I Think It’s Safe To Say Obama Won The “Tire Gauge” Battle

Ken AshfordElection 2008, Energy and Conservation1 Comment

Obama, yesterday, in Berea, Ohio:

"Let me make a point about efficiency, because my Republican opponents – they don’t like to talk about efficiency…"

"You know the other day I was in a town hall meeting and I laid out my plans for investing $15 billion a year in energy efficient cars and a new electricity grid and somebody said, ‘well, what can I do? what can individuals do?’

"So I told them something simple… I said, ‘You know what? You can inflate your tires to the proper levels and that if everybody in America inflated their tires to the proper level, we would actually probably save more oil than all the oil we’d get from John McCain drilling right below his feet there, or wherever he was going to drill.’

"So now the Republicans are going around – this is the kind of thing they do. I don’t understand it! They’re going around, they’re sending like little tire gauges, making fun of this idea as if this is ‘Barack Obama’s energy plan.’

"Now two points, one, they know they’re lying about what my energy plan is, but the other thing is they’re making fun of a step that every expert says would absolutely reduce our oil consumption by 3 to 4 percent. It’s like these guys take pride in being ignorant.

"You know, they think it is funny that they are making fun of something that is actually true. They need to do their homework. Because this is serious business. Instead of running ads about Paris Hilton and Britney Spears they should go talk to some energy experts and actually make a difference."

(Emphasis mine)

McCain, later yesterday:

The surprise came during a telephone town hall meeting McCain held on Tuesday with voters in Pennsylvania.
“Obama said a couple of days ago says we all should inflate our tires. I don’t disagree with that. The American Automobile Association strongly recommends it,” McCain said.

So, to sum up, the McCain campain spent several days mocking Obama for a common-sensical answer to a question about "what we as individuals can do, right now, to help with the energy crisis", and then, after days of mocking Obama, agreed that Obama’s was actually correct and followed the advice of energy experts.


Good analysis from Jonathan Singer:

The McCain campaign appears intent on trying to win the daily media battles — even to the bane of crafting a broader narrative on what their campaign is about, what their candidate stands for, and what type of President he would be. I’ve always thought this to be a risky strategy; as much as the daily ups and downs affect the ultimate outcome, in the end voters decide on the feelings they have on a candidate, which stem not only from the back and forth but even more from events like the debates and the conventions.

But it is a tremendously risky strategy when the meme starts to take hold that a candidate will say anything — even things that he distances himself from just days later — to get elected. We’ve already seen this from McCain, who has changed his position on almost every single major (and even minor) issue facing the country, and whose campaign has been forced to walk back criticisms of Obama (think the visit to the military base in Germany or the claims about Obama’s tax plan that were exposed as wholly false). Now McCain is being forced to back away from yet another claim, again feeding the story line that he will say anything (even claims he must walk back just days later) to become President. And as this meme takes hold, it gets that much more difficult for McCain to claw his way to the White House.

(Emphasis mine).

And indeed, it’s true.  I’ve picked up a new theme in the bowels of the lefty blogosphere: "McCain doesn’t speak for the McCain campaign".  That’s probably true, and should be repeated often.  It seems that McCain’s campaign is dead set on positioning McCain in ridiculous positions, mocking Obama, and then McCain walks back a few days later. 

Maybe this is intentional.  It’s a way of smearing Obama without having McCain smear Obama.  But if that’s the case, it’s not destined to work.  After all, few people are going to distinguish between the McCain campaign and McCain himself, especially when he uses attack ads that end with "I’m John McCain, and I approved this message".  It also is going to raise questions about the kind of leader McCain will make — I mean, if it appears that he cannot control the message being propogated by his campaign staff, then how can he lead a country?

*** UPDATE *** Obama is taking advantage.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Wednesday taunted Republican candidate John McCain for agreeing on the importance of keeping tires inflated as an energy-conservation measure after having joined the GOP in mocking the idea.

“It will be interesting to watch this debate between John McCain and John McCain,” Obama said as he campaigned in Indiana with Sen. Evan Bayh, widely considered a top-tier candidate for running mate.