Here comes the McCain campaign reboot! It soft-launched on Friday, with the candidate angrily rebuking the wackos who go to his rallies these days. Attached: Matt Drudge's front page. Drudge has been broadcasting live from a bizarro world these last few weeks. In this world, people still like Sarah Palin and McCain is ever-so-close in the national tracking polls. (Also everyone finds it funny that Obama said "pie" a bunch of times in a recent appearance. That is one of those links, to a YouTube of Barack Obama saying "pie" a bunch of times.) Now, simply because it is decreed, it must happen: it's comeback time! What does that entail? Let's take a sneak peek at this week's new McCain narrative. First, the Bill Kristol column! Kristol is always a great barometer for the mood of McCain's political team. And, according to Bill, McCain is going to fire that political team, maverick style!
What McCain needs to do is junk the whole thing and start over. Shut down the rapid responses, end the frantic e-mails, bench the spinning surrogates, stop putting up new TV and Internet ads every minute. In fact, pull all the ads — they’re doing no good anyway. Use that money for televised town halls and half-hour addresses in prime time. And let McCain go back to what he’s been good at in the past — running as a cheerful, open and accessible candidate. Palin should follow suit. The two of them are attractive and competent politicians. They’re happy warriors and good campaigners. Set them free.
That's right, a month after the rest of the media gave up on the "bring back the old McCain" line, McCain's staff is finally seeing its utility. But whatever, it's still worth a shot. Step one was that repudiation of the crazies (the one that got him booed by his own supporters). This was classic McCain behavior—one of the reasons he's been such a crappy Republican in the modern Bush era is because he can't really stand the rabble that makes up the base. As a man of privilege who's decidedly not religious and who's always been a bit misanthropic, he's not comfortable around screaming hordes of nativist morons. So his own revulsion at the people his campaign thought would win it for them must now be turned into a coherent electoral strategy! Introducing the New New McCain! It begins with what consummate hack and Drudge acolyte Mark Halperin has preemptively declared the "comeback speech." This speech is apparently an indictment of Bush. There are no attacks on Obama, and there is a preview of the NEW ECONOMIC PLAN he'll introduce at the debate on Wednesday. This new strategy was already previewed by Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, whose relentlessly negative campaign against challenger Al Franken was not actually doing that well in a state that will probably go for Obama. The new Norm will run a positive campaign, and he's distancing himself from McCain and the whole GOP brand. Coleman, in a race whose lead keeps changing on a day-to-day basis, will probably have a better time selling this particular line of snake oil than McCain will. This new nice McCain will maybe do something to help the Arizona Senator's miserable favorability ratings, because they've utterly failed to hurt Obama's favorables. And this strategy might be helpful: everyone's exhausted with the crazy racism and the shock and horror. He might get decent coverage from a reboot. But the success of the stunt depends on a few factors:
- It has to be for real. McCain's campaign "suspension" was a joke, becuase he didn't suspend his campaign at all and he did nothing to aid the bailout bill. McCain needs to actually seriously change his campaign's tone and strategy.
- That means silencing Sarah Palin. If McCain's new message is positive and respectful, they can't have Palin out at rallies throwing out the same red meat to the same nutjobs. They need to have her being positive and pleasant at these rallies full of the same nutjobs.
- This new economic policy is a total mixed bag. The sort of Republicans who already wish they were voting for Palin instead will not stand for a crazy left-wing New Deal coming from their candidate, even if the plan sounds nice to the moderates McCain wants to attract. They will fucking revolt, like they did when he said he'd buy all the bad mortgages.
- This is, once again, a media strategy, and not real challenge to the electoral work the Obama campaign has quietly been doing for months now. McCain does not just need to reverse the national tracking poll numbers, he needs to pull ahead in at least four states where Obama has 8+ point leads. Winning this media cycle might help, a bit, but it's once again not really serious behavior.
- All the current Obama endorsements talk about his temperament and character. McCain once again making a complete 180 might play well with voters, but it's hard to imagine it'll win him any new fans among the brie and Chablis set.
So enjoy this crazy new "not calling his opponent a terrorist" stunt, while it lasts. If it doesn't work they'll probably have to make McCain promise he'll resign as soon as he wins the election an throw it to Palin.