Howard Wolfson

The End Of Nixonland
October 18, 2008

Rick Perlstein's Nixonland brilliantly covers a period that is finally coming to an end. Perlstein's book focuses on Richard Nixon's runs for the White House, beginning in 1966.  Democrats, facing a voter backlash over rioting, crime, and the Vietnam War lost 47 House seats in 1966.  Nixon rode that revolt into the White House two years later and exploited it while in office to win re-election in a landslide in 1972.  Perlstein correctly states that Nixon came "to power by using the anger, anxieties, and resentments produced by the cultural chaos of the 1960s," and defines Nixonland as the st

Does Advertising Matter?
October 15, 2008

Does advertising matter?  Just ask the Obama campaign. A Washington Post article yesterday suggested both that John McCain's negative ads had been ineffective (true) and that advertising in the Presidential contest just wasn't all that important: "As the presidential candidates open their war chests in the campaign's final stretch -- spending a combined $28 million on television ads in the week that ended Oct. 4 -- political pros are mixed on whether they're getting their money's worth.

A Premortem For The Mccain Campaign
October 11, 2008

The economic crisis dealt the McCain campaign a fatal body blow. None the less, the choices that Senator McCain has made during this race will impact the margin of his defeat and the fortunes of other Republicans on the ballot. Today it's worth considering what Senator McCain could have done differently.  The usual caveats about hindsight apply.1) Avoid Faustian Bargains. Campaigns don't begin on announcement day and Senator McCain's most fateful decision predated his.

John Mccain's Ineffective New Ad
October 10, 2008

On Monday I argued that the McCain campaign's strategy of using Bill Ayers to attack Barack Obama would not work because the economic crisis trumped all.  Today, the McCain campaign has tried to link Obama's association with Ayers to the economic crisis in a new ad. Will it work? No. The ad is practically schizophrenic.  The first third attacks Obama's "blind ambition" for "working with Ayers."  The remaining two-thirds is about the housing crisis and an attack on "Congressional liberals" for letting it happen. The connection between Ayers and the housing crisis?  Who knows?  The ad makes no e

It's Over: Why Bill Ayers Won't Save John Mccain
October 05, 2008

Perpetually fretting Democrats will not want to accept it. The campaigns themselves can't afford to believe it. Many journalists know it but can't say it. And there will certainly be some twists and turns along the way. But take it to a well capitalized bank: Bill Ayers isn't going to save John McCain.  The race is over. John McCain's candidacy is as much a casualty of Wall Street as Lehman or Merrill. Like those once vibrant institutions, McCain's collapse was stunning and quick. One minute you are a well-respected brand.

Live From St. Louis, It's Thursday Night
October 01, 2008

"Live from St. Louis, it's Thursday night!" Gov. Sarah Palin isn't likely to open the debate that way, but the public could be excused if they expected her to.  After all, in the last week we have seen more of Tina Fey's "Saturday Night Live" imitation of Sarah Palin than we have of the Governor herself. That will finally change, when Gov. Palin steps out on the big stage and debates Sen. Joe Biden.What must Gov. Palin do to make Americans forget Fey's send-up and demonstrate she is ready to lead? What must Sen.

Mccain's Loss
September 29, 2008

Good thing that John McCain suspended his campaign and rushed back to Washington with a flourish so he could round up Republican votes and pass the bailout.  Who knows what might have happened had he not interceded on the bill's behalf and put his own credibility on the line for it.  The markets would have tanked, our allies would have lost confidence in us, and...oh, never mind. Last week Senator McCain looked goofy by coming off the campaign trail and interposing himself into the legislative process over the bailout.  Today he looks like a loser -- his credibility and prestige diminished by

George W. Bush: Our Hoover?
September 26, 2008

Let's take the briefest timeout from our discussion of Barack Obama and John McCain to focus on our President. Remember him?  You could be forgiven if you don't.  His name is George W.

Forget About The Debate. Focus On The Spin.
September 23, 2008

Forget about the debate. Focus on the spin. What really counts is who wins the debate over the debate. Ok--not really. The actual performances will matter--but just as important will be the post-debate spin that shapes public perceptions of who won, who lost, and why. This week, as the candidates prep for their on-air performances, their teams of rapid responders, communicators, and researchers are prepping for their critical roles behind the scenes.

No Blank Check For Wall Street
September 20, 2008

It appears all but certain that by this time next week Congress will have appropriated nearly a trillion dollars so the Treasury can begin purchasing Wall Street's bad debts.  Before they hand over a blank check, Democrats on the Hill should insist that major regulatory reforms accompany the bailout.  The bailout is necessary  -- but so are significant improvements in our regulatory regime to ensure that the conditions and abuses that led to this collapse do not recur. Democrats like Barney Frank have been pushing for such changes before this crisis, but were told that they were unnecessary an