September 28, 2008

The race for the White House has reached a turning point, and the McCain campaign has but a week, perhaps two at the most, to re-take control of the issues and circumstances that have caused it to sputter – if not ground to a halt – after giving away all the momentum it had gained from the Republicans’ St. Paul convention.

What has put the McCain campaign in such a difficult spot? I think it comes down to two things: 1) the economic crisis and the inability of the Republicans to get out in front on an issue that has just as many dirty Democratic fingerprints on it as Republican, and 2) the McCain campaign’s unfocused and reckless handling of Sarah Palin since her convention speech.

Regarding point #1: Unless you frequented conservative blogs or the FOX News Channel, you’d never know that Democrats have been pulling literally millions of dollars of graft and influence preceeding the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac meltdown, that Connecticut senator Chris Dodd and Barack Obama have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from influence-peddling Fannie/Freddie lobbyists, that the Obama campaign continues to be advised by the likes of Jim Johnson and Franklin Raines, both of whom reaped millions of dollars while the Fannie/Freddie books were being cooked, or that the Democrats (including Senator Obama) voted AGAINST a White House/Republican attempt to reform Fannie and Freddie more than two years ago.

On Point#2: Since the first couple of days following her knock-out performance in St. Paul, the McCain campaign has mishandled Palin to the point where whatever advantage her selection as VP nominee had brought to it has been carelessly frittered away. If you were to ask which campaign was caught more flat-footed with McCain’s choice of Palin as his running mate, you would have to say that honor goes to the McCain campaign.

As Byron York writes today, the campaign could have targeted some low-risk, high-reward venues early on to build upon her convention speech; instead, they have repeatedly put her in a position to fail. The campaign could have exploited the excitement generated by knock-out convention speech by turning her loose and allowing her to take her unfettered, “Mrs. Smith Goes To Washington” message of reform to every battleground state; instead, the campaign smothered her and sought to protect her from the media. The result? In just a few short weeks the refreshingly-authentic, western-frontier populist has been turned into a sputtering, robotic, deer-caught-in-the headlights talking-point memo. Does anyone now doubt Palin is about to be drawn and quartered in her debate with Joe Biden later this week?

The last two weeks have shown the McCain campaign sputtering at all levels:

* Where is the strong Republican presence on the cable networks? You’d think from Barney Frank, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi (three clowns if there ever were any) the Republicans are solely responsible for this economic crisis and are doing everything they can to torpedo an agreement that would save the free world as we know it.

* Why wasn’t Palin out front-and-center following Friday night’s Presidential debate to emphasize McCain’s strong performance and her selection as Republican VP nominee – has the McCain campaign lost that much confidence in her?

* McCain’s unusual decision to suspend his campaign and return to Washington could have gotten gained his campaign some traction by being played as “Maverick Goes To Washington To Kick Some Butt And Get A Bi-Partisan Agreement Hammered Out”; instead, McCain has continually downplayed his role to the point where one might ask what advantage, if any, he has even brought to the discussion. Meanwhile, Obama has been allowed to keep campaigning, say he’s available by phone if the Democrats need him, and act as if he and his party have no fingerprints whatsoever on the crisis.

September has been a cruel month for the McCain campaign, much of it self-induced. They have, at best, until Columbus Day to turn it around and get their message of “maverick reform” back front and center and paint Obama as an inexperienced, less-than-unqualified, McGovern / Dukakis / Mondale clone Americans can’t afford to take chances with in dire economic times and a world where America’s interests are being threatened on all corners.

Right now, the Obama campaign – with an immense lift from a mainstream dino-media seemingly unconcerned about leaving behind any shred of credibility they might have had left – has the wind in its sails, and the polls are starting to reflect this. At this point it seems highly doubtful the McCain campaign has either the flexibility or balls-on political messaging capability to take that wind away.

Truthfully, it may all be academic after Thursday night, when Palin will have all the pressure in the world upon her to perform well in her only Vice-Presidential debate. If she falters in even the slightest way, there will be little the McCain campaign can do to stem the blood-loss from that point on. And they’ll only have themselves to blame for it, for this is the position they have put themselves in. Advantage: Obama.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 15:00 | Comments (0)
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