I’m refusing to make predictions on this election. Part of that is superstition. I believe very strongly that an Obama presidency is the best chance for this country to save itself from its current crisis, and I’m afraid of jinxing that win with presumptuous declarations of victories. The other part is that I know how wildly elections can swing. Up today can become down tomorrow with the right sequence of events.
I will say this, though: Senator John McCain’s campaign looks very, very confused right now. It’s never a good sign when a campaign changes messages regularly, especially in the modern media environment. It takes some power behind a signal to cut through the noise, and it often requires repetition. Saying something once might – might – gain you a five minute spot on a new outlet, but you’ll be washed away by the next celebrity drug addiction. It’s important to come up with a strong campaign narrative and carry it all the way home. Adjustments will be required, but massive shifts can hurt you.
Look at the events of this last weekend. It started with the rumbling of a new economic plan in the works that would help solve the credit crisis.
On Sunday, hours before attending a big strategy meeting at McCain campaign headquarters, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Bob Schieffer on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that McCain was planning “a very comprehensive approach to jump-start the economy, by allowing capital to be formed easier in America by lowering taxes.”
There were even a few details leaked, such as a tax reduction on capital gains and dividends. Putting aside the fact that giving a tax reduction on capital no one is gaining right now sounds fairly pointless, the intent of this release was the prime the public for a new phase of Senator McCain’s campaign. This would replace the phase where we were expected to look away from the plunging Dow to stare at the name “Bill Ayers” and the one before that where Senator McCain was proposing we purchase mortages at inflated prices using tax dollars in an effort to stabilize home prices which are currently wildly overvalued.
Oh and before that was the bailout Senator McCain first helped negotiate, then didn’t help pass when it failed and then claimed to have “blew up” to keep it from passing, even though the day it was supposed to pass he was taking credit for it. If that sentence makes your head spin, imagine how well it must be playing as a campaign narrative.
Yet, before it was even released, the new plan was off the table.
But when the meeting ended, so did plans for a new economy push. The campaign now says no new policy announcements are planned. Participants in the meeting refused to say what happened.
So, just on the crisis alone we’ve seen a suspended campaign to negotiate the bailout, credit taken for a bailout plan that got voted down hours later, insinuations that the Senator himself killed the plan he was taking credit for, a plan to buy up mortgages and renegotiate them and an econommic policy that no one could agree on that included tax cuts for income no one is currently receiving with the crashing stock market.
So what’s next? Perhaps recasting yourself as “a scrappy fighter on the comeback trail against an opponent who’s already ‘measuring the drapes’ in the Oval Office.”
Allies are calling this “hitting the ‘reset’ button” on the campaign, with McCain reemerging after a long Sunday strategy session with a feisty tack that uses candor and humor, at a time when his rallies have become known for raucous rage and clumsy attacks.
So now, after all of that, we’re just going to pull a Star Trek and reset button our way out of the past three months of campaigning? If so, for the Senator’s sake this had best be the last sudden shift in messages that he tries. Like I said, I refuse to make predictions, so I won’t go on record as saying this will not work. But if it doesn’t – and I think there’s at least a good possibility that it won’t – he may be out of options.
I guess we’ll get our first real taste of this at the third debate on Wednesday.