Wright Way or the Right Way: What Obama Needs to Do Now

By Ed O'Keefe

Apr 30, 2008 8:54am

Opinion by Matthew Dowd, ABC News Political Contributor

So, let’s focus on Barack Obama and his campaign and see where things stand in aftermath of latest Rev. Wright events.

First, what Rev. Wright has done in last few days is, in my view, one the starkest examples of somebody acting to solely serve his own ego. It obviously didn’t help Obama. It didn’t help African-American churches, didn’t help African-Americans, and certainly wasn’t a positive step for race relations in this country. It was all about Wright’s own self. 

Second, Obama’s statements in last 24 hours of being passionately critical of Wright and saying he was out of step with America were the only choice he had left. It was his only option and he seized it well.

Third, if Obama proceeds to get the nomination, then this period will have been crucial for him as a stepping stone to winning the presidency in November. This issue has been vetted and now the conclusion is at hand. It will not be able to be effectively used in the fall campaign. While it is a negative today, that is a huge plus in the general election for Obama.

So where does Barack go from here?

The biggest damage to him is that he held a brand of being an unconventional candidate in a time America wants a shift from the conduct of politics as usual. But he and his campaign have seemed very conventional of late. 

The Obama camp relied on paid advertising when most of us have known since 2004 that paid political ads are ineffective at best in a presidential race. He has outspent Clinton by more than two to one in Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania and lost all three. And his campaign appears to be targeted at base Democratic primary voters exclusively.

My suggestions:

1. Return to the unconventional and unexpected. Take some risks on events and don’t worry about Indiana and North Carolina stops. This is a national campaign and Obama needs to have some events or speeches that nationalize the race again. For example, hold a big march in Washington, D.C. Confront McCain in Arizona.   

2. Devote less campaign resources to paid ads and more to press communications and grassroots. He should only use paid ads as a vehicle to feed press stories. Start running the general election campaign now and target ads at McCain.

3. Rebuild his bipartisan credentials. Show he can win and do well bringing a diverse coalition together for November. Forget that this is a primary. Right now it’s all about convincing superdelegates, party leaders and activists that he is prepared for the general election.

4. Go back to having fun. Don’t look so burdened down by the campaign. Show voters that you enjoy what your doing and that you have the energy and humor they want to see in a candidate. Voters want a candidate who enjoys the trail and the battle, not one that seems beleaguered by it.

Obama is still on track to secure the nomination, but he definitely doesn’t want to barely limp over the finish line. 

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