The primaries at last concluded, the Obama campaign is now mapping its strategy, staffing up, deciding on new hires and starting to build on the Obama organizations already in place in nearly every state-- a benefit of the prolonged contest against Hillary Clinton. Obama, of course, is also weighing whom to ask to join him at the top of the ticket. His selection team will now travel to Capitol Hill to talk to Democratic Senators and House members and collect their recommendations. Obama's campaign had already been compiling stories about potential running mates and will now start the vetting process. The general election campaign has arrived.
Of course, McCain has been preparing for this moment for months since the Republican candidate wrapped up his party's nomination as early as Super Tuesday. For much of the past five months, his campaign felt that it was no use wasting money airing ads aggressively and fighting for media attention as the press and of the country was focused on the Clinton-Obama race. But as we saw on Tuesday when John McCain delivered a surprisingly weak speech on primetime television, having had a long time to prepare does not mean that the McCain campaign is ready to come out swinging.
Yet, there are certain things that the McCain campaign has obviously been preparing for a while, starting with its first major general election ad which started airing Friday. Called "Safe," the spot (watch it here) features a stern looking McCain who professes to "hate war" and mentions the fact that he was held for five years as a POW. The message is clear: McCain intends to run on issues of national security and we should not expect him to be shy about mentioning his years in Vietnam, however much McCain has stayed away from campaigning on that in the past.
Politico reports that McCain is running this ad in an impressive list of swing states that gives us a good idea of where the GOP believes the fall campaign will play: Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The inclusion of Missouri should reassure Democrats that the Show Me State will be competitive in the fall while McCain's determination to target Michigan confirms one of the most surprising storylines of the early stages of the campaign -- Michigan replacing Florida as the third member of the holy trio, along with Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Second, the McCain campaign had been preparing its offensive on holding joint town halls as they issued their challenge to Obama as soon as the Democrat wrapped up his nomination battle on Tuesday. Naturally, Obama's team was in position to agree to such a thing when it had barely started strategizing -- and Republicans knew that, their objective being to put Obama in a hole and advance their argument that he was not ready for the big stage. In fact, McCain proposed that the first event be held on June 12th, something Obama was obviously in no position to accept.
Today, NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg (who is having a lot of trouble staying away from this presidential campaign) complicated the picture for the Obama campaign by offering to host the first joint town hall meeting at Manhattan's Federal Hall. This ups the pressure on Obama to accept, and Republicans are likely to portray any delay as stalling. But it is unclear whether the Democrat is looking for a way out of this. In fact, all signs point to the fact that both parties think holding joint town halls would favor them -- making those atypical events a very real possibility!
On the one hand, Republicans are at a financial disadvantage and would relish the free media and equal exposure that joint town hall meetings would guarantee; McCain also believes that common appearances would be an opportunity for him to showcase his expertise and contrast himself with his opponent's alleged inexperience. On the other hand, Democrats seem convinced that any joint appearance would serve to highlight McCain's old age and that any opportunity for Obama to showcase his mastery of policy and go toe-to-toe with John McCain will serve him greatly, undermining the GOP's attacks on his readiness.
Read more at Daniel Nichanian's blog, Campaign Diaries.