Co-anchoring MSNBC's coverage of the Potomac Primaries last night (or the Beltway Battle, or The Race In The Place or whatever we're supposed to call it), Keith Olbermann nailed what ought to be the McCain campaign's guiding principle for free-media exposure: Do not under any circumstances allow the news nets to cut directly from an Obama speech to a McCain speech. The contrast is, frankly, just not fair. Watching Obama deliver even a middling performance of his stump speech, as he did last night before some 17,000 supporters at the University of Wisconsin, is electrifying. Cut to McCain, standing in what looks like somebody's basement rec room, a Madame Tussaud's display of superannuated supporters including former senator John Warner propped up stiffly as backdrop, and McCain drowsing somnolently on about "my friends" and the crucible of history and how government must respect the rights, property and opportunities of the people to whom it is accountable. At one point he seemed to conflate "America's detractors" with its "enemies." (See, far-right nut jobs? I'm pretty! Tell me I'm pretty!)
My wife wandered by just then. "Hear that?" I told her. "That's John McCain throwing heat."
"Really?" she said, sounding puzzled.
McCain seems like a decent person, his queasy embrace of Jerry Falwell notwithstanding. And there's more to governance than rhetoric. But if I were Barack Obama, and I returned to my hotel room in Wisconsin last night and caught up with the footage of McCain's victory dance, I would be thinking one thing and one thing only: "I cannot wait to get up on a stage with this guy."
Cross-posted at billbarol.tumblr.com.