It may appear as though the McCain/Palin campaign is erratically lurching from tactic to tactic on an almost daily basis and, in many ways, it is. But the various McCain/Palin campaign tactics do tie together in a pattern that reflects a level of Republican strategic thinking which would be a mistake for Obama-supporters to dismiss out of hand. There are many reasons for Democrats to be feeling pretty good. But as tempting as it may be, it's way to early to become complacent or start popping the Champagne corks.
"Palling around with terrorists", Joe The Plumber as white working class everyman, claims that increasing taxes is an opening gambit to taking money from the middle class and using it for "welfare" (shades of Reagan's "welfare queens"), accusations of "socialism", fear of a foreign enemy testing an inexperienced Commander-In-Chief. These seemingly disparate scare tactics may not be aimed at winning over the broad national electorate as a whole. Instead, they are aimed at holding onto a big enough slice of mostly older, mostly non-college educated, mostly working class and lower middle class, white people, particularly in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Florida which have large numbers of these types of voters.
Many of these voters are independents or so-called "Reagan Democrats" who have voted Republican in large numbers in recent Presidential elections and are beginning to tilt more Democratic in light of eight years of George Bush's Presidency and the economic crisis. The McCain strategy is to roll out the same old Republican scare tactics one more time in the hope that they may have just enough life in them for one more Republican Presidential candidate to just barely squeak through. At the same time, the strategy is aimed at rallying an otherwise demoralized Republican base to turn out on Election Day in large numbers to stop the scary, terrorist-coddling, tax-raising, socialist-leaning, black guy from reaching the White House.
The stategy of the McCain campaign is that in key swing states, there is enough of a "Bradley effect" that the election is 3%-5% closer than the polls indicate, that their scare tactics can convince another 3%-5% of white voters not to vote for Obama, that they can yet again suppress Democratic turnout in key precincts, and that they can drive the Republican base to the polls in numbers rivaling their turnout for George Bush in 2004. This might, in the view of the McCain/Palin campaign, enable the Republicans to just hold onto the States that Bush won (except perhaps Iowa and New Mexico). If they can then turnaround one large Kerry state like Pennsylvania, McCain's advisors hope they just might squeak through to an Electoral College victory.
So Democrats assume at their peril that the McCain/Palin campaign has no strategy. The chances of this strategy working one more time this year may be small in light of the historical moment, the economic crisis, and the brilliance of Barack Obama and the remarkable campaign which he has run. Still, this cynical Republican strategy has worked many times before. Democrats must not let up for a minute between now and Election Day. They must keep giving money, making phone calls, canvassing their neighbors, calling their grandparents, traveling to swing states, and most of all, be sure that every last Obama supporter shows up at the polls on November 4th.