August 21st, 2008
05:10 PM ET

Why Obama has to get mad to win

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/21/art.obamamad.jpg]
James Carville
CNN contributor

Editor's Note: James Carville, a Democratic strategist who serves as a political contributor for CNN, was the Clinton-Gore campaign manager in 1992 and political adviser to President Clinton. Active in Democratic politics and a party fundraiser, Carville has not represented any U.S. politicians recently but has consulted internationally

With all of the vice presidential buzz in the air and the Democratic convention just days away, what's most important is what Sen. Barack Obama's campaign does following his speech to the masses at Invesco Field next Thursday.

Quite simply, he needs to create a more compelling narrative on change, use history as a context for the economy, and get mad about something.

First and foremost, Obama must bring a narrative to his position as a change agent. You can't simply seek change for change's sake.

The argument must be made that this is an election with two choices: the change-seeking good guys or the status quo-clinging bad guys. The campaign needs to brand every negative attack by the Republicans as just another desperate attempt of the status quo clinging to power.

Obama's campaign should argue that all of our political friends have the courage to break from the same old game in Washington in order to provide the change we need, while all of Sen. McCain's friends in Washington refuse a new direction for America.

McCain keeps trying to claim he's a "change Republican." I don't really know what that means, but Obama and his team must continue to highlight the "McSame" that he offers: more of the same failed Iraq policy, more of the same tax breaks for oil and drug companies, more of the same Swift-boat-style tactics, more of the same on education and healthcare.

And he certainly offers more of the same failed Bush economic policy, which leads me to my next point.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Raw Politics
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. daniel vilca

    shame on senator obama trying to mislead the american people from the true issues!! who cares how many mccain or obama have? or if they remenber it, there is a lot of rich americans that have many homes as investments! the true issue here is senator obama is so desperate to increes his rating that he once again make use of dirty and ols politics…talking about a new kind od politician!
    why he dosent talk about his 1.5 million home who he was able to buy only with help of his fiend corrup fundraiser resko, who buy the lot next to obama for this was the only way he could buy it, according to the previous owner the lots were in sell together.
    his lack of carather and constant flip flopps make clear what kind of politician he is.
    senator obama vote for the energy policy act back on 2005, what is this bill? well this bill give billions of dollars in tax cuts to the oil and nuclear power industries….wait a minute!! isnt barack obama now against this tax cuts? isnt he saying this are the bills that damage america? the bill of energy policy act wich he vote in favor of…
    what a flip flopper!
    democratic delegates you still have time to change your vote undo your mistake! the polls are talking america have realize the kind of man senator obama really is. select senator clinton as the candidate!

    August 23, 2008 at 5:15 am |
  2. John Fitz

    The Old Obama needs to come back quickly.I am talking about the Obama before Super Tuesday.Just bring back the fiery speeches that voters will remember on election day and Senator Mcsame and the Republicans will be toast....a few criticisms from Clinton ...and you become abit dry ...thats dangerous,bring back the enthusiasm!People are enthusiastic becuase they want change.You represent the best chance or vehicle for this change..don't disappoint the smiling voters.

    August 23, 2008 at 2:28 am |
  3. Colorado Joe

    Obama does have the necessary experience. He has 100% more experience than McCain when it comes to representing the poor and upholding the Constitution. He helped reform South Chicago, he taught Constitutional Law, he was a lawyer representing the underrepresented, he was the President of the Harvard Law Review (which influenced court cases around the world). How is this not relevant experience? And with Biden by his side, their combined experience will surpass the Republicans. He is ready to lead. He inspired the biggest political upset in history because he showed that he can bring about change and clean up Washington from old tired politicians like Bush and McCain.

    August 22, 2008 at 1:47 pm |
  4. Colorado Joe

    The Obama camp needs to point out that we just finished 8 years of a President that we all were embarrassed of at least one point, if not on a daily basis. The guy couldn't talk, couldn't back up his decisions, and did not represent us as an intelligent nation. So why do we want 4 more years of a guy that puts no thought into his speech and doesn't inspire anyone with his words?

    I disagree that we need solutions not speeches, we need both right now. When was the last time you heard an intellegent Prediential Address?

    We also just finished 8 years with a "Pro-Life" President, and abortions have gone up. So why do we want to elect someone that simply says they are pro-life but doesn't address the cause of why people are having abortions (mainly economic reasons). Just because you make something illegal doesn't mean it will disappear (see underage drinking). Barack has a plan to help address underlying causes that lead someone to have an abortion even though they didn't want to.

    These are the points that Obama has to come out swinging on. . .not McCain's 7 houses. I don't care that he has 7 houses, I care that he can't speak intelligently and that he has no real plan to address the Economy.

    August 22, 2008 at 1:38 pm |
  5. Simon

    I am not American

    You have the luxury of a fucntional decracy. Stop being stupid and use it.
    Didn't Hillary suspend her compain because she lost the election to Obama. sounds simple enough.

    Now, that
    “Obama makes clear, articulate, and well-reasoned arguments, which is why he’s having difficulty connecting with an increasingly moronic nation.”

    is SERIOUSLY loughable.

    Countries like mine used to look to America for leadership but you are slowly becoming terrorists yourselves. I mean, imagine well financed, uneducated, power hungry, diplomacy hating-trigger happy hicks with access to technology and tones bombs and guns.
    This is a serious thing you are doing America.

    August 22, 2008 at 1:13 pm |
  6. JOSE E.

    "It is some one who does not remember how many real properties ows; where those properties are located and the addresses; when and how those properties were bought; an individual who does not know the original and actual market price of those properties; some one who needs the assistance of his or her staff to verify how many properties owns in USA, without referring to other foreign properties and resorts; a person who wants the Congress to reduce taxes in order to buy more real properties in unknown cities and neghborhoods; a person who does not know either how many bank accounts and investment funds accounts has; a politician whose memory about "wealth and poverty" is not functioning any more but wants to be President of USA"

    August 22, 2008 at 12:06 pm |
  7. Adame

    Bottom line:

    He is not even enough experienced to defend himself! Please when aer you going to learned that? Hillary will do better than that, she will not allow anyone stepping on the Democratic party like Obama is doing.


    August 22, 2008 at 11:33 am |
  8. Brichey

    Polls-Shmoles....people who are going to vote have decided already. We are all just too busy working to buy gas and healthcare to participate in polls.

    August 22, 2008 at 8:33 am |
  9. J.V.hodgson

    Dear Mr Carville,
    I disagree that he has to publicly get mad to win, but I sure would say at sometime to the widest audience possible something like as often as possible:-
    " You know ladies and gentlemen and voters I know you are not all "my friends" and I respect that, so far as Mr. Mccain is concerned he continues the old no change line of personal attacks and frankly smears. We are going to be responsive forcefully for about 2% of my time that's all those attacks and smears deserve. The other 98% of my time will be devoted to you the voters with Policies that demonstrate good judgment and understanding of all voters problems and issues of policy domestically, and also to improve the image of the USA internationally. Equals quality of lfe, reasonable values, and good judgement of what Anerica needs.
    Through that change I hope to have more voters and friends on the 4th November. Tell me what you want and together we can make the change and bring about once more Government of the people for the people and by the people through more of you becoming My friend. Tell me and my campaign what you want and we will try to bring about the change needed, based the peoples mandate."
    Mostly my staff will deal with scaremonger attacks and smears, I have more important things to do on the economy, health care, and taxes, deal with Energy issues short medium and long term, for you the people.

    August 22, 2008 at 4:48 am |
  10. Deb

    Like Joe Biden or Clinton...Do you think he will shock everyone by selecting a Kennedy?

    August 22, 2008 at 2:50 am |
  11. Annette, Washington, DC

    Not mad, but quick, with wit. Hit the McCain camp hard with punches that will land fruit and expose more of McCain weaknesses.

    August 22, 2008 at 2:00 am |
  12. Don, WA

    I suppose Obama will rip his suit and turn green when the time comes.

    August 22, 2008 at 12:27 am |
  13. Malcolm MacNiven

    Obama doesn't need to get mad. He just needs to remind the world that McCain cheated on his first wife and then divorced her when she was a near invalid after her terrible accident and recovery; that McCain was indicted as part of the 'Keating 5' – accepting tons of money and trips from Keating, as he intervened on Keating's behalf.

    The Dem's just need to remind the world that McCain is a creep.

    Malcolm MacNiven, Phoenix AZ

    August 22, 2008 at 12:21 am |
  14. Glenda

    I hope the Obama cheer leaders watched the other night as CNN finally gave us a little of the truth about O Bama. do those who thought him a squeaky clean non political candidate pick up on his association with Dalys chicago politics?? That should take some new thinking. As for trusting his judgement. I don't. if he was as smart as people seem to think he would have leaked the word right away that Hilary would be his VP and he would be points in the clouds
    in the polls

    August 22, 2008 at 12:17 am |
  15. MArio Arboite

    Hi John King
    I have to say you have a lot of gut to bring an intelligent African American
    namely Tara Wall who is not a liberal. I think the liberal press has given Mr Obama a good ride. It is now time to stop presenting trash to the American people and start some real analytical debates about the issues that the American people are worrying about. The American people already know how rich both candidates are. They deserve to hear how these two reach guys plan to solve the problems the American people are facing today.

    August 22, 2008 at 12:13 am |
  16. Ralph Illinois

    I think its time we elect someone who wants to build this nation rather than take over someone else's. We can and will destroy our own country by neglect. You can't help anyone when you are weak and poor.

    It is time to rebuild America. We allowed the World Trade Center disaster to happen, we opened our doors to the Terrorists. It won't do any good to fight some of them overseas if we still allow some to come here. We Educate them in our Universities and let them travel freely here to plan their attacks.

    Its time to take America back from those who wish to spend all her resources overseas to fight one big stupid looking Arab. The Republicans know that if they get Bin Laden, their private little war may end. No Medals for McCain. No further need for Haliburton and all the other lies they have fabricated.

    August 22, 2008 at 12:08 am |
  17. Patricia

    All Obama has to do is run on the TRUTH that what this administration has done is work to destroy this country. Bush just like McCain has been having FUN with the presidency and the campaign now. What the Bush administration has done to this country is obscene. McCain wants to continue the process. Wake up, People, while we still can. Let's give Obama a chance. He can't do any worse that what has been done. And I suspect he will make the difference we need to come back! Thank you, Mr. Carville. You are always right on the money!

    August 21, 2008 at 11:55 pm |
  18. Don, WA

    Not getting mad got him this far.

    August 21, 2008 at 11:49 pm |
  19. Patricia

    Jack White.... get over the fact that Obama has a name that you do not like! Obviously, you did not watch the program last night! You are out of touch with reality. When you start attacking the man and not the issues, you have lost the debate.

    August 21, 2008 at 11:44 pm |
  20. Patricia

    All Obama needs to do is run against the present administration and the fact that McCain has backed Bush all the way. And the fact that McCAin wants only to continue the course that Bush has made to make the rich richer, which includes by all means he and his wife, and the poor poorer.

    Of course, Obama is not poor, he would not be running for President if he did not have the income to move in the circles that allow that to happen. Recall that Kennedy was truly wealthy, but he and his brothers were alway men for the people. Some people can feel the pain of those who are less fortunate, and some simply CANNOT. Some like Reagan who could not believe that people were living under bridges in the United States of American and the Bushs and the McCains who have never suffered from lack of money or known anyone who truly has, these people have no true compassion for anyone but themselves and their own wealth. That is obvious. When you don't even know what wealthy means, and you don't want to raise taxes on anyone, but rather want ever one to get rich; you have lost touch with reality! Obama may not be middle class now, but he knows what it is to be so. He has always been for the underdog. He fights for the rights of human beings to live a better and decent life!

    Obama is back from his well deserved vacation. And I can see that "he is back on his game" as Crowley said of McCain. The difference is that Obama does not have to lie to make his point. He does not have to have "fun" with the election. He cares about changing this country, and helping THE PEOPLE recover from the hell Bush has put us into! That is all he has to run on..... we do need change!! McCain is the status quo. Obama is the future!

    Follow the young people. They are not easily fooled by lies and deceit. They are sick of the way this country is going. They know that they are fighting for THEIR own futures! And those of us who are older, we are fighting for our Grandchildren!

    August 21, 2008 at 11:40 pm |
  21. Ito

    I'll agree with James to a point on this. It's true the Republicans are DESPERATE to keep the status quo.

    But for Obama to "get mad," is like trying to repeat what folks like James Carville advised Hillary Clinton to do during the primaries and she lost.
    You can "get mad" and churn out negative attacks but the American people are watching and assessing.

    For example, when McCain came out with trying to brand Obama to have the same celebrity status with Paris Hilton, what if Obama retorted with an ad like:

    "What's on McCain's mind?" "Not the economy, but...

    "Just One Night In Paris."

    What do you think the country would have thought of Obama?

    Obama should show some military muscle. He should talk more about how he's going to capture Osama bin Laden apart from the economy. He's just too academic and long-winded for a lot of people right now.
    And you know what? The biggest celebrity ads that McCain used to blast Obama were very good because he was already losing touch with reality and thinking that everybody will automatically vote for him. Wrong.

    August 21, 2008 at 11:35 pm |
  22. Valentine

    It will be ideal if we can read abut John Mccain too as your forum is all about Obama-do we call it Obama nation forum, balance is what I expected here or may be I am missing something.

    My great communicator of all times and politician-that actually knows how to relate to people with substance is my main Man Bill Clinton, but Obama think in his head with all those confused high level media poping him up-that Clinton don't mean anything and I say you just missed the road.

    He focused too much about what the other side are saying about him instead of focusing on real issues and be more concise in his presentation but you can't expect everybody to like you or not criticize you at all-stop getting mad and carry youself in an humble way with feeling and passion...we don't need speech anymore but substance.



    August 21, 2008 at 11:25 pm |
  23. Spiro Kypreos

    Mad would be nice for Obama, everyone loves a passionate advocate. But Obama might find ridicule more useful. McCain's judgment was that like Russia our nation should invade a country that had not attacked us or threatened to attack us; and his judgment is that we fight and die there until an undefined victory can be achieved maybe by the 22nd Century. McCain's judgment is that Iraq bank oil billions while we deplete our treasury; that we need activist, reactionary Supreme Court justices to turn back the constitutional clock; that we need more of the same Bush tax and economic policies; and that uninsured Americans do not need national health care. No wonder President Bush endorsed him. America deserves better. At a minimum it deserves a President with good judgment.

    August 21, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  24. James Dylan

    Obama has to do more than get mad to get elected. After watching CNN's "Revealed" there is absolutely nothing there that suggests this is a man that should, or even has the ability, to lead our nation. Let me say it again; not one single thing has he ever done. I understand Mr.Carville's desire to get a democrat back in the white house but he knows well the possibility of it happening now for the very same reasons he supported Hillary Clinton. Some vote party and some vote person. Those that vote person are always the ones who decide elections. The democrats seem not to care much for experience, but I assure you the rest of the country does.

    August 21, 2008 at 10:56 pm |
  25. Jack White

    Why is CNN and AC 360 so much in favor of Hussein Obama and against McCain? It is so obvious anyone can detect it. Is Obama paying Cooper for the help? You certain are not fair and balanced. Shame!

    August 21, 2008 at 10:50 pm |
  26. jim

    It doesn't make a difference Obamahas the comment "typical White person" will haunt him. Can you imagine Senator McCain saying typical black person. The ACLU, Jesse Jackson, Rev Al Sharpton and you would be calling him a racists. Another problem is his association with Bill Ayers the Terrorist. His refusal to deal wit hthe energy crisis by saying he knows what is best for the American people while 80% want to pursue offshore oil drilling, Nuclear power and CNG vehicles. Of course, James Carville, the peopel don't know any better. They have to be told by Obama what is best for them. Give me a break!!!

    August 21, 2008 at 10:31 pm |
  27. Annie Kate

    James has always been one of the political pundits I enjoy the most – he tells you what he thinks and usually in a very clever way but clever or not you know exactly where he stands. I agree that Obama needs to either get mad or passionate about something – since SuperTuesday he seems to have toned his personality way back at a time when he really needs to turn up the juice. He's actually gotten rather boring and the 3 men that everyone keeps saying he's picking from for VP are boring too. Maybe in the debates with McCain Obama will get that old fighting spirit back.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 21, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  28. jes from Ontario Canada

    Hi James, 1# fan from Canada, If Obama does not choose Hillary (if she says Yes) he will go down! Obama hasn't got what it takes & we both Know it! Personally my fondest wish would be for Obama to call Hillary & ask her the big question, she in turn asks Bill to return Obamas call & deliver her answer while expressing her regrets in HIS own words.

    August 21, 2008 at 9:28 pm |
  29. L.G.

    Obama needs to get mad, very mad.

    If Obama wants to get votes in the Midwest he needs to get mad about the way the government ignored the recommendations to shore up the levees and to make it safe to live in states along the Mississippi. The devastation in New Orleans was in part due to neglect of the levee system. The devastation in Iowa and the rest of the Midwest was due to the same thing. Also the way the government responded to the needs of those who lost everything because of this neglect is a national shame. Why didn't Obama speak out when the floods happened. If he wants to talk about hope, the place to start is with those who have lost all hope.

    The economy is in the worst shape that I can remember in my lifetime. And they still want to cut taxes. Promising tax cuts is the Republican way of buying votes.

    Our armed forces are stretched very thin and the rest of the world knows it. Still the Republicans talk a hardline regarding Iraq and Iran. Everyone knows we do not have the man power or the resources to carry out their threats. Where are the additional troops going to come from and how are we going to pay for them? We don't have the man power to replace the dead and wounded that are coming home now. Are we going to ask people who signed up for the reserves to serve for the rest of their lives?

    August 21, 2008 at 8:54 pm |
  30. Kent Fitzsimmons,Kewanee, IL

    When Obama takes the high road and doesn't get mad at McCain for the lies he says you people say he isn't tough enough. When Obama does speak up and attack you say he is just the same old politics and not Change. He cannot win whatever he does with some of you people. Carville...........I agree with you. This country is used to attack, attack, attack. Look how much we love war? Time for Obama to attack. Pick Hillary and both of you attack the GOP machine..........

    August 21, 2008 at 8:50 pm |
  31. matt form NH

    No, he needs to fight but fight for the middle class, not John McCain. He needs to Release his VP and move on, this is draggin on, i am HUGE obama supporter but enough already, its like the king and queen showing off the prince to there crowed of loyal subjects. Just get it over with and run like heck towards the convention to kick start this again. All of the media is devoting time to talking about your VP instead of you Barack. Lets get this rolling!

    August 21, 2008 at 8:10 pm |
  32. KJ Western MA

    Carville writes
    "outrage over our country's loss of prestige over the last 7½ years."

    The article was good and brought up valid points, however, this line bothers me greatly, as I feel we as American's brought this upon ourselves. President Bush's policies did not bring our prestige down (as we can see that currently from what Russia is doing). It was the American people theirselves- all those who bad mouthed our sitting President and our country.

    Obama did a great job of responding to such a question when he was in Europe.

    I do not remember every word, but when asked what he thought of President Bush, he answered with diginity and respect. He said it was not America's tradition to talk ill of a President outside ones own country.

    We have made it a national past time (a disgrace) to talk trash about our President and therefore our country.

    Obama showed respect and Presidental conduct- that wins my vote quicker than anything.

    August 21, 2008 at 7:54 pm |
  33. carol andrle

    Come on Barrack show us the stuff you're made of. I don't why you can't use Chicago politics when you are up against someone
    like McCain.
    People need to start listening to what he has been saying.
    lies ,lies lies.
    You have been telling people all they need to know but some
    just hear what they want to.
    Go give them a good run for their money.

    August 21, 2008 at 7:24 pm |
  34. Sharon Ohio

    The he should get mad about how democrats are treating other democrats.

    He should get mad about Democrats are running around in his name
    being vile, evil and attacking everyone.

    He should get mad anyone on the DNC site that post anything disagreeing with a policy or anything else, even if it is just to say they disagree are getting deleted or banned off the DNC site. it is an auto ban if you post on Hillary.

    He should get mad that the Democratic party is being torn apart from the inside out.

    August 21, 2008 at 7:19 pm |
  35. tommy cullar

    Does Mr. Obama have to get mad or just stay the course. If
    he remain constant with the message he started the campaign
    with, I think the American people will get their heads out of the clouds and see the reality facing us if we have four more years of McBush.
    Obama has plenty of weapons to use against McCain. The facts are
    there for all America to see. From McCains voting record to the
    keating five. It's all there! So, I say let McCain rant and rave. Let
    him continue to play with America's intellect. McCain is depending
    on a certain segment of voters(some independents and Republicans)
    to vote from fear, ignorance and plain old stupidity. He is shallow,
    phony, out of touch and in boot camp to become a soldier of the
    Bush clan's army. So, Mr Obama just use what you got! Stay
    honest, keep GOD first and have patience.

    August 21, 2008 at 7:07 pm |
  36. carrieinSterling, Va

    With his soaring rhetoric Obama has reduced the liberal press to mere paparatzi, inspired millions of Obamamatons to chant "yes we can", WillIAM to record a song called guess what "Yes We Can" , his celebrity and sizzle are maxed out. The problem is there is the rhetoric and there's the record. And the record is razor thin and the platitudes dude are getting old. There is no meat to ad to the bone.And what has Obama got to be mad about? He's gotten rich while running for president, his celebrity fuelings his book sales. Pretty nice parting gifts, I'd say.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:56 pm |
  37. Cynthia

    I think that Senator Obama should keep pounding home the issues as wel as hit back hard to answer any half truths or plain lies that the McCain camp is putting out there. It seems the news media is handling Senator McCain sort of gingerly – maybe they are respecting their elder, but they at least need to tell the truth.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:30 pm |
  38. Maritza

    Get Mad , how about get some related , relavant job experience and while he's at it aquire some manners, that testy" Above my pay grade" respose to the abortion question was laughable , Obama fumes at any critique of him , how will he manage the eyes of the world on him, on the worlds stage? in the White House? the risk is to great , he is not up to the caliber of being President. Just concider his performance in the faith forum , very poor, McCain is concise, articulate,was able to stay sharp and in focus, he gave lengthy detailed answers. That only comes with experience, just wait until the debates, just wait until some much needed Town Hall meetings , it becomes crystal clear he 's not ready for prime time .


    August 21, 2008 at 6:24 pm |
  39. Fay, CA

    You would think that after enduring eight years of a presidency which has wreaked havoc on the Constitution and left America's reputation in tatters worldwide, voters would be "mad" enough to keep McCain from stepping in and most likely continuing down the same destructive path of the Bush Administration whether or not Obama conveys how "mad" he is as a candidate.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:04 pm |
  40. Larry

    James, what makes you think that Sen. Obama needs to be told what he has to do to get elected; after all he is experienced in electioneering and is facing the worst representative that the republican party has ever placed as their candidate.

    What concerns me is the centrist role being played by the city of Chicago in Obama's campaign.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:02 pm |
  41. JC- Los Angeles

    I agree wholeheartedly that Obama needs to man up and show the American public that he is a true fighter that will do anything for the betterment of his country.

    The challenge is that the Democrats have chosen someone who most likely has never been in a school yard fight; his fighting has been restricted to courtrooms or legal fights that kept opponents off ballots.

    When asked simple questions, Obama stammers and the constitutional law side of his being takes over and he argues both sides of issues.

    By trying to appeal to everyone, he pleases no one; all he needs to do is accomplish one thing: he needs to be the candidate against the war and the President that ended the war.

    August 21, 2008 at 6:01 pm |
  42. Presley

    Firstly, I am humbled by James Carville, I'm a fan.
    And I agree with all of it.
    But Obama, perhaps, can start a new trend in campaigning by not being bullied so fiercely and SHOW how to stand up to conflict without insulting the collective conscientiousness of the public at large.
    Find something to respect in your enemy, it usually turns out to be their Achilles Heal.

    August 21, 2008 at 5:23 pm |

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