Barack Obama has been subjected to a drumfire of attacks, especially over the past two weeks. What is more important, the press has been paying attention to those attacks and attributing what it sees as a loss of his momentum, in part, to them. (Never mind that he will probably get more delegates out of Texas than Clinton; that made the back pages, if it was mentioned at all.)
In the NYT, Bob Herbert argued that Obama cannot get down in the mud with the Clinton campaign, but must remain on the high road.
On talkingpointsmemo, David Kurtz opines that trying to stay above the fray will be no more effective for Obama than it was for Dukakis or Kerry.
I should note that Herbert was dealing specifically with attacks from Clinton and her people, Kurtz with a slur by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who's been going around saying that an Obama victory would be viewed with jubilation by al Qaeda.
What tack to take?
Obama has been answering back, but answers are necessarily defensive. If he goes on the attack, he risks being derided as departing from his new style of politics. (Totally cynical, yes, but like all big lies, fastened around a kernel of truth; a number of voters would view him that way.)
Essentially, Obama needs to make attacks that are fair, and he needs to argue that they can be part of a campaign built on his premises. Indeed, one component of his attacks should be that he is the candidate of hope and that those who deride him must be candidates of no hope. Or something like that.
1) He should continue to hit Clinton on the delay in producing her tax returns. He should ask, over and over, if her promise to produce them "around" April 15th means that they will be out in time for voters in Pennsylvania to learn what's in them.
2) He should hit Clinton on the failure to reveal donors to Bill Clinton's presidential library. The list undoubtedly includes a large number of people seeking access to a new Clinton White House.
3) Related to No. 2, he should point out--perhaps more subtly--that in a Clinton White House, the most powerful lobbyist would be sharing the President's bed.
4) He should pound Clinton on remarks that seem to favor McCain over him; such conduct will disgust many loyal Democrats--particularly among the demographic groups where she has had some success.
4) He should take McCain to task, over and over again, for preaching against torture but voting against a bill to outlaw it--and then urging the President to veto the bill. (By the time you read this, McCain may have voted against an override--or ducked the vote.)
5) Despite the NYT's ham-fistedness on the issue of McCain and lobbyists, a piece that actually seemed to protect the Arizona senator from criticism, Obama should give examples of where McCain has cozied up to those he criticizes.
6) He should point out at every opportunity that McCain voted to sustain Bush's veto over expanding S-Chip, the children's healthcare program.
"John McCain is for torture and against expanded healthcare for children." That's not a bad line. Not bad at all.
Update: After this post was started, we saw Obama's remarks in Mississippi on the idea--floated repeatedly by the Clinton campaign in the past week--that he should be VP on a ticket led by, who else? Hillary Clinton. It's good, take a look: