Can we talk about superficial communications strategy for a moment? This is the thing—the one thing—that Joe Biden does better than Barack Obama. And it’s a crucially important thing: it’s the empathy card, the Bill Clinton thing.
Everyone in the room knows it’s a fat softball lobbed right across the plate. The Press Secretary actually does some slapstick as he sets it up. Hope you’re hungry, news directors, cause it’s sound-bite time. The press chuckles in anticipation of what the Righteous Mouth will deliver.
But Righteous Mouth does deliver. Barack Obama would’ve hit this pitch—any major politician would—but he wouldn’t have hit it out of the park. Part of Obama’s appeal is that he’s dispassionate. It was an asset during the campaign and operationally during the economic crisis, but it’s a major liability during the BP spill. Obama fumbled the outrage card because it’s not really a strong color in his emotional palate. It is in Joe Biden’s, though.
The smart play isn’t to explicitly tie the GOP to the oil industry through Rep. Barton. The press has already smashed that home with a ball-peen hammer. Drill Baby Drill is doing the job with every photo of a drowning bird. The smart play is to link them all together with a broader message on the role of government in our lives. And there’s the Veep, doing exactly that, using personal stories, speaking in value statements, explaining the funding mechanism in simple language, as if to someone who’s hearing about it for the first time, as I was just now. The whole knock on Joey B is that he won’t stick to the script. He never gets the benefit of the doubt. So when he does deliver something scripted, it sounds spontaneous.
Beating up on Rep. Joe Barton is easy, but Rep. Joe Barton really, really needs to be beaten. The point needs to be driven home. It’s an opportunity that can’t be missed. It’s hard to say Biden is bloviating when the content is emotionally and structurally pitch-perfect.