Obama's Camp Needs to Stay Focused

Good news. I have been invited for about the fiftieth time to have dinner next week with Barack Obama for $28,500 at 5 p.m. or to attend the second-tier reception (clearly, it will be a quick dinner for the senator, anyway) two hours later for a mere $2500.

The first five or six times, I actually responded, explaining that I couldn’t afford the ticket prices, was sure that this would not be an occasion to really get to know the senator and, in any event, have long made it a personal policy not to contribute to campaigns that I write about and talk about on television. It’s much cheaper that way, and I get attacked a little less for bias.

But, by the twentieth or so special invite, I told my assistant to start deleting anything with a subhead about inviting me to meet Barack Obama. Even Barbra singing, which generated a whole new round of emails, went right to delete.

It’s not me I’m worried about. My delete key works. It’s Senator Obama and his campaign, and all the time that he and they are being forced to spend reaching out and touching the rich or not-so-rich, but on the wrong lists.

The upside to not taking public funds is that you have much more control of the money that both sides are raising. The downside is that you have to raise all of it yourself, while the ot er guy doesn’t; he’s got a head start of something in excess of $86 million. Even at $28,500 a couple, that’s a lot of special friends.

But the invitations to wine and dine with Obama are nothing compared to the volume of Palin email I’m getting. Yes, I know what whoever it was in her home town whose email went viral had to say. But there are literally dozens and dozens a day, reflecting substantial work from the sometimes substantial people who are spending their time filling my computer wastebasket.

It’s not that they ar all necessarily wrong, in the sense that they’re inaccurate. Some of them may well contain very valid critiicisms based on her record and her policy positions. But if the goals is to defeat McCain and elect Obama, sending hundreds of emails attacking Sarah Palin is not the way to do it.

One of the things that the initial barrage of mostly unfair attacks on Palin by many of my friends managed to accomplish was to turn her into a martyr, a heroine, a symbol of the bias and viciousness and just plain sexism of many in the left medial bloggerland. It helped turn Sarah Palin into one of the most popular and respected people in the country.

It gave her an excuse to avoid the Sunday talk shows she was probably not ready for anyway, and to insist that she was going to deal with the press on her terms, not theirs.’ As if that weren’t enough, what it also did was to blunt all the attacks – fair and unfair – that have come since. You know the line she will use if/when Biden goes after her in the debate for switching her position on the Bridge to Nowhere, or firing the supervisor who wouldn’t fire her taser-crazed ex-brother-in-law, or whatever the latest barrage entails: “As one of my heros once said, in very similar circumstances, ‘there you go again.’” And she’ll bring the house down. Even though I’ve just told you it’s coming. Given what’s come before, it can’t help but work.

Stop the barrage on Palin.

Democrats need to remember that vice presidents rarely win – or lose – presidential contests. Losing focus does. To focus on what Barack Obama said about Sarah Palin, whether it was or wasn’t sexist, is to lose focus in a very big way. It’s to forget that the challenge for Democrats is to establish Obama as someone who will make the lives of my family – and yours – better, and McCain as someone who won’t.

That is what it’s about. In the long run, it’s not about Sarah Palin; it’s not even about McCain and Obama, per se.

It’s about us, reaching us, communicating with the people who won’t be at the fancy dinner that life will be better with Obama in the White House. No joke.

Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California. She was Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the first female president of the Harvard Law Review. She is a columnist for Creators Syndicate and has written for USA Today and the Los Angeles Times.

Estrich's books include the just published "Soulless," "The Case for Hillary Clinton," "How to Get Into Law School," "Sex & Power," "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System" and "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women."

She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel, in addition to writing the "Blue Streak" column for FOXNews.com.