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RealClearPolitics HorseRaceBlog

By Jay Cost

« The McCain Campaign and the Financial Crisis | HorseRaceBlog Home Page | Thoughts on the Second Debate »

Follow Up

I wanted to post a follow up to today's column. Ross Douthat over at the Atlantic was kind enough to mention it today. He writes:

Jay Cost makes the strongest possible case for campaigning on Ayers, Wright et. al. in the waning weeks of the election. He thinks that an issues-based campaign, pegged to McCain's bipartisan brand, made sense before the bottom dropped out of the economy; now, though, it's character or nothing. He notes that the sharpest, steepest drop in Obama's favorable numbers all year came during the initial wave of Wright-related coverage, and argues that this is the only avenue of attack that has a chance of shifting the race's dynamics...

I do think an "issues-based campaign, pegged to McCain's bipartisan brand" is probably not going to work for the McCain campaign anymore - but that does not mean I think "it's character or nothing." I think McCain needs to try to redefine Barack Obama. Does that mean running on "character"? Possibly, yes - though I don't know if that's the best word choice. Redefining Obama could mean many things, including issues. Taxes, spending, national security, and so on - that might all be part of it.

However, to try to engage Obama in a straightforward policy discussion on the financial crisis does not seem like a winning strategy anymore. Average voters are probably not going to be able to determine from the back-and-forth who is correct. I certainly don't have the capacity to do that. So, I'd expect voters to go against the party historically identified with banking.

I didn't make any suggestions about the particular redefinition McCain should offer. I mentioned the tactical advantage he has on the subject of William Ayers in light of the fact that his campaign has already begun to mention him. Similarly, I brought in the polling data on Wright because he is being mentioned again. I did not say that Wright is the "only" way to go. I suggested that McCain might go there if other lines of attack do not work.

-Jay Cost