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Posted on May 19, 2008 in Across the US, Barack Obama, Beltway Politics, Campaign '08, Congress, Party Politics

Campaign Associations: Personal vs. Professional; which matters more?

Over the past few weeks, Senator McCain has received a relatively small amount of attention from the media, while the majority of the headlines have been dominated by stories regarding the campaigns of Senators Clinton and Obama.

However, there has been one story that has received more attention than it should have over the past few days, this time regarding another member of Senator McCain’s campaign that has had to step down due to business ties related to previous lobbying activities.

While this latest departure is just one of a handful of staffers to step down for similar reasons, I can’t help but wonder why they are making such a big deal of this?

Furthermore, I have now found myself pondering the question of which associations are more important in campaign politics, personal or professional?

Based on the way that the media has covered Senator McCain’s problems with his top advisors, many would be under the impression that it is the professional ties that are more problematic in campaigns.

Then there are others who would use the example of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright for Barack Obama, making the argument that it is personal ties that weigh heavier than those that are professional in nature.

In my opinion, both have their place in the campaign, but it seems that there is a bias that both sides are experiencing, making each association more or less important for the other, based on their political party.

For the Democrats, they have continued to paint the Republican Party as a group of politicians that are “fat cats,” who are chummy with some of DC’s top lobbyists.

Then you have certain Republicans who have tried to paint the Democratic Party as one that sees patriotism as a dirty word and doesn’t value religion, the constitution, etc.

Overall, both sides have done an excellent job of putting the opposition into these boxes.

However, who is this hurting more?

Some would argue that this is hurting the Republicans more, because they already poll lower when it comes to being trusted, and of course there are still the ties to the Bush Administration that can and will hurt some of the candidates.

While this might be true in some instances, I think that overall, these attacks are going to hurt the Democrats, simply because it’s Barack Obama making these statements directly, which creates a whole new dynamic.

One thing that John McCain has been doing very well, is keeping the heavy mudslinging at a minimum until the time is right , asking judgment questions instead of making “in-your-face” statements.

Obama on the other hand, has made reference to Senator McCain’s lobbyist ties on many occasions, using that as a springboard for painting himself as the candidate who hasn’t become a DC insider.

The problem this poses for Obama is that it creates many different media streams that WILL be used to attack him.

The fact of the matter is that regardless of how long you’ve been in DC, there have and will be many instances where you will do favors for friends, it’s the unfortunate nature of politics these days.

Sometimes that will mean securing funding for a hospital that your wife works at, or pushing through an earmark that your friend or top donor is behind.

No matter how you spin, those elements are the things that make someone a DC insider.

Furthermore, Obama is painting himself as someone who is anti-lobbyist. In fact, I’ve heard people try to make the argument that Obama has never even met with a lobbyist, which is completely false, but it’s a sign that his strategy is working well… for now.

Eventually someone is going to get their hands on his Senate calendar, illustrating the number of meetings he’s had with lobbyists, as well as the frequency. The results shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has seen the inner-workings of Congressional politics.

Instead of all of this back-and-fourth based on ties, I think that both of the candidates should stay focused on the issues, presenting real solutions, with real implementation strategies. This is what the American people want to hear.

If the Republicans can stop attacking McCain and embrace his ideas (even if it’s hard to do), the party will be in a position where they are seen as unified, thus giving people something to be confident in.

If that doesn’t happen, these attacks by Obama will seem more legitimate, simply because the message of “change” is much easier to swallow then the message of “internal chaos” that seems be affecting the GOP. No matter what the attack is, if the GOP doesn’t seem like it has its act together the attacks will seem much more credible.