28 September 2008

- Strategy and Tactics -

The comment by McCain that Obama doesn't understand the difference between strategy and tactics struck me at the time as odd. It was, I think, a revealing comment, particularly given that McCain is a military man. Because one thing that has been abundantly clear about McCain's campaign for the past week is that it has been almost exclusively tactical. This seems to be partly constitutional—McCain's belief in himself as a maverick and his need to display that leads toward an emphasis on tactics. But it is partly situational as well—the fundamentals of the campaign do not really favor him, so he has constantly been fighting from a defensive position and he's been trying to find the tactics that will break himself out.

If we compare the two campaigns, we would have to grant that McCain has had a tactical advantage in terms of initiative if nothing else. The Obama campaign has not proved particularly deft reacting tactically. I would say they have been very pedestrian, in fact. Fortunately, this has not (yet) proved a liability, and in some respects it may well have saved them from overreacting to some of McCain's stranger tactical moves.

Obama's tactics, though pedestrian, are reinforced—indeed leveraged—by an excellent strategic command. In fact, the Obama campaign's control of the strategic level has generally allowed them easily absorb any tactical loss to McCain.

It is also worth mentioning logistics; if campaign workers, local headquarters, voter registrations, etc. are any guide, this is another level at which Obama seems to enjoy something of an advantage.

With the strategic and logistic advantage, the Obama campaign seems to be content to slowly grind away. It's not particularly pretty; it's certainly not dashing; but at the moment at least it does seem to be working.