Published October 13, 2008
It's been fascinating to watch the conservative punditry pile on the McCain campaign over the last week or so. Bill Kristol, George Will, David Frum and others are all wondering about the focus and discipline missing from McCain. He'll attack on the trail, but in a face-to-face debate confrontation, he refused to pursue the same attacks.
I guess McCain shouldn't have made such an emphasis on Obama embracing "The Surge." Obama's surge in the polls appears insurmountable, with only three weeks left until the election. It won't be any easier to catch up with an economic plan jumping from idea to idea, seeing what will stick. The false character attacks on Obama, a tested Republican strategy since the days of Nixon, aren't taking hold during a time when voters are fearfully watching the economy.
In the meantime, the McCain camp have backed themselves into a corner by riling up rallies and being forced to defend Obama against its rabid, blood-thirsty supporters. In one event, McCain actually had to say, "He is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared [of] as President of the United States." When you have to spend time debating your supporters on the merits of your opponent rather than hitting your message, then you're doing something wrong.
Though many bloggers and conservative writers have expressed sympathy for Sarah Palin after the roller coaster she experienced from the highs of her convention debut to the lows of her nightly news interviews, the person I feel sorry for is John McCain. I suspect somewhere inside is a man who wants to run an honorable campaign. However, he hired the dirtiest advisors to run his campaign, so he shouldn't be surprised at how it's turned out.
When you sacrifice your principles to win at all costs, the McCain campaign is what you get: a top-ticket candidate whose instincts are at odds with his advisors and a Vice-Presidential candidate chosen for her gender and born-again bona fides. It's starting to look like a rout is in order, and at this point it's hard to feel like McCain and his party don't deserve what they get.