June 10th, 2008
05:01 PM ET

Advice to Obama: Take a break

David Gergen
CNN Sr. Political Analyst
Fmr. Presidential Adviser

The fight between Barack Obama and John McCain over the economy is warming up so fast that it almost matches the blistering heat up and down the East Coast. Obama seized the initiative yesterday with his speech in North Carolina, while McCain counter-punched right back today when he spoke in Washington, D.C.

On strict debating points, they seemed to be pretty close to a draw. But the recent spate of bad economic news - from rising unemployment to rising gas prices to rising interest rates in Europe - will almost certainly help Obama. Perhaps that is one reason why he has been edging up in the polls against McCain in the past few days: a week ago, an average of the polls (as reported by RealClearPolitics.com), was 1.4 percent; now it is 4.3. Not a huge jump but enough to take notice.

Even so, there is a growing question of whether Obama should keep on campaigning in the way he is. I was surprised when I learned that he was hitting the road for two weeks to advance his economic views in key states. He was smart in one fundamental sense: he needed to seize the initiative from McCain and he needed to frame the national campaign more fully around the economy and less about Iraq. Both will strengthen him. But does he really need to have two straight weeks of more campaigning?

For one thing, voters almost certainly need a break from the relentless and long primary season. Equally important, Obama and his team need a physical break. And I have a distinct sense that he also needs to take a break intellectually so that he can spend some quiet time assembling and talking with heavy hitters on economic and national security matters.

McCain gave an excellent speech on nuclear weapons policy a couple of weeks ago after conferring with some top notch advisers like George Shultz and Henry Kissinger. Obama's speech yesterday on the economy made some good headlines butif you read the substance, it is a bit of a mish mash. Where are the Bob Rubin's and Larry Summers' who should be sitting down with him and talking through the dramatic changes that are sweeping across the economy?

To be sure, Obama has plenty of work to do this summer. A trip to Europe and the Middle East should very much be on his agenda. So should the assemblage of key campaign teams in swing states. And the selection of a vice president, the recruiting of Hillary Clinton supporters, etc., etc. There is much to be done. But it would be good for everyone if both Obama and McCain also take a long, healthy break before the fall campaign begins in earnest.

Filed under: Barack Obama • David Gergen • John McCain • Raw Politics
soundoff (242 Responses)
  1. Swatantra

    Don't worry about Obama.

    Maybe you aren't used to seeing a strong, healthy man in his prime in action. All he needs to keep going day after day is a good meal and a good night's sleep and he can sustain this pace .
    His heart is in it and he is committed to our goal.
    His staff is all on board with this regimen.
    Only tired senile old men like John McCain can't imagine how he can keep it up.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:46 am |
  2. J. Marc


    Didn't John Kerry take a break after wrapping up the nomination? If memory serves, that's when the swift boating began..and he never recovered.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:46 am |
  3. Maggie

    Well he's not going to get many breaks or vacations, if at all, when he is president! But does he "need" a vacation? If so then how is he going to handle 4 years of nearly-constant work? I'm also wondering how Obama and/or McCain taking a vacation will be a "break" for voters. Will the media stop doing election coverage during that time?

    June 11, 2008 at 9:46 am |
  4. juan.

    That's a good idea but he can take a break but not a long one McCain has been out there longer than he has so he had that lead on getting people to know him now Obama needs the rest cause he had a huge hard primary race and he should be exhausted but if he is tired and if he realy need that break and if he doesn't take it it must be cause he really cares about being president and change the way things are done in the white house and so forth. I believe that he is human and must rest for his mental and physical health but he must first and most be be strong and my friends that faith that he has shown those values and the believe in that together as anation we can make things better lets not critisise

    June 11, 2008 at 9:43 am |
  5. Greg-Tampa, FL

    Although it makes sense for Obama to take a break PHYSICALLY, it may not be the best idea STRATEGICALLY. I don't think that Barack wants to put across a message that he is wounded and weak and the Republican War Machine has him on the ropes. I personally think he should. He won't have to worry about the campaign trail much during that time because McSame is such a bad speaker that it would take him 2 weeks to convey a powerful, clear message attacking Barack – something Barack could do in 20 minutes.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:42 am |
  6. Janiece

    All you Hillary haters out there

    Michelle Obama is Hillary on steroids

    June 11, 2008 at 9:40 am |
  7. Joseph Adewole

    Barack, The Lord is your strength....play it cool.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:40 am |
  8. Rick

    This is to all of the "I'm a Hillary supporter but..." bloggers out there...STOP! No more. No one cares to read these blogs because they simply are assinine. If you think McCain is a better candidate to Obama by all means vote Republican but if you take your civic responsibilities so calously to vote out of vengenence do America a favor and stay home on election night. Do you think this is some kind of high school game? This election has to do with real substantive matters. Grow up and understand your candidate lost and the world still revolves around the sun.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:40 am |
  9. Jan, Illinois

    For Zadah- aren't you just the smartest little thing? What exactly will voting against your beliefs accomplish? Is that your definition of democracy? Abuse the freedom that hundreds of thousands of braver souls fought and died to protect, just to prove how clever you are? Perhaps the right to vote should be contingent upon passing a basic intelligence test.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:39 am |
  10. bluebird

    Hillary would not have needed a break. She out paced him in the last 16 months while he had to take TWO vacations. Must be the smoking.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:39 am |
  11. Jude

    Oh yes, please, by all means take a break.

    Can we get him a pillow too? You know, this campaigning stuff is hard. A lot harder than, say, running the free world...

    Give me a break. Your gushing and cheerleading is only overshadowed by your bias.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:37 am |
  12. Lucille

    The primary and election season should be limited to two months.
    I am completely burned out on Obama. I am also completely burned out on the news media which is hardly objective or professional at this point in time. My other opinion is that if you are running for office, you should not be allowed to be an absentee senator, governor, etc. No other person would have that type of latitude in their employment situation.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:37 am |
  13. Southerner

    Why does he need a break? All he ever does is read recycled Deval Patrick speeches off a teleprompter anyway. How hard can that be?

    June 11, 2008 at 9:36 am |
  14. Obamasarus Rex

    The man NEEDS rest but the man cant AFFORD rest at this point. McCain had a long spring to rest up and come out of the box chucking. This is why the GOP loved this primary war..It leaves the DEM candidate in a weary and drosy state. McCain knows his ONLY chance to beat Obama head on is if he continually hammers him while he is in a physically and emotionaly weakend state. Dirty pool old man....dirty pool...but hey that's "politics" right? Oh and as for Hilary running in '12..she prob will (assuming Obama doesnt re-run)..but she will just lose again like she did this time unless she heads back to elementary school and learns that 2+2 DOES infact equal 4.

    Obama 08' / '12
    Get ready for the Big-O America.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:34 am |
  15. Michael

    I think it is quite shameful that CNN is doing such a lopsided job on political coverage. To play a 10 second clip from an Obama speech and then have a McCain supporter (”expert”) bash him and pick at it for 5 to 6 minutes for each point is a somewhat egregious travesty of journalism. If you are trying to organize a debate, do so. If you want to fairly discuss an issue, then you need to allow both sides equal opportunity to respond in point and counterpoint.
    How much are they getting paid for this sort of pro-McCain chicanery?

    June 11, 2008 at 9:34 am |
  16. Eben

    The man is on a mission to become the president of the United States of America. Let's say he is the president today, would you all be saying the same thing? He needs to gear up for the task ahead and the only way I know how is to be ready. Keep going Mr. President and make sure you maintain the lead you already have.

    Chantilly, VA

    June 11, 2008 at 9:32 am |
  17. Rosa

    ............and so now, Obama has to do a crash course on the subjects of running our country. What did you think that his "rock-star" status that many of you elected him on, was going to change the fact that he is green behind the ears! Without Hillary's brains, he is toast!

    June 11, 2008 at 9:30 am |
  18. Ria

    I agree he should take some time to sit down with experts on the economy and sharpen his message....add more substance. And he can take a day off to get some sleep too and refresh!

    Being President of the US will be even more difficult and demanding.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:29 am |
  19. Magit

    Yes I believe Obama needs a break but for those Democrats that will vote for Sen. Mc Cain simply because Clinton did not make it, shows the sign of racism in them or irrationality

    June 11, 2008 at 9:29 am |
  20. Ranjit, Dallas

    I think, slowly people are taking note of his stumble without teleprompter. Even in primaries, he was not giving good speeches without teleprompter. This is not abot being tired. The media gave him a pass but people have started taking note of it. Both of this candidates need to attend the senate little bit and not take vacations.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:25 am |
  21. Glenn

    I agree that Obama may need a short break maybe for 1 week topps. let the democratic supporters talk about his ideas for a little bit. After that he should schedule trips over to Europe and Iraq and Afghanistan maybe to get a little more of a picture of whats going on over there. Especially Iraq and, or Afghanistan.

    Does anybody have any links to what Obama plans to do with Nasa and the mission to Mars?
    Maryland 4 Obama
    Obama/????? '08

    June 11, 2008 at 9:24 am |
  22. Sandi

    I think people are getting "politics over-load". I can't even watch CNN anymore – hour after hour after hour of "speculation", pundits, opinion, yadda, yadda.

    Obama did take a week of some months ago.

    Hillary didn't take a break and it showed – she and hubby were too tired, made stupid mistakes and they are older.

    Also, I think McCain is playing him. Come out with stuff everyday for Obama to challenge – like a boxing match, egging him on.

    Obama needs to reflect a little here – or he will surely lose.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:24 am |
  23. adv

    You can differ on tactic or strategy, but seems Obama's tactic seems right on the mark. After claiming nomination, he keeps the headlines, and polls are enhanced in his favour, You must be not living in reality, when on top should consolodate and expand. Many states or people are maybe still unfamilar of candidates so good he goes out there. On McCain he is still searching for a narrative, change ? reform ? all sound dated and copy cat lke his banners. Or he is Bush or he is reframing Obama's good points. The wavering, stumbling and gaffes are symptomatic of McCains campaign which forgot to first frame a narrative and slogans and solutions before you address or attack opponent. Moreover it sounds aslo dualistic in McCain's political career, first so called maverick now more in line of neo cons, confusing all over, and this shows with lack of consistency and clarity.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:24 am |
  24. Rose

    Obama is tired, clearly. After all, who would not be tired after that primary? These candidates are merely flesh and blood, not machines. However, Obama realizes that the American people are hurting. He is determined to act to improve our situation. While I do not agree with all of his ideas, I like his determination and his ultimate goal of problem resolution for us all. Our kids are dying each day in Iraq. Every day our grocery prices and fuel costs rise. Daily, someone else lacks medical care they need and infrastructure continues to erode. It's no wonder he feels driven to push forward relentlessly.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:23 am |
  25. Colleen

    For all you Hillary fans who are now vowing to vote for McSame. What are you thinking?? All I can figure is you're running full on emotions right now. You all need to take a break, step back and think about what that would mean. More war, more corporate rule and shrinking of the middle class. The Supreme Court moving even FURTHER to the right. More full-on assault on the environment and dependence on oil. PLEASE, for the love of our country, reconsider. Take a deep breath and look logically at your alternatives. Then the answer will be clear....OBAMA '08.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:21 am |
  26. skisco

    A good and grounded athlete can't stop running until the finishing line. The same principle applies to Obama. The finishing line is the general election and he will have enough time to rest before moving into the Oval Office

    Windhoek, Namibia

    June 11, 2008 at 9:19 am |
  27. Julie

    dear jaylo and all the other doubters–

    you say obama doesn't understand the political process and is overly ambitious. that is utter nonsense, and it seems to me that your understanding is pretty minimal.

    And to lampe, I am a young, political science major from Yale. I grew up in a humble family and worked several jobs to pay for college. I too have not always gotten every job I wanted, but I do not blame affirmative action for my misfortunes.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:17 am |
  28. Issack Ndakama

    Obama has litle experince with profile in thinking capacity, I advice the longer time of campaign will provide us the real president for U.S.Americas and the world in general. McCain seems expired on longer race and challenges, let him get the break may be he can make up but not!!

    June 11, 2008 at 9:16 am |
  29. EC

    I could care less about his vacation. I care more about the rising gas prices and the ecomony. Heard him on the radio yesterday and he made Bush sound elequent in talking. He rambled and did not complete his sentences nor did he answer the question. But what is new on that front? Funny he can't talk unless he has a prepared statement. You don't get time off while being president and I wouldn't want anymore pres. taking their time off during this period of the US. Not voting for him anyways.. so he can go dragging to the convention and stand in the shadow of a real candidate.

    Hillary 2012

    June 11, 2008 at 9:16 am |
  30. Joseph Muchungu

    While I do agree that he needs a break, he desperately needs to plug on. McCain has had 3 months to quietly assemble his campaign in crucial states. Also, the NRCC has a substantial advantage financially over the DCC. He needs to help with this if the financial restrictions he has put on the democratic party are to be of use. Nothing beats the personal attention that he is supposedly giving the Hillary Clinton supporters in the states he is visiting and I say this can't wait if he is to have any chance of success at all. I am sure nobody is mindful of his well being than his wife and since she is no push-over I say they know better.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:15 am |
  31. Mr. Rios

    I can't understand why the people said: "I was going to vote for Hillary, but because she lost, they will vote for MaCain". Don't you know that America needs a big changes, beggining in Washington. Please the only choice we have is Obama. Just a remember, may be we don't a President with big experience. We need a President with transformational leadership, new vision and fresh. Obama is american.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:14 am |
  32. Pierre

    Well i think Barrack will be a fine President in this Era. This guy is a mixture of Black and white, no wonder he knows how to surround himself with brains who are capable to merge the huge gap between the less fortunate and the fortunate. I think he is the David of our generation. He exhibit great leadership qualities. Mccain is also very guud. But i think its democrats turn to rejuvinate the economy.

    What i would entreat them is to stop interlectualising the unfortunate economic issues. We need results. desired outcomes. So i will entreat them to keep to their promises

    June 11, 2008 at 9:08 am |
  33. Thadaddybynum

    Obama can rest a lot better in the white house. Full speed ahead.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:07 am |
  34. cate

    He can take a break AFTER he wins the POTUS!!!

    June 11, 2008 at 9:07 am |
  35. Kite

    Barack and John need to relax because soon voters are going to tire of their debating and will stop listening. That will prove a problem for both candidates, it means that they won't be able to get any people to swing to their campaign. Also they need to relax and strategize their next couple of moves.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:06 am |
  36. Jill

    I don't care whether he rests or not. However, he's young and physically fit so the pace is not going to hurt him. I am extremely disappointed that Hillary Clinton did not win...and I'm a Republican! Obama is too inexperienced and everyone is all caught up in the Obama Drama of extremely persuasive rhetoric. All talk no action, that's what I feel he's all about. Bet: if he's elected, almost nothing will have changed after his first three years except my taxes, and yours, will go up up up. I also do not like nor trust his wife. For her, it seems, the race is about race - hers.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:05 am |
  37. Jenny Vardon

    I was a republican and was going to vote for the republicans but have changed my mind and WILL VOTE FOR OBAMA. Obama is the most visionary leader of our time. Just look at McCain, there is no substance in his interview lack vision, lack policies that help us in the 21st century. Look this is a serious problem and we have elect Obama for seek of our children.

    I mean being POW in Vietnam doesn't give you the capacity to lead America. Is time we move away from this kind old dirty politics of our Party(Republican) look ahead. He seem to mis-speak all the time, lack convection, he is not a convection politician and that is ver dengerous for America. I think Ron Paul has been right all along.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:05 am |
  38. robert ga

    Obama needs to take a lead on mccain before he can take any substantial break. Believe it or not Obama has a clear 7point lead over Mccain nationally, as shown by the Gallup polls. He needs extend this to 10 points. Yes a break will do nicely, but it is hard to do when you are running again Rovians in the republican party.

    Thanks Clintonites, as you come back home .

    Go Dems

    June 11, 2008 at 9:05 am |
  39. Gary Bonner, Baltimore, Maryland


    You obviously don't understand the Republican attack machine. Obama is smart enough to realize that if he were to "take a break" to recalibrate, the Republican attack machine (which never sleeps) will quickly jump into the void and begin to "define" him.

    You media types will then come along and fully cooperate with the lies they will spread, just like you did when the swift boat people attacked John Kerry (who was "taking a break" at the time.)

    Obama has chosen his best option. He is not going to bring a knife to a gunfight. He's opening up with a Howitzer. That's a good tactical move.

    Gary Bonner, Baltimore, MD

    June 11, 2008 at 8:58 am |
  40. brian

    Doesn't matter obama wants to raise taxes, go away obama

    June 11, 2008 at 8:57 am |
  41. Liliana

    I would suggest, McCain takes the final break and endorses Obama!


    June 11, 2008 at 8:55 am |
  42. Larry Kirkman

    I think you're right David-let's catch our breath before the battle for the White House really heats up.

    June 11, 2008 at 8:55 am |
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