Obama flashback: This McCain fellow is trying to distract you from the bad economy

Four years ago today, Barack Obama took the stage at the Richmond Coliseum in Virginia, to the warm reception of roaring crowds in the new swing state. Wearing a more relaxed smile than 2012’s Obama and clearly relishing the trail life, the then-senator from Illinois spoke for 30 minutes, introduced by proud “national co-chair of Obama for America” Gov. Tim Kaine.

This clip starts with a description of the state of the economy, which may sound largely familiar four years later— wages down, trouble making ends meet, putting away for retirement, and making house payments— and ends with Obama’s assertion that Sen. John McCain’s campaign was a small one engaged in distracting voters:

“Now, John McCain’s doing his best to change the subject. He wants to distract attention from the economy,” Obama said to a smattering of boos at the mention of his opponent’s name. “Sen. McCain’s campaign actually said a couple weeks ago, they were gonna launch a series of attacks on my character because, and I quote, ‘If we keep on talking about the economy, we’re gonna lose.’ Now, that’s a promise my opponent has kept. He’s been on the attack. That’s what you do when you’re out of ideas, you’re out of touch, and you’re running out of time.”

Click to watch:

Obama 2008

On the same day in 2008, Obama held a press conference on national security (it seems challengers were allowed to do that back then). Standing behind a podium emblazoned with “Judgment to Lead,” flanked by advisers, Obama touted an endorsement from Colin Powell and suggested collaboration between G-20 countries to solve international economic problems. Though he mentioned Afghanistan, Iraq, and al Qaeda, his message was mostly one of connecting increased economic performance at home to the promise of greater security from threats abroad.

He also had to contend with a gaffe from his vice presidential candidate, Joe Biden, who had said the day before that the young president would be tested were he to be elected:

And here’s the point I want to make. Mark my words. Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We’re about to elect a brilliant 47-year old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don’t remember anything else I said. Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. And he’s gonna have to make some really tough – I don’t know what the decision’s gonna be, but I promise you it will occur. As a student of history and having served with seven presidents, I guarantee you it’s gonna happen. I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate. And he’s gonna need help. And the kind of help he’s gonna need is, he’s gonna need you, not financially to help him, we’re gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it’s not gonna be apparent initially, it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right.

Obama got two questions about Biden at his press conference, and referred to the assertion as “rhetorical flourish” from “Joe.”

“Joe sometimes engages in rhetorical flourishes. But I think that his core point was that the next administration is going to be tested regardless of who it is,” Obama told reporters after meeting with his national security working group. “The next administration is going to be inheriting a whole host of really big problems and so the president is going to be tested and the question is will the next president meet that test by moving America in a new direction by sending a clear signal to the rest of the world that we are no longer about bluster and unilateralism and ideology but we’re about creating partnerships around the world to solve practical problems.”

Tonight, Mitt Romney will make the argument that notwithstanding Osama bin Laden’s killing, the president has been tested and it’s not apparent that he’s been right.

In other news of Oct. 22, 2008, the press was talking about Sarah Palin’s clothing budget.

The Gallup tracking poll had Obama up 11 points with registered voters, 52-41, and a Gallup/USA Today poll showed the two candidates tied in Ohio (Obama later won by 4). A CNN poll showed a 5-point Obama lead while Rasmussen showed 4. An AP poll gave hope to McCainiacs with a 1-point margin— Obama up 44-43 with likely voters— about which Ed and I were too optimistic. And, Politico suggested Pennsylvania was closer than it looked. The Keystone state is always such a tease.

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Jazz Shaw 5:01 PM on March 20, 2023