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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP to McCain: Change the Subject!

As the U.S. Senate today seeks to put the Humpty-Dumpty of the financial bailout back together again, John McCain’s getting a lot of advice from “nervous” Republicans, according to a piece by the Politico’s Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin. And that advice is: change the subject! Get away from all this “substantive” stuff and attack Obama!

Several state GOP chairmen in interviews urged the McCain campaign to be more aggressive in hitting Obama’s vulnerabilities, such as his past relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and other problematic associations from Chicago….
Among those goading McCain to be more aggressive is Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Robin Smith, who said that “people need to see a gladiator who’s willing to defend what exactly he stands for.”
“We’re not talking, for instance, about the radical associations that Barack Obama has, with Mr. Ayers, Tony Rezko and so on,” Smith said. “More could be done.”
Murray Clark, the chairman of the Indiana Republican Party, said he is eager for Obama’s “troubling relationships” to be aired in his state. “I think those things will come up in Indiana again and they do have an impact on mainstream voters in Indiana. You call it going negative, [but] whoever … is in a position to point out these relationships, I think it’s helpful.”

What’s happened is that the Real World has interrupted the efforts of the McCain campaign to frame the electoral contest as a choice between “mavericks” focused on doubts and fears about his opponent:

McCain’s first signs of life only came after his campaign mocked Obama as a celebrity and sought to make the best of a race that had increasingly been defined by the Illinois Democrat. Then, thanks in part to Palin, McCain pulled even or took a lead in some polls after a convention that savaged Obama and featured only a brief video from President Bush and no appearance at all by Vice President Cheney.
Now, with the financial crisis front and center, Bush has reappeared on the landscape and the race is no longer an Obama referendum.

It’s hard to see how McCain will be able to distract attention from real-world problems with so little time remaining before November 4. But many Republicans clearly think it’s his only hope for victory.

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