Obama Demonstrating a Presidential Demeanor

I was driving to meet my sister-in-law for lunch Today and caught Obama’s statement on the economy and the Fed’s bail-out package.  I was surprised to hear him say he had time for several questions.  Since I hadn’t had much opportunity to listen to him in a Q&A session I was very interested in listening.  My expectation is he wouldn’t be very fluid and have some very superficial answers.  In tough interviews, that’s a bit of what I have gotten from Obama.  I think the guy is bright and will do a good job, but the on-the-spot stuff I was a little hesitant about.

Well, after two questions it was clear to me he was very fluid in his responses.  After three questions it was obvious he knew, with detail, what he was talking about.  After four questions, I felt like I was listening to a President speak.  He did extremely well.  For those who doubt his experience or knowledge, watch the video below.

Here’s the thing.  Obama didn’t have to do it.  There are so many pitfalls right now that to take questions and say the wrong thing is potentially very damaging in this viral environment.  He gambled (or maybe not) and won.  That is a stark contrast to the McCain philosophy.  He hasn’t had a press conference in months.  The Town Hall questions he and Palin took the other day doesn’t count.  Those were softball questions from voters that were sympathetic to McCain.  These were questions (and not easy questions) from seasoned reporters trying to make the evening national highlight reel.

Let’s roll the tape:

Any question about how Obama will handle a debate, should be answered – at least on domestic policy – by this press conference.  One other quick note.  He did a tremendous job staying on message and keeping his cool when, at another rally, he was severely interrupted by protesters.

There is a bigger story here, however.  Emboldened by the latest polls, there appears a shift might be going on in the Obama campaign as to how to present the candidate.   Obama has gone from a candidate of rhetoric, as most are, to one who is presenting himself in more of a presidential manner.   There are quite a few examples this week of this potential strategy shift:

1) Holding the Press Conference

2) Surrounding himself with his economic advisers

3) Holding judgement on the Fed’s plan until further understanding it

4) Advertising his conversations with Paulson and Bernake

5) Taking a collected and calm approach to the events and how they are unfolding

6) Providing high level details on the fixes he believes are appropriate

7) Much toned down personal attacks on McCain (being above the pettiness)

This is an important strategy, but one that could not work until he had a lead again in the polls.  It’s important, because his biggest weakness is experience.  By taking charge of the economy this week – being out in front of McCain and even the President – he is demonstrating his knowledge and leadership.  It also gives him a little bit of a Teflon coating from low brow attacks from McCain.  With an issue this prominent, and if Obama can ‘demagogue’ the issue, the personal attacks don’t have a lot of effect.  Attacks on character or Obama’s plan for the issues only work if McCain has a clear and concise message for the voters.

If he can maintain the Presidential strategy, he will have an advantage on many levels.  First, the experience becomes less of an argument.  Second, there will be a subconscious shift in people’s perceptions of who is the leader – especially with Bush maintaining a low profile.  Third, it shows confidence.  Fourth, it will put the McCain campaign on the defensive.

It continues to be interesting.

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