Thursday, September 25, 2008


Talk about twists and turns. John McCain announced he was suspending his campaign on Thursday, and asked that Friday's debate be postponed, while he went to Washington to work on the bail-out bill. As Barney Frank says, this is the longest Hail Mary pass in the history of football, or Marys.

I've gone through the day and the prospects for the bail-out bill at Dreaming Up Daily. Here I'll stick mostly to the politics. Several progressive bloggers at first thought McCain's move was pretty shrewd--it seized the story, deflected from the coverage of bad poll numbers and his campaign manager's ties to Freddie Mac, and made him look like a bipartisan leader on the economic crisis. It was also a gamble to get Obama to follow him to DC and cancel the debate.

By day's end, none of it seemed to work. Neither Obama nor the debate commission agreed to cancel the debate. (Obama got in a good dig about presidents needing to be able to deal with more than one thing at a time.) Although Bush provided cover for McCain by giving him something to do in Washington (since he's not on the relevant committees, he had no real meetings to go to), he also mitigated any problem for Obama by inviting him as well, so by the time this news catches up to people, Obama will also be in the photo op in Washington.

A Survey USA flash poll strongly suggests McCain's gambit didn't work with the public--only 10% agreed that the debate should be cancelled. And at least one of those bloggers recanted. Now McCain really has a problem. If the deal isn't done by Friday, what does he do? Does he become the first candidate in history to duck a debate? Or does he murmur something about satisfactory progress and go? Incidentally, unprepared.

Also, many respondents in that poll thought the debate and the rest of the campaign should be focused on the economy. And indeed the Obama campaign said that the debate commission told them that there will be questions on the economic crisis at the debate--and they told them this several days ago.

Meanwhile, the poll numbers continue to look good for Obama, although the national ones are all over the place. Post/ABC has Obama up 10 points among registered, NBC up just 2 points, and Fox up 6 points. But there is a pattern, and it is being reflected in the state polls. As Mike Allen in Politico writes, "This is the first time that one of the candidates has dominated state polls in the most closely contested battlegrounds."

Sarah Palin's interview with Katie Couric also seemed to be a failure, with at least one major gaffe, but even this is not quite drowning out the continuing bad news for her from Alaska.

But the McCain campaign keeps trying to shake things up, so there's no telling what Thursday and Friday are going to be like. There are some signs that this erratic behavior is itself hurting McCain-Palin, as well it should.

What continues to amaze me is how thoroughly they are alienating the media--no longer just the eastern print media they like to run against, but everybody. When McCain threatened to kill the debate, that's a big revenue loss for television as well as a blow to democracy. McCain even alienated David Letterman, by cancelling his appearance at the last minute to go back to Washington--and then he was not only still in New York, but he was recording an interview with Katie Couric at the same time Letterman was taping his show: which wasn't lost on Letterman, who castigated him on the air.

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