Sunday, May 11, 2008

NEWSWEEK Cover: The O Team

In the May 19 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, May 12): "The O Team." Newsweek examines Barack Obama's campaign team, his management style and reports on how they're preparing to go up against the G.O.P. Plus: a memo from Newt Gingrich to Obama; interviews with Olmert, Peres and Fayyad on Israel's 60th; the drug bust at San Diego State; Penthouse Magazine diversifies; the battle between the tanning salons and dermatologists; Mormons on reality TV and family fat farms.(PRNewsFoto/NEWSWEEK) NEW YORK, NY UNITED STATES 05/11/2008

11 May 2008 16:34 Africa/Lagos

NEWSWEEK Cover: The O Team

Obama has Shown he can Run a Campaign. He'd Better get Ready for a War.

Obama Told Campaign Aides There was to be no Drama: 'We're Going to Rise or Fall Together'

Advisers Insist Race Will be About Big Issues, but are Ready for Mud War McCain Campaign Poring Over Obama Record; Want to Brand Him as 'Superduper Liberal'

NEW YORK, May 11 /PRNewswire/ -- A senior member of Barack Obama's campaign staff tells Newsweek he's only seen the presidential candidate yell twice in four years. Obama was explicit from the beginning: there was to be "no drama," he told his aides. "I don't want elbowing or finger pointing. We're going to rise or fall together," according to a report in the current issue of Newsweek. Obama wanted steady, calm, focused leadership; he wanted to keep out the grandstanders and make sure the quiet dissenters spoke up.


In the May 19 Newsweek cover story, "The O Team" (on newsstands Monday, May 12), Senior White House Correspondent Richard Wolffe and Editor-at-Large Evan Thomas look at Obama's management and leadership style and examine how it will translate if he's the nominee against Republican John McCain in the fall, when the campaign could turn negative.

Obama's advisers insist that the race will be about the big issues because there are stark contrasts between the candidates on Iraq and the economy. But if McCain feels he can't win on those issues-if the war remains unpopular and the Bush downturn goes on-he will be sorely tempted to run down his opponent, Newsweek reports. The McCain campaign is now poring over Obama's record, looking for weaknesses that can be exposed without race-baiting or hitting below the belt. They want to brand Obama as a "superduper liberal who is out of the mainstream," says one McCain adviser who did not wish to be identified discussing internal campaign strategy.

But Team Obama has been consistently able to outstrategize the opposition, and it does have a plan for the coming mud war. In conversations with Newsweek, Obama's aides have signaled their intention to put Sen. McCain on the spot. They note that McCain himself has been the victim of a smear. In the South Carolina primary in 2000, GOP operatives spread the rumor that McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child. Recently, when a reporter asked McCain, "Does it bother you at all that you might actually benefit from latent prejudice in the country?" he answered: "That would bother me a lot. That would bother me a great deal." And last week his wife Cindy told NBC News, "My husband is absolutely opposed to any negative campaigning at all." So if McCain's camp does try to exploit Obama's ties to the fiery Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the Obama-ites can question his sincerity-is he really the "Straight Talk" candidate? And if McCain can't stop others from the sort of innuendo and code that Republicans have learned to frighten voters, Obama can cast doubt on McCain's credentials as a commander in chief.

McCain himself has said that he will not "referee" between various independent groups who always want to have their say in presidential campaigns. (The model is the notorious Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who unfairly but effectively questioned John Kerry's war record in 2004.) Charlie Black, McCain's top strategist, told Newsweek that McCain was powerless to stop the "527s," named after the provision of the tax code that covers political expenditures by nonprofits, from running attack ads on their own. "Look, there's nothing we can do about the 527s," says Black.

The last Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, dithered and failed to quickly strike back when he was attacked by the Swift Boat veterans. The Obama team says it will not make the same mistake. "You fight back aggressively and play jujitsu," says David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager.

Another McCain adviser, who asked for anonymity discussing campaign strategy, bluntly warned, "It's going to be Swift Boat times five on both sides ... The candidates will both do their best publicly to mute it. But in a close race, I don't see how to shut that down." Indeed, the two most experienced attack artists are already gearing up. Floyd Brown, who produced the infamous "Willie Horton" commercial that used race and fear of crime to drive voters away from Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988, produced an ad before the North Carolina primary accusing Obama of being soft on crime. He told Newsweek that Obama is "extremely vulnerable" to questioning about his ties to Chicago fixer Tony Rezko, who has been indicted for political corruption. Another target is former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers, whose association with Obama will remind voters of bomb-throwing student radicals of the 1960s. "There's plenty of stuff out there. I'm kinda like in a candy store in this election," says Brown.

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CONTACT: Jan Angilella of Newsweek, +1-212-445-5638,

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Newsweek Cover Story

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