McCain has an opportunity to take Obama out, and it looks like he is going to go for it. The way he can do this is to run against the “politics as usual” in Washington. His dangerous political gambit this week can pay off for him, but only if he makes it work tonight. That is his “must-do” for this debate.
Here is what he needs to say in his own words: the American people are sick and tired of politics as usual in this country. They are sick and tired of a lack of leadership from Washington. The choice to suspend the campaign was a necessary one because partisan politics has to come second and the country has to come first.
But moreover, he needs to go on the offensive. Here is what he can do to deliver the knockout punch. Republicans won’t like this, but it will help McCain win. The argument is this: for the last eight years we have had a political culture that put politics above country. Sen. Obama’s decision to carry on his campaign while the economy was collapsing was just like President Bush sitting back while the levees collapsed in New Orleans. President Bush said “heckuva job, Brownie.” Sen. Obama has Jim Johnson, one of the architects of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac disaster as his campaign advisor.
We don’t need another four years of politics first. When the country is in crisis, politicking is not the right response.
That will provoke Obama like nothing else. It may offend some Republicans, and it is somewhat unfair to President Bush. But McCain is not Bush and has to distance himself from the failures of the Bush Administration.
He can turn this whole series of events against Sen. Obama. He can make this debate a turning point. He can turn this into Obama’s Katrina, if he has the guts to do this. I know he does.
The question is will he?
UPDATE: Jim Geraghty thinks that agreeing to the debate was mistake as it undercuts McCain’s message. If a deal emerges today, perhaps not. It is a risky move, but that can be erased if McCain handles the aftermath well enough. Obama thinks he has the upper hand here, which means he’s going to go into this thing cocky. McCain needs to be able to turn that against him.