No More Mr. Nice Guy, Part Two

As John notes below, the McCain camp has decided to get tougher on Barack Obama down the stretch of this campaign. In the Washington Post’s report on this story, Michael Shear contends that “being so aggressive has risks for McCain if it angers swing voters, who often say they are looking for candidates who offer a positive message about what they will do.”

But the Obama campaign went brutally negative on McCain last month when Obama briefly fell behind. Even Shear notes (if you read far enough) that “Obama has run television commercials for months linking McCain to lobbyists and hinting at a lack of personal ethics.” These ads have not hurt Obama. Thus, if swing voters reject negativity from McCain, it won’t be because they want a positive message, it will be because, under the circumstances, they want to vote for Obama.

I think it’s true, however, that McCain should not focus on Obama’s association to the exclusion of economic issues. Rather, McCain should develop ads that simultaneously focus on the economy and attack Obama. This should be easy inasmuch as Obama is vulnerable on the two issues that largely define the current malaise. First, as to the financial crisis, McCain proposed legislation to rein in Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac, institutions that played a major role in bringing us to where we are. Obama did not back this legislation. Moreover, he took more money from Fanny and Freddy than any other legislator except one. And two of Fanny’s top officials were Obama advisors; one of them was Obama’s initial selection to head his search for a running mate.

The second key driver of our economic downturn is high fuel prices. Here too Obama is vulnerable because of his opposition to drilling. Obama was so against tapping into domestic sources that he proposed legislation to prevent the government from even taking an inventory of its offshore supply. He found no co-sponsor.

McCain, then, is well-positioned to attack Obama on precisely the issues that matter most now to Americans. This line of attack, coupled with an attack on Obama’s liberalism/radicalism, including his associations, offers McCain his best hope of making up ground over the next few weeks.

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