This entire exercise in announcing a running mate for Barack Obama has provided one puzzlement after another. The campaign at first said that they would announce Obama’s selection in the week before the convention — a wise choice, given Obama’s steep drop in the polling and the limited amount of time between the Democratic convention and that of the GOP the following week. Obama had an opportunity to demonstrate his gravitas and wisdom with the most important decision he has to make in this race, and enjoy a media blackout of McCain’s suddenly powerful campaign.
Their first fumble came when Team Obama decided to gimmick the announcement by texting it to the world. As a campaign strategy, it resembled late-night advertising for dating services. It hardly lent any dignity to the Obama campaign, and made this critical decision into a cheap marketing strategy.
But even that looks wise next to the strangely delayed rollout — now at least day later than Team Obama led people to believe. Instead of gaining extra media attention, they have wound up burying the story on the weekend. The VP announcement will gain Obama little earned media, and most people will have other activities keeping them busy rather than paying much attention to the move. That makes perfect sense as a strategy — if Obama’s embarrassed about his pick.
In fact, one has to wonder whether Obama really had made up his mind, or whether his first or even second choice didn’t turn him down. That would explain the delays in the announcement, and the apparent disorganization of Team Obama in handling an event that should have underscored the seriousness of their candidate. After all, they set the expectation that the running mate announcement would come this week, and they missed their own target.
Not only has Obama turned this into a game show, he has also now built up expectations to the point where almost any selection would be a letdown. The two rumored picks, Joe Biden and Evan Bayh, do not scream excitement. They don’t have the kind of star status that would justify this kind of NFL Draft Day engineering. Only Hillary Clinton or Al Gore might approach that kind of celebrity. Hillary would be better announced at the convention than on a Saturday afternoon, and Gore has already done the VP gig for eight years.
Obama has made a mess out of this announcement, and blown a natural opportunity to demonstrate his leadership. He also has given John McCain a wide opening to handle his own running-mate announcement in a manner which will demonstrate the Gravitas Gap which has widened considerably this month between the two candidates.