It's October in America and if it's an election year that means one thing: shit is about to hit the fan.
With the McCain camp seemingly coordinating their hits with Fox News Democrats are rightfully nervous about how Obama responds and whether any of this will get traction. The Obama-Ayers-Wright-Connection is tired old news to those of us who pay attention to politics but the vast majority of this country is barely cognizant of the election, nevermind the finer points of the hand-to-hand that's been waged since Barack Obama announced his candidacy and captured millions of imaginations. To them the idea of an American major party presidential candidate with "ties" to unsavories will be hard to ignore.
The question will be how to diffuse the Republican talking points, especially when their supported by a major news network, and how to undermine McCain's perceived strengths?
Phase one is considerably harder than phase two since we live in a 24 hour echo chamber of chain emails, talking heads, and viral videos. Once the kernel of a story gets embedded under our collective skin it can be as tough as a tick to dig out. Brute force can remove the body but leave the head to fester and infect. It will take a careful and considerate response and repeated treatment. Call in ALL surrogates to carpet bomb the airwaves and point out how this is clearly a desperation tactic and one straight from the "same old politics" of Bush-Rove. Remind people that there are political differences in their own families and tactics like these seek to put a wedge between them. Just because you disagree with your daughter's progressive (never "liberal" that is tainted) ideals doesn't mean you don't love her; it doesn't mean she's not a good American. Hillary Clinton especially could come in now and forcefully support Obama and attack McCain, which would serve her party and repair so much damage from the primaries. She could be a heroine.
And then attack, attack, attack.
McCain is particularly weak on the economy. His latest drop in the polls is directly related to the economic madness of the last two months and his truly erradic handling of that crisis. The campaign "suspension" gag fell flat and ended up making McCain look like a wilting ninny with a case of the vapors who crumbles at the first scent of trouble. As ONE of 100 Us senators there was little he could do alone and even less without the support of his party, so why all the running around like your hair's on fire? Contrast that with Obama's calm, reasoned response and ability to rally his party to a compromise. Do you want another shoot-from-the-hip reactionary in the White House or somebody who stops to think about the problem and then proceed appropriately?
And what about foreign policy? Supposedly McCain's strength, but nearly every reaction he's had to recent foreign policy issues has been more of the same brash machismo that has gotten us into two wars (neither executed to completion—this in seven years of combat) and has severely damaged our ability to marshal allies to our cause. When Russia invaded Georgia McCain and Palin's first response was to go on a war footing. They both suggested Georgia's immediate acceptance into NATO, something the United States neither has the authority to institute (there are 27 nations in NATO and entry into the alliance is a multi-year process) nor would be wise as it would by definition put us in a war with Russia. I'm no shrinking violet but I don't think I am interested in ANOTHER war right now, thank you. I am guessing the majority of Americans, if told in no uncertain terms that John McCain's first reaction is military intervention, they'd think better of voting for him too.
I'd also go hard on the Keating Five thing, which it appears the Obama campaign is launching this week. Way back when, John McCain was a central figure in what was then a major, major ethics violation involving favors for financial institutions and the dreaded "lobbyists" influence over policy decisions. McCain has since said that he learned great lessons from his entanglement in the whole thing but we know for a fact that most of his senior campaign staff comes from the lobbying ranks, including those who argued on behalf of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac and against stricter regulation of their industries. What's more, McCain has chanted the old "de-regulate" mantra his entire career. It's time to hit that over and over and over again. People are mad as hell that Wall Street is being bailed out while their homes are being auctioned out from under them. Paint McCain as a protectorate of those Wall Street fat cats who put us in this situation and replay his "de-regulate" speeches on a loop until election day.
This week is key. The McCain camp is cornered and sick. They are going to throw any and every single thing the can find at Obama. We know the truthfulness of the attack is not a concern for them and we know how Rove's people play this game. How Obama reacts and responds will be the best test of his candidacy and will tell us how he might play as President. He needs to work this like the whole world is watching...because they finally are.