Finding Stride


This has been a bad week for John McCain. They should have been ready to deal with a news cycle that played to Barack’s advantage, but were apparently thrown of kilter by McCain’s statement Monday morning that the fundamentals of the economy were still strong. With this ad, they seem to have settled into a groove. Finally.

THE SCRIPT Voice of Mr. McCain: “You, the American workers, are the best in the world. But your economic security has been put at risk by the greed of Wall Street. That’s unacceptable. My opponent’s only solutions are talk and taxes. I’ll reform Wall Street and fix Washington. I’ve taken on tougher guys than this before.” Announcer’s voice: “Change is coming. John McCain.”

The Wall Street Debacle has pushed the conversation back to Barack’s storyline, away from Sarah and back to the malaise, and he seized the opportunity.

For months, McCain’s managers have understood that his biggest challenge is that eight out of 10 Americans think the country is moving in the wrong direction. There are relatively few things McCain can do to overcome the voters’ natural inclination to punish the party in power.

One is to sow doubts about Obama and his prospective actions, and McCain has been assiduous in doing that. He and his cohorts have questioned Obama’s experience, criticized his tax policies and challenged his approach to energy issues.

Another is to create a narrative that diverts attention from the voters’ fundamental dissatisfaction. That was the purpose of McCain’s reform initiative — a narrative rooted in his own rebel personality and anti-establishment history, reinforced by the choice of Palin as his running mate. That story line was launched well at the Republican National Convention, and it tightened the race.

McCain must demonstrate that even in the context of the down economy, it is he who represents change.

There may be other external events that jolt the presidential race — and the debates are still to come. But for now, Wall Street and its woes are causing big problems for John McCain.

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