Facing a steep slippery slope heading to Nov. 4, GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his running mate Alaska Gov. Sara Palin, reversed course, suddenly dropping character assassination of Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Last week, McCain and Palin blasted Barack for his association with former Weather Underground ’60s radical Bill Ayers, repeatedly saying the 47-year-old first-term Illinois senator “pals around with terrorists.” One week of negative attacks cost two full percentage points in the polls, now spotting Barack a 7.4% lead in aggregate polling. McCain’s chief strategist Steve Schmidt and his campaign manager Rick Davis convinced themselves to go negative, after Obama opened up sizable leads in national polls and battleground states. McCain and Palin’s character assassination strategy backfired.
Two days before the last presidential debate at Hofstra University in Long Island, N.Y., McCain showed a new face, suspending all personal attacks. He got nowhere questioning Barack’s patriotism and tying him to former Vietnam War rabble rouser Bill Ayers. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clintion (D-N.Y.), now campaigning hard in Pennsylvania for Barack’s election, tried but failed to associate Obama with Ayers, firebrand preacher Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.. and sleazy Chicago real estate mogul Tony Resko. Much of McCain’s strategy borrowed heavily from Hillary, whose campaign hammered Barack relentlessly until finally putting her away June 4 after the Montana and South Dakota primaries. McCain, like Hillary, learned there are limits to negative campaigning, eventually turning off voters. McCain’s new tactics indicate a desperate new strategy to gain traction.
McCain has reinvented himself another time as the never-say-die underdog, whose campaign has gone through many reversals. “The hour is late, our troubles are getting worse, our enemies watch. We have to act immediately. We have to change direction now,” said McCain trying out a new stump speech, rallying supporters to his cause. McCain has made many pitches, telling voters that Barack needs “on-the-job-training,” something the country can ill-afford during this time of foreign threats and economic turmoil. When McCain makes the case that “our troubles are getting worse,” he’s making Barack’s case that the country can’t afford four more years of Bush’s policies. McCain’s recent remarks come as close to ever from making a break with Bush’s failed policies. McCain told Barack in last debate to stop tying him to Bush’s failed presidency.
Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have been conspicuously absent from the campaign trail, underscoring PR damage to McCain of an incumbent with a 26% approval ratings, the lowest in modern history. McCain faces stiff headwinds hoping to stave off a national trend showing discontent with the incumbent’s party. “What America needs in this hour is a fighter,” said McCain, confirming that Americans worried about the direction of the country. McCain would like to champion the American cause but his party has left the country’s economy in shambles. Most voters have difficulty trusting McCain will somehow turn things around, when his tax-and-spending plan closely resembles Bush’s. Obama’s rise in the polls seems closely correlated with deteriorating economic conditions. McCain blasted Obama for tax-and-spend polices resembling former President Herbert Hoover.
McCain’s final push before Wednesday night’s debate has raised doubts about his record of fiscal conservatism, especially when it comes to the military. He’s already warned at the Oct. 7 Nashville debate he intends to slash all government programs except defense. Trying to paint Obama as the next Herbert Hoover is as Orwellian as saying he “pals around with domestic terrorists.” Obama is committed to middle class tax relief, affecting about 95% of American families. McCain wants more tax cuts for the country’s top wage earners, currently paying less tax than under the late President Ronald Reagan. McCain claims Barack wants to raise taxes, despite his pledge of cutting taxes for wage earners under $250,000. Now off the terrorist kick, McCain frightens voters into believing he exact opposite of Barack’s tax policy: Barack intends to cut taxes for middle class voters.
Voters have grown weary of candidates reinventing themselves every time they’re down in the polls. McCain’s new effort to cast himself as a reformer, despite supporting Bush 94% of the time during the last eight years, looks disingenuous. He has a new plan for the economy but can’t distinguish himself from Bush, especially on tax policy where Supply Side and Trickle-Down economics still rule the day. McCain’s tax policy tells the whole story of his priorities, already threatening to slash every entitlement program except the sacrosanct defense budget. He has no plan to end the Iraq War or to get Iraqis to foot the bill. Like a manager or coach who blames bad times on his team, voters seek a management change in 2008. No political party should be rewarded for running the country into the ground. No matter how much McCain fights, he’s fighting a losing battle.
Home || Articles || Books || The Teflon Report || Reactions || About Discobolos
Discobolos Consulting Services, Inc.