What McCain should do next, Part Two

Yesterday, I observed that John McCain is slipping some in the polls. Today, there is more evidence of slippage, and Obama now leads in the RCP average.

I attributed McCain’s slide (if that’s not too strong a word) to a natural correction to his surprisingly large bounce, and to Obama’s attack ad. But Abe Greenwald at Contentions argues that McCain squandered his bump through dumbed-down negative ads that made him look like a “tactical opportunist.”

There may be something to that. The McCain campaign certainly didn’t cover itself in glory when, for example, it tried to make something out of Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” remark. As I argued last week, with election day drawing near voters will focus less on atmospherics (which they probably have mostly internalized by now) and more on economic ssues. Thus, as I maintained, the way forward for McCain was to place primary emphasis on the economy.

This he did not do. Instead, he played into the hands of Obama and his supporters in the MSM who pounce when a Republican candidate gets near the line while saying nothing when Democrats cross it.

But the race is still virtually a dead-heat (which is significantly better than I expected at this juncture), and McCain has plenty of time to regain his focus. This does not mean eschewing negative ads; to the contrary, they are essential. But his ads should draw contrasts (positive as to McCain, negative as to Obama), and they need to be about matters of significance, not trivialties. And of course, they should be entirely true.

Adopting this approach should help McCain restore his brand, or at least maintain some of it, and keep him competitive until the debates begin.

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