The nation's growing financial crisis has weakened the McCain campaign and put him on the defensive, according to several reports today. With a recent CBS News poll showing voters trust Obama over McCain to handle the country's economic problems, the McCain campaign has decided it must act aggressively to shift the debate away from the economy. The New York Times reports:
Senator John McCain is entering the final month of the presidential campaign with his prospects weakened by the nation's deepening financial crisis and persistent doubts about his choice of running mate, but his game plan is clear: sow doubts about Senator Barack Obama by portraying him as liberal and unready to lead...
...But the day showed how difficult that effort would be. Mr. McCain hammered at Mr. Obama just hours after a report showed that the economy had lost 159,000 jobs in September, the ninth straight monthly decline. And the attention of the political world was still focused on Washington, where some Republican lawmakers were reversing their opposition to the bailout plan for the financial system, starving the presidential race of attention that could put Mr. McCain back in the spotlight.
The Washington Post further highlights McCain's new strategy, but notes this aggressive approach is not without risks:
"We are looking for a very aggressive last 30 days," said Greg Strimple, one of McCain's top advisers. "We are looking forward to turning a page on this financial crisis and getting back to discussing Mr. Obama's aggressively liberal record and how he will be too risky for Americans..."
...Being so aggressive has risks for McCain if it angers swing voters, who often say they are looking for candidates who offer a positive message about what they will do. That could be especially true this year, when frustration with Washington politics is acute and a desire for specifics on how to fix the economy and fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is strong.
As Talking Points Memo points out, the statement from the McCain adviser is an "awfully candid admission":
That seems like an awfully candid admission, if an inadvertent one: The McCain campaign doesn't want to talk about the economic crisis anymore; the McCain camp would rather talk about how "risky" Obama is.
What's more, the "turning the page" line seems awfully flip. Why entrust McCain to steer our economy out trouble if his own top adviser admits that McCain and company don't want to talk about solving the crisis and are hoping to merely "turn the page" on it?
UPDATE: Politico reports: "Branding his opponent as 'erratic in a crisis,' Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is preempting plans by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to portray him as having sinister connections to controversial Chicagoans."
Obama officials call it political jujitsu - turning the attacks back on the attacker. [...]
His campaign is going up Monday on national cable stations with a scathing ad saying: "Three quarters of a million jobs lost this year. Our financial system in turmoil. And John McCain? Erratic in a crisis. Out of touch on the economy. No wonder his campaign wants to change the subject.
"Turn the page on the financial crisis by launching dishonorable, dishonest 'assaults' against Barack Obama. Struggling families can't turn the page on this economy, and we can't afford another president who is this out of touch."