Jesse Lee is the Online Rapid Response Manager for the DNC, this is a daily update on the day's messaging.
A wise man once said, "Sooner or later, people are going to figure out if all you run is negative attack ads you dont have much of a vision for the future or you're not ready to articulate it." Of course that was John McCain back in 2000, demonstrating a faith in the American people to see a transparent smear campaign the motivations behind it for what they are.
Apparently, though, McCain's aides don't share that faith. First there was top McCain advisers Greg Strimple telling the Washington Post "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." Then there was the top McCain strategist telling the Daily News "If we keep talking about the economic crisis, we're going to lose." Why don't they share John McCain's faith that the public can see through John McCain on their own, and feel like they have to spell it out for everybody?
Whatever their thinking, Obama's new ad helps them get their message out:
So what to expect in the debate tonight? Well, this is McCain's cherished town hall format he boasts of loving so much. No, really, he loves them...
But beyond that, the consensus CW seems to be that McCain wants nothing short of the proverbial "game-changer" (this game being so unfair, much like life itself). Of course McCain himself laid out the strategy last week: "McCain hinted Thursday that a change is imminent, perhaps as soon as next week's debate. Asked at a Colorado town hall, 'When are you going to take the gloves off?' the candidate grinned and replied, 'How about Tuesday night?'"
ABC News' The Note: "McCain gets the format he wants, but not the backdrop. If the debate follows the logical progression of the week, we will continue down the path of least subsistence into out-and-out, guilt-by-association name-calling -- led there, in all likelihood, by McCain, whose campaign is trying to thrust "character" into a campaign that may not welcome it. Does McCain want to go there? Will/should even nasty attacks register when compared to the psychological blows arriving in mailboxes these days, depicting shattered 401(k)s? And with Tuesday night's town-hall format, does a candidate want to throw bombs when there are civilians in range? It may be too late for those choices: It's on, and it's ugly."
NBC's First Read: "McCain heads into tonight's debate here down in the polls and in need of a game-changer... The negative turn: It's also worth pointing out that McCain's negatives have increased as he's gone on the attack against Obama. In March, his fav/unfav was 49%-27%; now it's 43%-39% (+4). By comparison, Obama has gone from 51%-28% in March to 52%-35% (+17). In addition, Obama's numbers among independents have shot up in the latest NBC/WSJ poll: Two weeks ago, McCain led him here, 51%-38%, and now it's Obama up four, 42%-38%. All this highlights a big problem for McCain: It's increasingly harder for him to go negative, even though he's now embarked on that path."
NYT's The Caucus: "If Senator John McCain is in fact trying to shift the focus of attention away from his ability to deal with the economy, it should show up tonight on the debate stage... This should make for a riveting encounter. Mr. McCain needs to do something dramatic to halt his slide. He and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, have taken a sharply negative turn on the campaign trail, and he may well continue that tone tonight."