopped

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Spy Who Fired Me

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Giving Up the Ghost

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Invisible and Insidious

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
No Slant to the Sun·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“She didn’t speak the language, beyond “¿cuánto?” and “demasiado,” but that didn’t stop her. She wanted things. She wanted life, new experiences, a change in the routine.”
Photograph © Stuart Franklin/Magnum Photos
[Browsings]
Burn After Reading·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

William Powell published The Anarchist Cookbook in 1971. He spent the next four decades fighting to take it out of print.
“The book has hovered like an awkward question on the rim of my consciousness for years.”
© JP Laffont/Sygma/Corbis
Article
The Fourth Branch·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Both the United States and the Soviet Union saw student politics as a proxy battleground for their rivalry.”
Photograph © Gerald R. Brimacombe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Article
The Spy Who Fired Me·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In industry after industry, this data collection is part of an expensive, high-tech effort to squeeze every last drop of productivity from corporate workforces.”
Illustration by John Ritter
Article
Invisible and Insidious·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly.”
Photograph © 2011 Massimo Mastrorillo and Donald Weber/VII

Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:

1

Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.

An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Driving Mr. Albert

By

He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.

Subscribe Today