Posted by: mutantpoodle | October 15, 2008

This IS the real McCain

Mike Murphy is a GOP consultant who posts at Swampland, and while I note the conspicuous absence of a Democratic counterpart, I think he’s been right about a few things lately. He’s been saying for a while that McCain needs to go positive to win – that the smear campaign won’t work.

On that count, he’s certainly been vindicated.

Today, in his pre-debate thoughts, he suggests a new strategy for John McCain:

The whole idea that McCain can score some zinger driven moment where Obama curls up in a sobbing ball and admits he isn’t ready to be President is ridiculous. Presidential debates don’t work like the last act in a courtroom movie. McCain doesn’t need an insult zinger, he needs a clear rationale for his candidacy. McCain’s once formidable “brand” has been so damaged by his campaign that his real problem isn’t creating more doubts about Obama, it is erasing the many doubts voters now have about him. Tonight is his last unfiltered chance to repair that damage.

McCain should borrow a technique from the Palin playbook and look mostly into the camera, directly addressing the home audience. He should imply a gentle mea culpa; the stakes for America are so high and this election is so important that he found himself doing things to win it that he has spent his political life fighting against. That is now over and he will stand or fall on making his positive case directly to the American people. He should talk about being the tough sheriff Washington needs to slam back the special interests in both parties and lead a bi-partisan Washington that will fix the economic crisis at home and protect us abroad. A President not allied to one party, but to our national purpose. He shouldn’t sneer and mock Obama; praise him instead as good hearted and ready to mightily assist in this great mission but not yet prepared to lead it.

Here’s the thing: nothing I have seen – the anger, the sneering contempt, the erratic swings from one tactic to the next – suggests to me that this isn’t, in fact, John McCain being John McCain.

He’s always been reckless.

He’s always had a temper.

He’s always been kind of a jerk.

The other day, John McCain’s brother suggested that his handlers have screwed this up, and they need to “let John McCain be John McCain.”

As Bush strategist Matthew Dowd says, “when partisans start saying let the candidate be the candidate, it means things are off course.”

Under stress, we revert to our true selves. And a Presidential campaign is nothing but wall-to-wall stress.

So it’s quite apparent that Barack Obama is nearly unflappable. And John McCain is exactly who he has shown himself to be, and, to channel Denny Green above, who I thought he was.

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