After a disastrous two weeks following the Palin announcement, Obama's campaign finally seems to be recovering from the shock, and fully recognizes the value Sarah Palin brings to the McCain campaign.
As I've mentioned before, Obama's strengths in the "ground war" of voter turnout make a McCain victory in November unlikely. But McCain could still win the "air war"; here's what Obama needs to do to prevent that from happening.
First, he needs to shift away from what has been his primary line of attack: That John McCain represents a continuation of George W. Bush. Try as his aides and Andrew Sullivan might, America is not going to equate Sarah Palin with Dick Cheney.
Second, he needs to open up a new line of attack (which his campaign seems to be doing): That John McCain is willing to lie to America to win the election. It wouldn't hurt if his own campaign would cease their own dirty tricks, such as trying to attack McCain for joking that $5 million represented "middle class" when he was clearly speaking ironically.
Third, he needs to get the electorate to look past election day and consider which candidate will make a better president. Here, Obama should focus relentlessly on things that are 100% true--that he cuts taxes by more than McCain for every group other than those making over $250,000 per year, that John McCain doesn't know or care much about the economy, and that John McCain is more likely to lead America into other wars with potentially disastrous consequences.
"John McCain likes to talk a lot about putting country first. He loves America. But simple patriotism isn't enough to fix our economy or our foreign policy.
My opponent has good intentions, but I have a plan that will help America become stronger and more prosperous.
I'll provide bigger tax cuts for anyone making less than $250,000 per year. I'll focus our government on fixing the bad policies that led to this financial crisis and on improving our economy, rather than on fighting wars that don't keep America safer. I won't hesitate to use military force when necessary, but only when it is the best option, and only when the stakes justify putting our brave soldiers in harm's way."
Finally, the Obama campaign should avoid attacking Sarah Palin's qualifications (since his own are pretty thin) and instead underline how her beliefs and values seem extreme to much of the electorate. They need to emphasize that Palin doesn't believe that women who are raped or are the victims of incest should be allowed to have abortions, and that intelligent design should be taught in school.
While this might turn off those with ardent pro-life or anti-Darwinian beliefs, Obama had no chance of winning those votes anyways. What this would do is make sure that independent voters, especially women, realize that voting for McCain means supporting both the pro-life movement and intelligent design.
UPDATE: Sarah Palin never advocated the teaching of intelligent design in school. This is an out-and-out slander. My apologies for mistakenly including it in a post.