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Commentary: Why Obama has to get mad to win

  • Story Highlights
  • James Carville: Obama campaign needs to depict McCain as resistant to change
  • Carville: Obama should run on Democratic record of better economic outcomes
  • Obama needs to show outrage about energy, economy, foreign policy, he says
  • Carville says connecting with voters on these issues more important than VP
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By James Carville
CNN Contributor
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Editor's Note: James Carville, a Democratic strategist who serves as a political contributor for CNN, was the Clinton-Gore campaign manager in 1992 and political adviser to President Clinton. Active in Democratic politics and a party fundraiser, Carville has not represented any U.S. politicians recently but has consulted internationally.

James Carville says Barack Obama's campaign wants him to be "cool and calm" but he needs to show outrage.

James Carville says Barack Obama's campaign wants him to be "cool and calm" but he needs to show outrage.

(CNN) -- With all of the vice presidential buzz in the air and the Democratic convention just days away, what's most important is what Sen. Barack Obama's campaign does following his speech to the masses at Invesco Field next Thursday.

Quite simply, he needs to create a more compelling narrative on change, use history as a context for the economy, and get mad about something.

First and foremost, Obama must bring a narrative to his position as a change agent. You can't simply seek change for change's sake.

The argument must be made that this is an election with two choices: the change-seeking good guys or the status quo-clinging bad guys. The campaign needs to brand every negative attack by the Republicans as just another desperate attempt of the status quo clinging to power.

Obama's campaign should argue that all of our political friends have the courage to break from the same old game in Washington in order to provide the change we need, while all of Sen. McCain's friends in Washington refuse a new direction for America.

McCain keeps trying to claim he's a "change Republican." I don't really know what that means, but Obama and his team must continue to highlight the "McSame" that he offers: more of the same failed Iraq policy, more of the same tax breaks for oil and drug companies, more of the same Swift-boat-style tactics, more of the same on education and healthcare.

And he certainly offers more of the same failed Bush economic policy, which leads me to my next point.

Obama can connect with voters on the economy by using history as a guideline. He should start by reading "Unequal Democracy," by Princeton academic Larry Bartels. The non-partisan and non-political Bartels points out devastatingly after an exhaustive study of Democratic and Republican presidents that the Democrats built a better economy and a more just society.

The campaign needs to say that, since 1900, Democratic presidents have not only "won" but dominated on every economic front: GDP growth, employment, deficit and income equality. Need more? How about a better performing stock market and a more fiscally-responsible spending.

There's no need to listen to McCain's marginal rates, death tax, deregulation, trickle-down, supply-side shenanigans because historically Democratic presidencies have produced better economies. And with the economy still in the forefront, it seems like a no-brainer for Obama to talk about the historical supremacy of economies under Democratic presidents.

And my last piece of advice to Obama and his team is to just get mad about something. Obama's campaign seems so intent on branding him as a "cool and calm" leader.

Well, voters want to see a sense of urgency and outrage in their president: Outrage over our dependence on foreign oil; outrage over our increased cost of living, health care and education; outrage over declining incomes; outrage over an endless war and an idiotic foreign policy; and outrage over our country's loss of prestige over the last 7 years.

To put it bluntly, Obama needs to get outraged over something other than "attacks on his patriotism."

When all the dust settles after Denver, if Obama can do these things between now and November 4, he just may become President Barack Obama. No convention or vice-presidential pick will matter as much as connecting with voters on these key issues.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

All About Barack ObamaJohn McCainNational Economy

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