David Gergen | Bio
CNN Senior Political Analyst
Say what you will about Republicans making a muddle of governing, but they sure know how to campaign. The turn of events that John McCain and his team have engineered in recent weeks is one of the most significant events of the campaign and now poses a serious threat of an upset this fall.
In just a few short weeks, they have not only thrown Barack Obama on the defensive and made him seem smaller but they have also made McCain seem larger and more commanding. And it has not just been one event but a string of them that they have tied together to propel McCain upward - from the ads (which most of us in the media didn't like) to the way McCain seized upon the drilling and Russian issues to his winsome performance at Saddleback. The capacity to create issues and momentum practically out of the ether is the sign of a strong campaign. Both McCain and his team are impressing voters.
And the results are now showing up in the polls: not only are some key states like Ohio breaking toward McCain but the Reuters/Zogby poll today showed McCain opening up a 5-point national lead - and stunningly, voters said in that survey that he would be better handling the economy than Obama! That is the bread and butter issue for the Democrats, one they should be able to seize upon to capture seats up and down the ticket.
Now, a couple of cautions are in order. This race was always going to tighten as Republican voters came home and McCain is benefiting to a considerable degree because that has been happening of late. In all the polls, there also remains a large bloc of voters who are undecided and many of them look like they are potential Obama voters. Campaigns also have a tendency to ebb and flow, so that the latest McCain tide could easily recede, especially if the Democrats put on a thunderous convention or McCain makes a mistake (not hard to envision). And there remains great, great enthusiasm on the Obama side and a general antipathy to the Bush years. So, it is important not to insert lots of caveats.
Still, this should be a huge wake-up call to Obama and the Democrats. From my perspective, Obama needs to introduce a game changer - and fast - before public opinion starts to gel around the notion that he is a phenom who deserves great respect but is not seasoned enough and would be too much of a risk in the Oval Office.
In part, he needs to change the narrative of the campaign - away from the notion that the biggest single problem facing the country - the "transcendent" threat of our time, as McCain argues - is terrorism. Terrorists and Islamic radicals are indeed a significant challenge and must be overcome but most observers would say that it is one of several challenges and that others are equally pressing, starting with the urgent, urgent need to put our own house in order and the need to deal with additional global issues such as global warming, nuclear proliferation and the rise of Asia. A major test of the Denver convention is whether Democrats can recast the central argument of the campaign and throw the Republicans back on the convention. Either Democrats persuade the country why they should now take charge or perhaps they aren't ready to govern after all.
But it can't stop there. Obama must also introduce a game changer through the way he signals who will be in the Oval Office with him. After all, no president governs all by himself; the success or failure of an administration also rests heavily on the team he assembles to work at his side.
Here are three obvious game-changers that one could envision:
1. The Hillary game changer - If he were to surprise the country - and the press - by naming Hillary Clinton as his running mate, he could turn the race upside down. Making the announcement in Springfield this Saturday, drawing from Lincoln's experience in assembling a "team of rivals" (the glorious book by Doris Kearns Goodwin), would be transformative. No one else would so galvanize the Democrats, bring a fighter to his side, and send a clear message that an Obama administration would bring experience to solving problems both at home and abroad. Has anyone looked what happened to jobs and wages under Bush vs. Clinton? The comparison is startling. And remember that a quarter of Hillary's voters still haven't "come home" to the Democratic column.
2. The Gore game changer – If Al Gore were to agree to come in for a single term, he, too, would galvanize Democrats and send a clear message to the country that an experienced, fresh team was coming to Washington to fix things at home and abroad. It's not just that Al Gore won more votes in 2000 than George W. Bush but he has also transformed his reputation through his Nobel prize and leadership on the environment.
Okay, okay, neither of these is really likely. If anything, signs today point increasingly toward Joe Biden as the choice (though others are still alive), and Biden would bring to the ticket stature, experience and a capacity to make the arguments, especially on national security. Biden in many ways is an excellent choice. But is he a game changer? You tell me. So, that leads to a possible third alternative:
3. Building Team Obama – Candidates in the past have toyed with the idea of naming their potential Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Treasury, etc., during the fall campaign, instead of waiting. There are many reasons why they haven't. But given his lack of executive experience, Obama clearly needs to revisit this possibility so that he can show the world not just who is going to the White House but who is going with him. If he decides that won't work, then why not try a variation? What if, for example, he asked men and women of great stature - people who would be trusted to run the country - to sign a public pledge this fall that in the event of an Obama election, they would be prepared to accept an invitation from him to come work in Washington at his side OR work in an informal, part-time advisory role? One could imagine a host of serious people - from Paul Volcker, Bob Rubin Mike Bloomberg and Larry Summers - to Madeleine Albright, Dick Holbrooke, Sam Nunn, David Boren, Joel Klein, and retired generals - who would step forward to take that pledge. (You and I could easily expand this list to include many others.)
The point is that leadership in the White House today is much more than a single, lonely heroic figure standing alone in the shadows of the Oval Office, weighing the great issues of the day. It is about pulling together an assemblage of great individuals and turning them into a team who will govern the country well. Whoever wins - whether McCain or Obama - will have to do that.
The translation is Obama is too weak on his own. No surprise. The truth is there's no solution here. If the Dems didn't nominate Obama the apes would be swinging from the trees......you live by the black vote you die by the black vote. Dems gotta die this time around.
Did anyone believe that the Republicans would not throw Hillary's taunts and negative comments back at Senator Obama?
She and Bill certainly poisoned the "well" and will be solely responsible if Senator Obama fails to be elected.
I'm disgusted and so very worried. Obama is Hope, Change, and Integrity.
Four more years of McBush??? The Supreme Court will be a bunch of kangaroos.
Amazing that this is any big surprise.
Please...cast your vote for Senator Obama!!
I have been an excited Obama supporter from the get go. I have to say that I was totally dissatisfied with the performance he gave on Saturday night at the forum. It wasn't that McCain suddenly was so great it was that Obama dropped the ball in a big way. I was even embaressed in my own home while listening to some of his answers.
I truly believe now that an Obama / Clinton ticket is the only way to secure the election, beyond any doubt and shut McCaine down.
America needs to wake up! This is yet another tactic by the GOP to use fear and confusion to steal an election again! Don't be fooled. McCain is a lying cheat who will do anything to win, even sell his soul to the devil himself!
If the president is someoene who is able to put together a team then obama is ready to lead. look at how he is able to put people together and create a team to win the primary while clinton was struggling and blundering. she could not create a team to win.
Why is everyone ignoring the huge elephant in the room? The reason that Obama is not doing better is that there are simply white people who aren't going to vote for him EVEN if he could deliver manna from heaven. The Hillary/Inexperience excuse is simply that. There's no way they were going to vote for him in the first place.
Really CNN and especially Anderson 360 has really become a Clinton Network once again both on air and on the blog. Too bad because it used to be objective.
Clearly some PUMAS writing on this blog, but David is so right on his point that Obama needs a game changer quickly. I hope that Obama recognizes this as well. He just might need Hillary to win this election. I agree that Al Gore would be a game changer as well, but I personally don't think that he would do it. We might all get a big surpise before the weekend. Thank you David Gergan for your wonderful insight once again. I agree with the others on this blog- David Gergan- Advisor to Obama or some other top advisory role.
I have to say I like Hillary but her supporters are just some of the worst that America has to offer. They are sore losers who will bring down their own country because they are so delusional. How can some one end their post 'McCain or Hillary 08'? It is proof that they don't understand the issues and they are not only mislead but irrational.
It is a shame because Hillary deserves better supporters than this. That said if McCain wins they will get the 3rd Term of Bush that they deserve (shame they will bring the rest of America down with them).
I'd be interested in getting your opinion on having Michelle Obama as one of the prime time featured speakers the first night of the Democratic convention. I can not recall any other presumptive presidential candidate doing this before. Also, Michelle Obama has had no past involvement in politics or the national Democratic Party. I also recall Obama stating at one time that his wife was "off limits" to political criticism. Doesn't this contradict that by featuring Michelle as a speaker at the convention?
People are fooled into voting for McCain, no thats not it. Obama has a white mother but his skin is not white enough to please a large segment of this sick country. That why they say the most prejudice day and time in the week is Sunday morning at 11am. That should tell you something right there, this sick country of mine has such a problem with race that they would vote for someone they know is too old, to fragile both mentally and physically, too quick to shoot from the hip with his crazy statements about defeating evil, I know wars, I can win wars, and bomb bomb bomb Iran, etc etc etc. He certainly isn't a christian because ONLY God can rid the world of evil. Here's a guy who is worth 100 million dollars, who while campaigning had to read a card in his hand to know that a gallon of milk is $4. Check out his comments in his town hall meeting today when asked if he would reinstate the DRAFT. Let see all you lovely McCain supporters jump for joy when 6mos after McCain gets in office, he gets America in some conflict and YOU get those papers to report. SHAME ON AMERICA YOU KNOW MCCAIN IS NOT FIT TO BE A 1 TERM PRESIDENT!
I agree Gore would be a game changer. HOWEVER, that aside, even MSNBC said tonight the only other game changer is Hillary Clinton. Biden and others do NOTHING to help Obama win in November. If it's not Gore (which would stun me if it was) then he REALLY screws up if he doesn't take Clinton.
My husband and I were discussing this over dinner tonight.
Obama needs to listen up hear the footsteps towards McCain if he doesn't pick the right VP.
It's not too late, Senator Obama. Still time for a game changer.
Hilary or Gore as VP would put us over the top in '08!
Unfortunately, cheap tactics are sometimes required to SUCCESSFULLY get beyond the challenge of politics.
Not everyone is methodical about their voting logic and this is why low-blowing, cheap tactics often work. For those Americans who aren’t particularly comfortable with politics in general, they frequently default to the better known, less controversial candidate.
I, for one, will vote for Obama no matter what because I know, for a fact, that he is the best candidate. And, although I have a tremendous amount of respect for the way he has run his campaign thus far, I’m afraid that it’s time for him to start firing back. There is plenty of controversial, yet very TRUE, information to point out about McCain that he hasn’t even touched on yet.
Best of luck, Mr. Obama! I’m rooting for you!!
It is a shame when it still comes to color in our society. Obama has learned and conducted himself very well. I like H. Clinton for V.P. but I not so thrilled about her husband anymore after his tactics over the winter and spring. I truly never thought I would say such a thing. The truth is that most whites would settle to be poor and jobless before they elect a black man to the oval office. It sounds bad but it is the truth. Look at the Republican record and look how McCain flips from ultimate conservative to liberal. He is not a bad guy when he is being himself, as a matter of fact, I would trust them both together but that just cannot happen. This country is racist and people need to recognize our problem as a nation.
Hey guys, Obama is no longer running for president of USA. He skipped town to Bejing and joined the Olympic gymnastic team flip flopping on the gymnastic floor. Obama claims to be a christian but wants abortion and he is very liberal. What part of Christianity is he professing to have. The bible says that not all that say Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven but those that do the will of God. The bible also says that by their fruits you shall know them..
If McCain picks Romney for VP,and hopefully he will, then there is little doubt that he will lose this election. Obama just beats around the bush and now denies his voting record on abortions and said it is all lies. How about the discovery of a half brother who actually lives in a house the size of a bathroom and has no money?. Hopefully, Obama will extend help to him and not deny that he is a half brother by the same father. This will show his true colors.
It's interesting that the younger folks support Obama, and the older ones support McCain.. From these comments, there seems to be a real difference in maturity level that would suggest the opposite trend.
Obama needs the Clintons like he needs a hole in his head. That will show weekness to a bunch of presumtuous sore losing babies.
I for one am amazed at these delusional Hillary supporters that are hoping for Obama to lose the election so Hillary can run again. I just can't remember a more vindictive, narcissistic, selfish, bitter, presumptuous, divisive candidate and supporters in my lifetime... to top it off you expect the Obama campaign to pay for her debt? Do you want the country to slide further into decline just so your hero can run again?
Does this sound a bit odd? I can't remember such venom spewed at others inside their own party.... voting for McCain and against their own interests (more wars with more countries, taking away a woman's right to chose, trickle down economics).. so their girl can run again?
How disgusting and pathetic.
Barrack Obama has been extremely gracious to a bunch of whining babies as are the Clintons.. They need to just step aside graciously and quit trying to stay in the spotlight.
So many of us pro-Hillary democrats feel like saying "I told you so" but that would be counterproductive.
Of course Hillary should be Obama's choice for VP. If he's afraid of being overshadowed by a stronger and more presidential VP then doesn't that say something about his ability to lead? McCain isn't "doing" anything to Obama – Obama needs to fight and if the fight is not in him now, it's not going to be in him when confronted by aggressive world leaders or other challenging personalities he'll have to face as President.
The Hillary vs. Obama issue is still the single biggest thing dividing our party right now with millions of votes at stake – and if indeed her name is up for actual nomination at the convention, I say, let the numbers speak for themselves and let us nominate the strongest possible candidate.
I am a loyal Democrat but that does not mean I have to be forced into being loyal to Obama (yet).
I am a registered, moderate, Republican and I have to admit that Barrack Obama is inspiring. Unfortunately it is a case of him having his heart in the right place but not the experience to back it.
I greatly admire him for changing the political tone in this campaign to something more positive. I am even more proud that he has resisted the liberal media outlets urging to demonize John McCain and campaign dirty.
If we are honest with ourselves we can admit that this campaign is far more clean (on both sides) than many that have been run in the last 20 years.
For Senator Obama I say this: I will be voting for Senator McCain this fall but you have made us all think. That is something we should be greatful for.
Just 153 days before George Bush is out! I have been counting the days and looking forward to a new President, hopefully, Mr. Obama but after reading the previous blogs I am becoming very concerned that Mr. Obama is losing his lead. I have been a strong supported of Mr. Obama and also feel that Hilliary would be his best choice for a VP.
I agree that Mr. Obama should let the country know who he would have in his cabinet should he win and definately have David Gergan as his number 1 political advisor, such a wise man.
He needs the Clinton's. Face it, change cannot happen if he isn't elected. The 3 potentials that are being mentioned, are bland and boring and don't stir up much excitment in me.
Obama/Clinton '08, that will get me excited about his candidacy.
If its not that, I don't know if he has my vote.
Definitely TEAM OBAMA! Can you imagine a more powerful image than Obama with his new VP, Joe Biden/Evan Bayh standing next to him and flanked by his new Sec. Defense Chuck Hagel, Sec. Treas. Hillary Clinton, and Sec. State Bill Richardson with their arms crossed and ready to take charge!
McCain could not respond to that effectively. It would be awsome!
If Obama is so stupid to not pick Hillary then I hope he loses. If he picks some old out of touch guy like Biden then I am done. I will not vote at all.
I never thought I would say it but Obama has surrounded himself with IDIOTS
We can only "hope for change" for so long. Unless we learn at some point, some details of this change from Obama, his numbers will continue to recede. It will not matter who he picks for VP, cabinet, or anything else.
Also, now that Obama has opened up the "scandal" avenue with a recent ad, he will have to deal with Wright, Rezko, Ayers, Chicago Machine for the rest of the campaign.
Congratulations, mr. Gergen, for this great analisys. As a brazilian citizen, I can't understand how some Americans could elected (???) this G.W.Bush. Do they know what people all over the world are thinking about the Republicans and this moron they have put in White House? And do they want more four years of these warmongers?
This is exactly why media is bias from the start. All the little "( )" comment made were seen during primary and now again.
Has the nation forgotten about the Cone of Silence Lie? So called Christians who will use these tactics...winning by any means necessary really frighten me. If he wins, those that did not vote for him, well we would just have to get ready for pay back time. I hear you just don't cross John McCain. But you know what...his arms are too short to box with God. Thank you God, for letting me hide under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91).
Mr. Gergen has served four administrations and he knows what he is talking about. Hillary would be good for VP. The Obama team needs to circle the wagins and get this campaign together. I can remember Democratics back in June predicting Obama pulling further away from McCain in the polls as we moved ahead. Their predictions were wrong.
Also the Obama team should hire Mr. Gergen. They need someone like him.
Gee, the way it is now – with NObama’s RAPID DECLINE in the POLLS based on NObama’s OBVIOUS failings..
Reuters/Zogby – McCAIN up 5 %
In the latest 8/20 RCP Electoral College – NO Toss-Up States Poll:
McCLAIN: 274 ev
NObama: 264 ev
NObama’s VP selection is now expected to SAVE NObama !!
Unfortunately, not even Hillary as VP can SAVE NObama !!
Is it too late for Hillary ???
McCAIN or Hillary in ‘08 !!
I think Hilary is still the best selection. I voted for Obama for the primary election, but I was torn between the 2 quality candidates. She would bring with her millions of votes. The Obama staff and supporters, and the Clinton staff and supporters, need to get over the jabs that were taken at one and other during the primary and do what's best for the Democratic party and the country.
The Republicans don't seem to have this problem. Though most of the republican party and its talking heads have been downing McCain for years, they have no problem standing by their candidate when election time comes, even if they generally do not like him and think that he leans too much to the center. They simply vote Republican over Democrat.
Obama and Clinton – work it out. Our country needs real change and I fear that if these two democrats do not align, we could be stuck with another 4 years of the same.
Also, as a woman, I would love to see the first female Vice President of the United States. And odds are it could lead to Hilary getting another chance at the White House in 8 years.
David, I understand what you are saying about Hilliary Clinton to win but once they win that would create a whole lot of problems for him. It is not only important to win but to win with someone that you are going to be comfortable with for 4 or 8 years. As far as the polls go, I know of younger people who don't use house phones but cell phones. There are your first time voters who in most cases have not been polled. I have been voting for over 33 years and have never been polled. I really like your number 2&3. Especially your number and would love to see you be a part of it.
I do not like Hillary very much but David is absolutely correct, Hillary or Gore almost seals the election for Obama. Lets see if Obama has the political smarts and flexibilty to make this move prior to Saturday. It would say a lot about the creativity of an Obama administration
Newport Coast, CA
I so much appreciate David Gergen as the most impartial, rational, and wise "pundit" on the CNN circuit. I have listened to him for months, and find his insights and views right on the money.
Thanks David. Now if only they'll listen to you!
Nobody is going to help Obama win this election, because he's not going to win it. Simple. The American people are finally getting to know Obama, and are seeing that he's just like Clinton - a charmer with no substance, who has baggage from his childhood that is likely to cause him to behave erratically if he were elected president. He can attack McCain all he wants, but the American people are seeing that McCain is actually a guy with character who really puts America first. Meanwhile, Americans are finally coming to see that this is a popularity contest for Obama. He is running and wants to win, because in his heart of hearts, he needs to prove that his worthy of praise. We don't need any more Bill Clintons, thank you.
Hillary is the game changer…… not for VP, but for President.
It’s not to late. We get a roll call at the convention. Vote for Hillary!
Obama is a little game player, especially whrn it comes to suiting his convenience, no change of game, or strategy can help ignore the fact that he is simply not qualified to lead this country, it was in the face of many that watched his performance or lack of on the faith forum "Above my pay grade".... what the hell does that mean, he can't even articulate an opinion on abortion Above my pay grade"? the presidency of the US is also above his pay grade, sorry David I know how much you luuuuv Obama , but the thruth is getting harder to ignore.\
I always enjoy your thought-provoking posts.
In my opinion, Joe Biden would not be a game changer. I think he would be a liability to Obama. Unfortunately, Sen. Biden has what I call "stick foot in mouth" disease. He has embarrassed himself and others many times with outrageous and narcissistic statements. His ttemperamentis not what Obama needs right now. Evan Bayh sounds good to me...and not just because I am from Indiana.
Also, to be honest, most TV viewers were watching the Olympics rather than the Saddleback debate. I switched back and forth during commercials. It was a casual debate with a casual line-up of good questions.
I am ready for the conventions basically because voters need a shot in the arm to gear up for the elections. The antics of the Republican Party is expected. The Karl Rove-type attack ads are not going away. When it comes down to the finish line, John McCain will do whatever it takes to get the White House job, even if he loses the respect for himself and the Office.
It doesn"t matter what strategy Obama tries or which candidate he picks as his running mate, he cannot win in November. In the parlance of software development, he is "vaporware", a term meaning that you get promised the world but nothing you thought you bought is ever delivered. You end up throwing the whole project in the trash and starting over from scratch. That"s what the DNC will have to do after the election - reinvent their party.
Frances Beinecke, Interior; Michael Bloomberg, Commerce; Hillary Clinton, Attorney General/Supreme Court; Warren Buffet, Treasury; Sam Nunn, Defense; Bill Richardson, State; Joel Klien, Education; Wes Clark, Homeland Security; Veteran's Affairs, Bob Wexler... the qualified candidates are too numerous on the Dem side...
Why hasn't anyone taken into account the 18-25 yr old voters. These voters go largely unpolled. I am a college student and I can safely say that the 18-25 group is overwhelmingly in support of Obama. I think Obama needs a game changer, but I also believe the polls aren't reflecting the nation. The polls are reflecting the views of 30-whatever yr olds, some of whom have deeply in-bedded attachments to Republicans or Democrats. I see a record turnout in November, and I also see Obama winning handedly.
They will never talk to or for real Americans. The time has come for White and Black people to take back our country. Obama and Mcain will never talk for the middle class and the poor, We are just pawns to get them elected. You must vote but vote with your heart and believe this democrates have been in control for two years now. Gas prices and food and everything else we need to survive has gone up. I am a 38 year old father of 4 and don`t know how much longer me and my family can survive and believe me thats what we are doing Just surviving. I want to live again. I will be voting with my wallet in mind.
I can't fathom why anyone is voting for McCain given the current state of the nation. I am totally amazed that people are still fooled.
In my opinion, Obama needs Hillary and Bill more than ever. McCain has established himself as a fighter, and showed the American People that he is willing to cross over to Democrats by asking Liberman to speak at the Convention. Obama for the past year and a half told us how good he will be, but never showed us. The only thing that we were shown is that he skipped visiting the wounded in Germany by going to play sports and he was chasing fishes in Hawaii while Russia was invading Georgia. Thats not a leader, thats a Politician!!!! The 3 Am ad is coming back reminding people and voters that he lacks leadership. Hillary have destroyed any chance of him winning. Like the old saying, Where is The Beef???? Now, we know that Hillary will not be the VP, why vote for him???? We all knew that she is a better leader than him and a McCain-Romney ticket looks promising to me. I was a Democrat til I realized that Hillary is out. We are looking for leadership, not for a great Preacher. So please listen to Madonna's advice and Papa Don't Preach!!!!
Gergen is so right when he says many of Hillary's supporters are not on board with Obama. We do not like him and will not support him under any circumstances. Most of us cite his inexperience, his arrogance, and most of all his shadowy past. McCain08; Hillary 2012!!
there's no glory in winning by lying and cheating. don't understand why americans make their decisions this way. i think we deserve a more respectful campaign
O BAMA HAS NO GAME HE WRITES STORIES OF SELF INTEREST.... he has been found out to be inept.......a no vote senator....always present never committing.....it was by the luck of thr DNC..... and the SUPERDELEGATES....and those 1/2 votes that got him nominated in the first place....no matter who he chooses for his VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE it won't matter because O BAMA himself lacks the experience and the judgement to lead
This is a great article and I hope that the Obama campaign follows your advice. How about David Gergen for chief White House correspondent?
There's an old saying that goes "when you're good you can tell people but when you're really good, they'll tell you."
Judging from the immense failure of leadership over the last eight years by most leaders, politicians and executives, it should come as no surprise that no one today is viewed all that favorably.
To infer that Barack Obama is our nation's favorite for the White House this fall and to suggest that John McCain "now poses a threat of an upset this fall" says more about the dearth of real leaders than it does about the candidates.
Pick any industry today and one can see failed leadership; Wall Street? please; Federal Reserve? yikes; Mortgage Banking? oh my; Real Estate? pure fraud. FEMA? unfathomable; Bush's regime; total bust.
It appears that the American public will have to hold off on the highest praise for at least another four years.
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