It's not panic time - yet - but some Democrats watching Barack Obama say his campaign should have gotten a wake-up call this week, not only from his appearance with John McCain at the Saddleback Church but from a major poll suggesting he no longer leads his GOP opponent.Now, admittedly, you could view the Saddleback forum as an exhibition game ahead of Opening Day. It was not that formal a debate setting, the questions were designed to be fairly easy, which means they involved more philosophy than intellect.
At the Saddleback forum with Pastor Rick Warren on Saturday in Orange County, the Republican presidential candidate delivered on-the-money messages and answers so effective they were "scary to me," said George Lakoff, a renowned author and UC Berkeley linguistics professor who has studied how the human brain absorbs and processes messages.
[...]By contrast, Obama was "overconfident ... and certainly not prepared" before the evangelical audience with definitive answers to clearly explain to voters his world view, values and vision, Lakoff said.
The problem Obama will face in the general election is he speaks like a college professor, which works well with his base, but he does not speak like a church minister, which works better with the audience he's looking to attract now.
Lakoff's right and he's wrong: Obama's message is not that much more different than Bill Clinton's, both have spoken about personal and shared responsibilities, but Clinton could deliver it in warm tones and words ordinary people use, and sentences that don't sound like they were lifted from the pages of a self-help book ("You are the change you seek"). That's a fine philosophical passage (Gandhi said it) but it's a tin-eared man who would dare say that in his stump speech and not think he was coming off messianic.
The difficult task ahead for Obama is now redefining himself in the eyes of Americans. While this debate seemed unimportant, particularly to those of us still licking our wounds from the primary campaign and were paying close attention, this debate, as moderated by one of the most popular televangelists in America, was the first time Barack Obama was seen by large numbers of people who were, to say the least, confused about who he was, based on the media.
He is either a shining haloed messiah to the left or a Muslim-born and raised black man who associates with known terrorists, with a funny sounding name to the right. People square in the middle, the lion's share of undecided voters, 13% in the recent Zogby poll the SFGate article cites,half of whom voted for Hillary, could be swayed either way, and this is where Obama's "gun & religion clinging white folks" comments have come back to haunt him.
He has to reintroduce himself. Opening day is next week.