6 Oct 2008

Here's a summary of the smartest new political analysis on the Web: by Gerald F. Seib and Sara Murray 

It's been a bad stretch for Sen. John McCain, but few have been willing to go this far: Former Hillary Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson, now writing for The New Republic, declares flatly "The race is over." Sen. Barack Obama will win, he says. 

"John McCain's candidacy is as much a casualty of Wall Street as Lehman or Merrill. Like those once vibrant institutions, McCain's collapse was stunning and quick. One minute you are a well-respected brand. The next you are yelling at the messengers of your demise as all around you the numbers start blinking red and stop adding up." Before the Wall Street collapse, Wolfson writes, "Senator McCain was ahead." But today, "an election dominated at its inception by the war in Iraq is now overwhelmingly focused on the economy. More than half of voters in polls say that the economy is their top concern and Senator Obama enjoys double digit leads among voters asked who can better fix our economic mess. Put simply, there is no way Senator McCain can win if he continues to trail Senator Obama by double digits on the top concern of more than half of voters."

But the Obama campaign isn't taking any chances. Politico's Mike Allen reports that his campaign "on Monday is launching a multimedia campaign to draw attention to the involvement of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the ‘Keating Five' savings-and-loan scandal of 1989-91, which blemished McCain's public image and set him on his course as a self-styled reformer." The move is a reaction to the McCain camp's new efforts to tie Sen. Obama to 1960s radical William Ayers and scandal-plagued Chicago businessman Tony Rezko. Overnight, Allen says, the Obama campaign "began e-mailing millions of supporters a link to a website, KeatingEconomics.com, which will have a 13-minute documentary on the scandal beginning at noon Eastern time on Monday. The e-mails urge recipients to pass the link on to friends. The Obama campaign, including its surrogates appearing on radio and television, will argue that the deregulatory fervor that caused massive, cascading savings-and-loan collapses in the late ‘80s was pursued by McCain throughout his career, and helped cause the current credit crisis."

The Huffington Post's Thomas B. Edsall writes that "At a time of extreme economic crisis at home and two wars abroad, John McCain is gambling that an attack mounted by Sarah Palin on Barack Obama's tangential ties to 1970s radical bomber Bill Ayers will reverse the Arizona Senator's steadily diminishing prospect of victory on November 4. This strategy carries high risks. First and foremost, a number of experts in the field doubt that when the economy has been on the brink of collapse, when the situation in Afghanistan is worsening, and the debate over the US war in Iraq has intensified, negative campaigning is an effective political tool." 

It's also naive to expect that Obama won't fight back. Plus, negative campaigning tends to damage both candidates. Edsall quotes polling expert Nate Silver as saying "It may be quite difficult for McCain to attack Obama in this fashion without significantly damaging his own brand. What's interesting is that, with the exception of the past couple of weeks, McCain's and Obama's ratings have been fairly strongly correlated, tending to rise and fall together. This is not to say that negative campaigning doesn't work - it sometimes does - but it works at diminished efficiency, because you may be giving back 50 cents on the dollar by harming your own approval scores."

Now onto battleground states. Washingtonpost.com's Chris Cillizza has updated his electoral map, which puts Obama above the 300 mark. "The movement is most noticeable in states - particularly in the Industrial Midwest - where the economy has been a front-burner issue for years...With that in mind, we have moved Ohio from McCain's column to Obama's - amid polling including a new Columbus Dispatch survey that shows the Illinois senator with an edge. The other major change in this week's Fix map is Virginia, which we are moving from McCain to Obama. Electoral history in the state is daunting for Obama - the last Democrat to carry the state at the presidential level was Lyndon Johnson way back in 1964 - but the Democratic candidate is lavishing time and money on the Commonwealth. And, even top Virginia Republicans are starting to express their concern publicly about McCain's dimming prospects there

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal


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