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Alex Castellanos Handicaps The Presidential Race

New York's John Heilemann has an interesting Q&A with the smart and deadly GOP strategist Alex Castellanos (via Ben Smith). I thought this was the most interesting exchange:

J.H.: So you believe that Democrats won't be able to rebrand McCain as a Bush clone, as they plainly plan to do — and in which cause they have some evidence to work with?

A.C.: I worry they will be able to do that. BHO may have half a billion dollars to work with. Plus the undying love of a great portion of the Fourth Estate. He doesn't have to win that argument, he may only need to raise the noise level sufficiently so that McCain is on defense and can't get his message through. Then the Democrat's advantage on the generic ballot kicks in, America preferring Dems to Republicans in this election by a dozen points. Ouch. That could hurt.

I agree. Obama's biggest advantage is that, between the money and all the energy on his side, he may completely drown McCain out. At the risk of dwelling on this too much, that's why I think the unmoderated debates are such a lousy idea for Obama. (They throw McCain a life vest.) 

Castellanos also thinks Obama will need to resort to a little crass symbolism:

A.C.: ... A Clinton-versus-McCain race would be strength versus strength. An Obama-versus-McCain race would be change versus strength. Yes, BHO is going to need a few Sister Souljah moments. To demonstrate strength, he will need to stand up and speak truth to power, poke his finger in the Democratic Establishment's eye. Example: Marion Barry, D.C.'s former crack mayor, is now supporting vouchers for D.C. schoolchildren, in opposition to education unions and much of the Dem Party Establishment. Obama should join him. The Dem Establishment better start looking around to see which one of them he's going to throw under the bus as soon as the Denver convention is over and he takes the bus out of town.

That's not exactly surprising, coming from the man who brought you the famous Jesse Helms "Hands" ad. But he may be right. Problem is, Obama doesn't really do crass, symbolic politics. At least he hasn't really in the past.

--Noam Scheiber