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Ed Rendell: What Obama Should Do Next

Barack Obama is slumping. Poll numbers are down. Enthusiasm is down. Democrats, once again, are freaking. So, we asked a few folks, from different walks of life, to offer their opinion on what Obama should do to improve his standing. Here's what Governor Ed Rendell (D-PA) had to say.

The first and single thing he can do, and I believe he will do, is to do well in the debates.  Because once the debates start, people will remember its Obama and McCain they're choosing between. And there's no way McCain can hide behind Governor Palin, regardless of what the status of Palin is these days. Once the debates start, it will remind people that there are two people they're choosing between. And I think Senator Obama has a real opportunity in those debates to focus on the issues. You can't hide behind 30-second ads; you've got to talk about the issues. And I think Obama can win the debates significantly, and if he does so, I think he'll become president. That's first and foremost. That dwarfs everything else.

In the four or five weeks leading up to the convention, and even in the one week that's past, they've done an incredibly effective job of casting doubts about Senator Obama. And in most cases they've done it with somewhere between distortions, untruths, and outright lies. Like the ads and speeches at the convention that say Obama's going to raise your taxes on 95 percent of Americans. That's untrue, and they know it's untrue.

I think to some degree it's better that he responds through surrogates. But I think on the substantive things like the tax plan, he should be talking about it more directly himself. Now he did that at the convention in a wonderful speech, but we all should be talking about that. Because in the end, people are going to vote on issues, and they're going to vote on pocketbook and economic issues. And we're on the right side and they're on the wrong side, so we can't stress that point enough.

The Republicans can't govern worth a damn, but they can campaign and spend extremely effectively. We're just getting our legs when it comes to fighting back and getting the message out. And I think it took time for people to get ticked off, and I am now energized more than I thought I would be and probably more energized than I was for Senator Clinton, because I'm so angry at the lies and the distortion of McCain's campaign. Give them credit for the fact that it's effective, to a point. But this is no decent and honorable campaign. This is a campaign based on distortions and untruths, and that's another point we should get across to the American people.

But I want Senator Obama talking about important things. I don't want him talking about lipstick on a pig or responding to their lipstick ad. I want him to say, "Hey folks, they're trying to put up every smokescreen, to do everything they can to take your eye off the ball. The ball is, who can best improve the quality of your life, and that's us and here's why. Boom--healthcare. Boom--home mortgages. Boom--economic plan. Boom--taxes." Just boom, boom, boom.

--As told to Eric Zimmermann