An update to my post from a week and a half ago. It’s going well.
- Keep issues alive. As much as McCain tried to spin it into an umbrage-and-character play in the last two weeks, the bailout and the economy are going to dominate the agenda through Election Day. I have never seen an opinion poll produce a zero per cent result in anything, ever, but that’s the percentage of Americans who think the economy is improving.
- Play the ground game. I think this is Obama’s secret weapon. The Republicans have been energized by Palin, but as she fades, that may fade too. Obama is just continuing to strengthen an already dominant organization.
- Run against the Republican. I’m not seeing them do this. It’s still personal about McCain and linking him with Bush, and now Palin with Cheney.
- Let McCain flail. Oh, my, this is working. He is coming off increasingly poorly on the trail and the stump. Without Palin he looks lost. Missteps are making him furious in private and off-balance in public. He’s pegging the gaffe-o-meter they built for Biden, and nothing he’s throwing at Obama seems to be sticking. But brace yourselves; it will only continue to get uglier.
- Let Palin self-destruct. Also working very well. As Palin’s unknowns decline, her negatives mount, too,and McCain’s support declines linearly. Again, this is mostly rope-a-dope for Obama; what damage she’s not bringing on herself with gaffes her campaign is bringing by fencing her off from the press.
- Court the press. This is the first triumph, and will make for a very good September for Obama. McCain’s campaign expected the press to regurgitate their half-truths and outright lies, and when they didn’t, they went apeshit. Obama has been saturating the press with access and contact. Biden’s given forty-five pressers to Palin’s, well, zero—and they notice stuff like that. And McCain’s campaign is still trying to insulate the base from the long, slow, painful press vetting of Palin by telling them to disregard everything they hear in the “biased mainstream media.” Joe Klein has had it. So have Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin. McCain has lost his base, and now only has hers.
- Side with the elites. This is working. Maureen Dowd couldn’t bring herself to say it in her own voice, so she borrowed Aaron Sorkin’s: “Where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence.” And to show that the carousel has turned a half circle in the village, George Willactively makes the case that in this financial turmoil, McCain’s behavior demonstrate that he is “not suited to the presidency.” The actual Serious People are coming around to the notion that they can at least negotiate with Obama, though they disagree with him; with McCain, they may not even get to negotiate.
The polls are back where they were several weeks before the convention, but now pointing in Obama’s direction. The coming weeks bring us the Stevens trial, whatever report the Alaska Legislature Council will bring, no doubt further bad news on the financial markets and the economy, and the everpresent likelihood of more tests of the administration’s competence, whether it be disaster response, terrorism, setbacks in battle, or another sex scandal. Of course, McCain can run brutal, personal, vicious ads; Obama could suck in the debates or make a gaffe or two; or Nancy Pelosi could screw up the bailout package very, very badly. There’s a reason we have elections and don’t just let the pollsters pick a President.