10/09/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Inside Barack's Brain (With Apologies to William Safire)

I knew this was going to be hard. All those kids around here who act like we're going to beat McCain walking away have their heads in the clouds. Memo to self: don't do what Clinton did and give too many people too good jobs just because they worked on my campaign.

I told Axelrod when he came up with that "Change You Can Believe In" line it was a little too, for lack of a better word, elitist, but I let them talk me into it. I knew that no one could stay as exalted as they wanted me for too long. "The Change We Need" is much better. But we could just shorten it to "Change" and thanks to Bush and Cheney still win. It's funny how tied up in knots the consultants can get about a few words. I hear they had two focus groups on the use of the word "The" in the new slogan.

"Turn and face the changes," like the song says (I listened to a lot of Bowie in high school, know what I mean?) and that's what people have to do. Turn towards some new ways of doing things, face the hard work they're going to have to do. The consultants say that's a tough sell, not as good as my biography, but I can only talk about my mother so much. We've got to do some real work in the next few years.

I'm going to put Al Gore in charge of climate change -- if we screw it up, it will be his fault. He may have won the Nobel Prize, but he's made his share of mistakes. Like not letting Bill Clinton campaign for him in New Hampshire or West Virginia.

People would be surprised to know how often I've been talking to Bill Clinton -- the stories he tells about health care reform, and frankly, about Al Gore make me want a cigarette.

In fact, most things make me want a cigarette. I know I told Michelle I would quit if she let me run for President, but jeez, it's tough and sometimes I just have to unwind. And what really gets me going now is how McCain is trying to steal "change" from us. Axelrod says I should be glad he's fighting on our territory but whatever you want to call it, it's the only way he can win.

Now they're trying to head-fake us into making the election about Sarah Palin, but Howard, Nancy, Harry and I had a conference call this morning and we've agreed to step back. The press will take it from here, while we just hammer on it all being about Bush's third term. Biden was brilliant on Meet the Press this week, he hit those talking points out of the park. When I said we shouldn't talk about Sarah Palin, I didn't mean that included her debate with Biden. He'll get right underneath her rehearsed answers and talk about his last conversation with Putin.

Now the story is coming out about which states we're giving up on, like Georgia. Howard Dean has a a couple of nice applause lines in his 50-state strategy about winning in the future everywhere but I've got to agree with my homeboy Rahm Emanuel, who wants to stay focused on the states we're going to win today.

So it's probably all going to come down, again, to Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.

Unless the conspiracy theorists are right and the results in Ohio can be hijacked, I think we've got a good chance in Ohio. Sherrod Brown and Ted Strickland figured out how guys like us can win in Ohio. I like Sherrod. He always wears a canary pin he got from a union member who said canaries in coal mines used to be the only protection for workers who didn't have anyone else looking out for them. Workers in Ohio are pissed at George Bush. It's a different state than it was four years ago.

Florida is another story -- that was the only reason I thought for a millisecond about Hillary. She got have made us competitive in Florida, but it just wasn't worth it.

Pennsylvania -- I just don't see it. But it's the one I'm worrying about the most right now. I guess it's a lot more cheese steaks for me. I like the ones from Jim's better, at least they have provolone. That Cheez Whiz at Pat's, man, that's just nasty.

They tell me not to worry. We can lose one of those states if we pick off Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Colorado or Virginia. Like that's going to be easy.

They don't have to be out here every day. They don't have all the pressure of saving the world from disaster on their backs. They don't go ten days in a row without sleeping in their own beds.

Maybe we can put it together, maybe we can't. Out here, I've got to say it feels good, but even Walter Mondale thought he was going to win based on the reactions he got at crowds.

It's our ground game that will win this election, and the way we stand up to those attacks on defense and foreign policy. I wouldn't want James Carville to hear I think so, but he was right in 1992 and his formula is still the way to get elected President.

1) Change vs. more of the same.
2) It's the economy, stupid!
3) Don't Forget About Health Care.

Except that I guess I'd substitute "Iraq" for "Health Care". I hope Hillary and I can get health reform done, I really do, but the war is what we have to talk about.

And speaking of war, John McCain is making the same mistake we Democrats have been making since 1972. McCain, like John Kerry before him, wants to make this another election about Vietnam.

They can't say I'm like Bill Clinton, who grew a beard and protested the war, but they can make Saul Alinsky sound like Karl Marx. (Well, OK, he kind of does). And they can't say a bunch of anti-war radicals support my campaign. (Hmm, Tom Hayden is on the list, I wonder if Angela Davis is. Memo to self: check for leftists.) I don't want to spend a lot of time defining "community organizer" either. Got to stay focused. John McCain is the same as George Bush. John McCain is the same as George Bush.

Like they said in 1939, "No Third Term!"