I think Ryan makes a good point about the “you’re a celebrity” silliness that’s gone back and forth between the McCain and Obama camps. But here’s the bottom line:

FACT: An election, is quite literally, a popularity contest.

Therefore, mocking popularity is essentially misguided, and I’ll tell you why. But before I start: yes, I understand that McCain’s attacks haven’t been maligning Obama for his popularity per se, but rather trying to paint Obama as merely a celebrity. And yes, as Mark Penn wrote in the Politico, attacking Obama through a perceived strength makes defending the criticism considerably more difficult. But I think think the implications of mocking popularity should be considered more deeply.

Anyway, the risk McCain runs, and especially with ads like this, is that when you attack someone’s popularity, you’re also attacking those who engender the popularity. That is, celebrity is a reflexive notion, and by tarring Obama as a “hollow suit” — to use a preferred line of one of our readers — you’re implicitly suggesting that his supporters are at best delusional and at worst plain stupid. I’m not entirely convinced that antagonizing and caricaturing voters is such a great political strategy. It would be pretty easy to throw together a video of McCain supporters spouting all orders of ignorance, but it wouldn’t be in Obama’s best interest to equate McCain voters with ignorant hysteria. In other words, it’s a difficult proposition to win votes by attacking voters. I suppose we’ll see how this evolves in the long run.

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