I just read through a transcript of Mark Penn and Karen Hughes' joint appearance on this morning's CBS "Early Show." Basically, every time co-host Harry Smith asked who would win a swing state, Hughes gave the advantage to John McCain because of "his record as a reformer." How will he appeal to Ohio voters worried about the economy? His record as a reformer. How will he appeal to Virginians? His record as a reformer. Why is Sarah Palin such a great pick? She reminds everyone of McCain's record as a reformer!
The single-minded messaging in and of itself isn't surprising. (Truth be told, the McCain camp could use more of it.) If there's one thing Karen has always been fab at it's sticking to talking points. The joke on the 2000 campaign was that you could wake the gal up at 3:00 a.m., shine a bright light in her eyes, and start interrogating her and she'd automatically start spouting the Bush party line. Still, hearing her go on and on about McCain's reform greatness sounds strange to my ears considering how hard she labored in 2000 to steal the reform mantle from him. A heartbeat after McCain handed Bush his butt in New Hampshire, Team Bush wheeled out it's new "Reformer With Results" mantra and began hammering home the message that McCain was just some impotent joker who talked a good game but rarely got anything done.
Back then the move struck me as desperate. Almost as desperate as, say, John McCain posturing himself as the change candidate.
Then again, Bush beat McCain. So clearly disingenuousness and image appropriation have their upsides.