- Nuanced, reactive, and vague arguments about "ideas" that usually end up with Democrats in the loss column.
- A realistic and proactive approach that gives Democrats a fighting chance:
Stuff like the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry and McCain's Celeb/P Diddy assault on Obama aren't really about the attacks themselves. In themselves, they're often too cartoonish to be believed in any literal sense. What they're about is smacking the other guy around and making him take it. There's no better way to demonstrate someone's lack of toughness or strength than to attack them and show they are either unwilling or unable to defend themselves -- thus the rough slang I used above. That not only makes the other guy look weak. It also transforms him into an object of contempt, which together are politically fatal. It's this meta-message of weakness that resonates far beyond the literal claims. And it's this that Democrats so often seem to miss -- explaining the factual inaccuracies of the claims, demanding that the attacks stop, all the while reinforcing the intended message of the attacks in the first place.
You can even catch a hint of the mentality in the McCain camp's huffing and puffing Thursday afternoon. The new and somewhat improbable line from the McCain camp is that they've actually been doing their best to go easy on Obama, to hold back the stuff that would really make him suffer. But now that Obama's gone ahead and raised McCain's inability to remember how many houses, now he's really gonna get it ....
In effect, the devastating Rezko ad McCain says it never wanted to have to run is pretty weak. Which is pretty much what you'd expect for an ad put together in three or four hours by a campaign shell-shocked by a media firestorm they couldn't put out by screaming POW, POW, POW.