Barack Obama And John McCain Both Struggle With How To Deal With Their Base

Barack Obama's biggest obstacle of the moment: not alienating his own base. John McCain's biggest obstacle: creating a base.

It's been fascinating to watch the mournful parade of horrified Obama groupies reconsider their worshipful support of the presumptive Democratic nominee as he about-faces on position after important position and feigns surprise when his apostles become apostates.

The largest group on Obama's own website now goes by the moniker: "Senator Obama--Please Vote NO on Telecom Immunity--Get FISA Right." The group comprises 18,000-plus Obama-ites. Its membership is mushrooming. Most who join do so in frustration with their candidate for switching positions on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bill, or FISA. Senator Obama at first opposed the bill that grants sweeping powers to the federal government to surveil its own citizens. Now, he says he'll support a compromise version.

Note this post on Obama's website from a self-identified former supporter who writes under the name "Terra." It's headlined, "I'm out."

Obama needed his supporters to win the election. We could have done it for him, with him. His position on the FISA bill--destroying the 4th amendment--could lose this election for him because he cannot get his excited supporters to happily share the good news. It's over. We would have gladly shared our support with any undecided voter. Now, we're left with 3 choices... 1-disappointment, 2-McBush, or 3-not voting. I haven't made up my mind, but it's a close tie between 1 and 3. Regardless, I won't be the enthusiastic supporter I once was. Sad, sad day.

Another interesting Obama blog blast from a formerly uncritical supporter emanated this past weekend from the keyboard of no less than antiwar activist Tom Hayden. Hayden so distrusts Obama to come through on his pledge to end the Iraq war that Hayden suggests:

"--A demand that Obama talk to legitimate representatives of the peace movement, not simply hawkish national security advisers.

--A Democratic platform debate and plank that is unequivocal in pledging to end the war and avoid military escalation elsewhere.

--An energized antiwar voter education campaign that builds toward a clear November peace mandate to end the military occupation and shifr [sic] to political and diplomatic approraches. [sic]

How's that for a vote of no confidence? Obama still leads McCain in national polls and registers some 30 electoral college votes ahead of McCain in most educated tallies. So he can take a "base-be-damned" approach with relative impunity.

McCain has different problems. His most glaring public ulcer of the moment is himself. McCain departs this week on a so-called Jobs First tour. But despite a staff shuffle, the senator still lacks a consistent message, is unable to secure the solid support of the GOP base (Christian evangelicals and advocates of lower taxes), and apparently is having difficulty convincing voters he has a plan to turn around the economy.

As the AP reported:

John McCain calls himself an underdog. That may be an understatement. The GOP presidential candidate trails Democrat Barack Obama in polls, organization and money while trying to succeed a deeply unpopular fellow Republican in a year that favors Democrats.

Four months out, this election is still the Democrats' to lose.

By Bonnie Erbe