POLITICS
11/23/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Clintonites Offer McCain Advice: Make A Dramatic Play And Pray

Facing a difficult electoral map and dispiriting public opinion polls, John McCain finds himself in a situation similar to Hillary Clinton's in the closing weeks of the Democratic primary: how to change a political situation that, numerically, seems daunting.

So who better to offer advise him than former Clinton aides? After all, with the landscape looking bleak, that campaign was able to win five of the last seven Democratic contests.

Several members of that campaign discussed with the Huffington Post what they believed were the best options for the Republican ticket to pursue. There weren't many.

"The campaign is over," said Clinton's former communications director, Howard Wolfson, who had previously called the contest in his writings for The New Republic and his personal blog. At this point, he added, you "do your best to help down ballot supporters and go out the way you would like history to remember you."

Others saw at least a glimmer of a chance. One aide, speaking on background, suggested two dramatic moves. He said that McCain could continue hammering Obama for being soft on crime, something that the Arizona Republican has only begun doing only recently.

"I thought for awhile that crime was a big one and I guess they just started with that with the robocall," he said. "They never went at him on it and it's a legitimate issue."

The aide noted that attacking Obama on this front carried with it racial implications (the black candidate being tied to the nasty side of inner cities). But McCain has already weathered such bad publicity.

Asked for a true game-changer, the aide added, "He could say he is only going to serve on term. And declare that he would appoint an equal number of Democrats and Republicans to his cabinet and name who they would be."

But Phil Singer, who served as a press secretary for Clinton, argued that the time for a "dramatic move had passed."

"They overplayed their hand on some of these attacks," he argued. "The lipstick on the pig criticism was a turning point... It wasn't that it was too trivial or cute. It was that it wasn't credible. The press didn't buy it because [Obama] clearly wasn't attacking [Palin.] The celebrity attack was more effective but similar."

By Singer's logic, the McCain camp pushed too frequently for the attention-grabbing stunt, such as leaving the trail abruptly to work on the financial market bailout. Anything similar at this point would merely "feed into the idea that McCain is erratic."

As such, there was little the Senator could or should do save for hammering away at economic issues. That may yield his campaign a few percentage points in the poll, Singer argued, but even then McCain would still need a touch of divine intervention.

"They need an effective prayer strategy," he said.