Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What should McCain do now?

McCain promised he'd bring the noise in tonight's debate. Well, he brought the noise, and it apparently didn't add up to much. Uncommitted viewers gave Obama the win in the debate by roughly two to one, according to CBS. Maybe that will change -- a lot of pundits seemed to be impressed by McCain's performance, and that can affect the perceptions of those who didn't watch tonight. But I'm guessing the story tomorrow is that McCain was tough but failed to truly shake up the race.

I just heard David Gergen on CNN basically saying that it's over. McCain's best strategy, he said, is to pull all his negative ads, go positive to improve his own legacy, and devote what resources he can to saving as many Senate and House seats as possible for the Republicans.

It seems clear that whatever could cause McCain to win this election will not actually come from the McCain campaign. The major shifts in this race have largely come from outside events, most notably the economic meltdown and bailout bill. Arguably, McCain should be campaigning as though the race were closer. That means running aggressive ads, maintaining a ground game in places like Florida and Ohio, etc. If the game-changing event comes, he'll be prepared. If it doesn't, he wasn't going to win anyway.

What might such a game-changing event be? Basically, anything that takes Americans' minds off the economy, such as...
  • Bin Laden releasing a tape essentially endorsing Obama.
  • Russians invading Alaska, held at bay by stick-weilding hockey moms.
  • Photos of Obama with a goatee holding an AK-47 by an open window are released.
  • Joe the Plumber strapping himself to a bomb and blowing himself up inside an Ohio sewage plant.
Such things are unlikely, but not completely implausible. I can't imagine a presidential candidate conceding the race three weeks before the election. You may as well give it your all. You never know what's going to happen.

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