Has McCain's Week Decided The Election?

I have been pitching the notion that John McCain's statement on Monday that "the fundamental of our economy are strong" could well become the defining moment of this election - akin to John Kerry's "I was for it before I was against it" moment in 2004. This USA Today editorial buttresses my view:

As Wall Street's roller-coaster week unfolded, John McCain's views on the economy went through about as many gyrations as the Dow Jones industrial average. Brace your neck for a quick recap.

[More . . .

Monday: Speaking at a rally in Jacksonville, McCain declares that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." Coming as the Dow plunges more than 500 points and Lehman Bros. goes belly up, this makes McCain sound somewhat out of touch.

Tuesday: McCain explains that he meant to say American workers are fundamentally sound, and the economy itself is in "crisis." But, he adds, this crisis does not warrant bailing out insurance giant American International Group, which should be allowed to fail. . . .

Wednesday: After the government takes over AIG, McCain says the rescue was regrettable, but unavoidable.

Thursday: McCain, who over the years has described himself as a deregulator, recasts himself as a pro-regulation, anti-Wall Street populist. . . .

Granted, McCain, who has been running more on the strength of his foreign policy credentials than on his economic expertise, is entitled to change his mind as new facts emerge. And granted, Democrat Barack Obama also has scant experience dealing with financial crises. At this point, though, it looks as if cleaning up the economic mess will be the next president's top priority. The Republican candidate's erratic performance this week was far from reassuring.

(Emphasis supplied.) McCain had a terrible week on the most important issue of the election 45 days from Election Day. This week may have decided the election.

By Big Tent Democrat, speaking for me only

< The Polls - 9/19 | Federal Government Bails Out Wall Street >
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    Decided? No. (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by rdandrea on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:00:39 AM EST
    It's still early.  Voters' attention spans aren't that long.  Presumably his handlers will get him back under control and the campaign about POWs, lipstick, and pigs can proceed as intended.

    Not when everyone (none / 0) (#8)
    by rooge04 on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:03:09 AM EST
    they see is losing their jobs and affected by the economic meltdown they see around them.  It's foremost in their minds right now.  I don't think that will change in the next 47 days.

    Has McCain's Week Decided The Election? (none / 0) (#13)
    by talesoftwokitties on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:21:50 AM EST
    I sure think so.  If it hasn't, well then, we get what we deserve.

    Things are still pretty close (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Exeter on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:02:44 AM EST
    Obama isn't saying anything significantly different than McCain on the economy, imo. I would say the debates will still decide it.

    I don't see anything Obama is saying (none / 0) (#32)
    by Exeter on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:10:16 AM EST
    that is going to shake up the economy.  Of course there are differences, but they are mostly marginal.  

    Repealing Taft-Hartley, real fair trade, a New-Deal style massive plan for renewable energy, universal health care... these are things that will shake up our economy.


    Obama is a freemarketeer... (none / 0) (#36)
    by Salo on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:24:56 AM EST
    ...who reckons ythe econiomy should eschew socialist style regulation, just like McCain.  Once the economy rebounds--two years or so, he'll be preaching the Invisible Hand guff and drop the faux social democratic rhetoric.

    While Obama is generally a (none / 0) (#45)
    by Radix on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:52:06 AM EST
    Free-Marketer, he's never espoused a completely unregulated market either.

    maybe (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by connecticut yankee on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:03:32 AM EST
    He did look bad this week, Obama just needs to make sure he gets nailed to it.  It might be the gift that keeps on giving.

    Sure McCain had a terrible week (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by JohnS on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:06:52 AM EST
    but how to explain the polling? Today pollster.com has the race looking like this:

    McCain 208 EV
    Obama 202 EV
    Tossups 128 EV

    Are these polls too hot on the heels of this really bad economic week that should have resulted in numbers trending Dem? Or do we need to wait for next week to get a more accurate reading? If so, when next week?

    Pollster.com's projection model (none / 0) (#14)
    by Pegasus on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:25:20 AM EST
    is a pretty poor one for dealing with game-changing events.  I tend to think they're a week behind the curve at all times anyway, and even worse at times like this.

    Obama has slight edge at state level (none / 0) (#33)
    by Exeter on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:12:58 AM EST
    Has Obama the slight favorite on state-by-state polling... but that is very tenuous and contingent on him winning colorado and nm.

    The media started calling him out (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by joanneleon on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:26:54 AM EST
    on his lies in the last week or so.  I thought the change in their attitudes was pretty stark.

    That's what made the difference.  I think the statement on the economy was just the icing on the cake, the exclamation point of the narrative they've been pushing.

    The media has a frightening amount of influence.  In this case, it goes our way.  But what if they turn on Obama?

    My hope (none / 0) (#26)
    by Coral on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:59:19 AM EST
    is that the media and some moderate elites will be so scared by the near financial meltdown that they will tip toward Obama.

    I can't see how any rational human being with a middling understanding of economics and the financial markets would still want a McCain-Palin presidency come January.


    The people that run the economy (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by Salo on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:29:41 AM EST
    are vacuuming the cash from the economy under the cover of the banking system.

    This crisis is no crisis for the top .001% percent.


    I agree (none / 0) (#30)
    by jar137 on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:01:42 AM EST
    with your point and your concern.  The media have definitely taken it to McCain.  But they can be fickle.  That's why I have been bothered during this election cycle by the Obama team's unthinking embrace of the media, simply because the message was in  their favor.  We need better media, notwithstanding they may choose the Democrat this time.  

    I think the media turning on McCain's honesty (none / 0) (#51)
    by magster on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 12:43:53 PM EST
    is almost as significant as the the fundamentals are strong, not in and of itself, but when combined with McCain's new found populism and flip-flops.  Even if they end up liking what McCain says he'll do, they won't believe him.

    Obama needs to make sure his ads stay credible. Unlike McCain, Obama has a lot of truth on his side.


    I believe this week finished him (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:28:37 AM EST
    and I can't say that I'm sad about that.  I don't think he was finished so much by what he did say but by what he did not say, or do, or even make an effort to understand.  Neither candidate comes off as an economic genius but as the week worsened it became obvious who has the greatest grasp of our economic reality.  It also became obvious who is most likely to put in place the knowledgeable people who will begin the hard difficult work of reconstruction.  Just another infrastructure blown to heck and back by Republican philosphies.

    Changed it, but decided?? (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by TheRizzo on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:34:54 AM EST

    There is still over 45 days for any number of things to happen, be said and be done that can change things again.

    The state polls have tightened as evidenced by the big 10 state polls that even had Iowa deadlocked (not sure I by it).  

    There are still 3 presidential debates and one VP debate that each can dramatically swing this either way if one comes off poorly.  ie McCain steps in it or if Obama has another Philly debate disaster like he had when Hillary wiped up the floor with him.  Any of these things can change this thing back and forth.

    So this week changed it back a bit for Obama, but to say decided or even suggesting it is a bit of a reach I think.  Things happen way to fast in politics these days.

    Definitely ended (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by bluegal on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:45:11 AM EST
    I think James Carville who I normally dislike was spot on when he said that this week essentially ended the election unless Obama makes some huge gaffe.  Given that it is McCain making a daily gaffe this election is now Obama's to lose.

    One could give a handful of reasons as to why the polls have swung in Obama's favor but McCain's response and lack thereof this week has moved people to Obama.

    McCain desperately wants another lipstick scandal and the way that the media has been focusing so hard on the economy now I think it is going to be very difficult for McCain to continue to run a character based campaign.

    The answer to the question is no (5.00 / 2) (#34)
    by ks on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:18:40 AM EST
    This race has been close throughout and will remain close until the end.  This week looks good for Obama but it has hardly decided the election. That's wishful thinking.

    Events are more important (5.00 / 0) (#41)
    by esmense on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:38:21 AM EST
    than campaign gaffes. The reality is the Democratic candidate, as a Democrat, is benefitting from recent economic events -- and most likely will continue to do so. McCain's ability to keep this thing relatively tied in what was always a "throw the bums out" atmosphere has been close to miraculous. But, given the current economic turmoil and crisis, the advantage has once again gone decidedly to the out-of-power, more trusted on domestic economic issues party -- and, barring something genuinely unprecedented, is going to remain there. There isn't anything McCain, as a representative of the party that's been in power for the last 8 years, can say or do to change that fact. Obama's gains in the last week have nothing to do with what McCain said -- or much to do with what Obama has been saying, for that matter. They have everything to do with what has been happening on Wall Street.

    The objective truth is that there is a lot to criticize in both candidates' response to this crisis.


    Yet another (none / 0) (#1)
    by rooge04 on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 08:40:06 AM EST
    thing he should hold against his BFF Bush.

    Love it. McCain's Weak. . . (none / 0) (#2)
    by LarryInNYC on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 08:45:33 AM EST
    I agree.

    The best thing about McCain is he says so much of this stuff on camera.

    Timing is no less important in politics than in comedy.  I imagine (I hope) the Obama campaign is holding back a barrage of television commercials composed mostly of McCain's own statements for the last 10 to 15 days of the campaign.

    funny you should mention comedy (none / 0) (#28)
    by wystler on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:00:33 AM EST
    BTD's reference to the for-it-before-against-it quote?

    John Kerry thought he was delivering a punch line. McCain had no inkling of what was about to come due.

    I guess there's a similarity in lack of insight, but the difference is still breath-taking.


    the contrqadictions from (none / 0) (#37)
    by Salo on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:28:08 AM EST
    the rationality he showed on the daily show would be enough.

    yucking it up with Stwert he said plenty of things that should sink his sorry campaign.


    He just did a speech today (none / 0) (#3)
    by votermom on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 08:48:11 AM EST
    with an economic plan. Don't know how it compares to the others.

    Can't (none / 0) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 08:54:27 AM EST
    undo what he did already.

    Early voting starts in VA today.... (none / 0) (#10)
    by georgeg1011 on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:03:44 AM EST
    13 other states start next week.  His "fundamentals of the economy are strong" and the "he was against the bailout before he was for it" in less than 24 hrs, will crystalize him with a lot of the voters that are either undecided or on the fence.  It might take the first debate for Obama to close it (and he must, he cannot coast), then it will start to look very good for the Democrats chances in Nov.

    But (none / 0) (#6)
    by lousy1 on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:01:10 AM EST
    If the panic of this week turns out to be a minor glitch that the adults have fixed then...

    This will still come down to Western PA.... (none / 0) (#12)
    by gtesta on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:16:39 AM EST
    the economy has been so bad there for so long that this might not have the impact that it should.
    I think we'll know for sure in the next week or so, if McCain can really pick PA off.
    Polls in the western counties of PA will tell the tale...
    And Ohio usually polls 2-3% more conservatively than PA.

    Now he's calling for the FEC chariman to resign (none / 0) (#16)
    by cannondaddy on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:28:22 AM EST
    Think he'll stick by this statement the way he did with Zapatreo?


    SEC (none / 0) (#19)
    by joanneleon on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:37:55 AM EST
    I'm pretty sure you mean the Securities Exchange Commission share, Christopher Cox.

    That's what he meant (none / 0) (#24)
    by cannondaddy on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:58:04 AM EST
    not what he said.

    No, it was McCain. . . (none / 0) (#48)
    by LarryInNYC on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 11:39:06 AM EST
    who was befuddled, not the commenter.

    McCain complaining (none / 0) (#21)
    by CST on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:48:09 AM EST
    about Obama "politicizing a crisis" doesn't help him either.  McCain has been doing what Obama did in the beginning - blame the other side.  Except when Obama did it, he then came out with some concrete proposals of what he would do differently.  McCain didn't come out with anything other than "reform reform" (which doesn't really mean anything) and has only been playing the blame game.  Which is a lot harder to buy when you come from the party that has been in complete control for 6 of the last 8 years.  And also gets kinda old by day 5 of this thing.  I have even seen republicans on TV calling him out on this.

    The Obama campaign (none / 0) (#22)
    by Lahdee on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:51:49 AM EST
    thinks it's worth flogging. I don't think BO has speeched without quoting McCain's colossally ignorant statement.
    Keep hammering it and any variations on the economic stupidity that is the McCain campaign and this may be the week that was.

    I agree (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by jar137 on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:07:21 AM EST
    but I would encourage Obama to watch his tone.  To me, his criticisms always come off as condescending, rather than passionate.  For example, I thought his statements announcing that trickle down theory has irrefutably failed were great.  I really applaud that kind of directness.  However, I still felt a bit off about the tone of the delivery.  Also, he criticizes McCain as an insider and blames him for the country's problems (fine by me), but then what is he?  He is also an insider as a member of the Senate- and what has he done to demonstrate he is an outsider?  What cause/reform has he championed?

    Nevertheless, I agree with other posters- unless something dramatic happens, the Wall St crisis has doomed McCain.


    Personally, (none / 0) (#23)
    by frankly0 on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:54:12 AM EST
    unless Obama manages to turn the meltdown on Wall Street, combined with McCain's weak responses, into something like a 10 pt lead in the next few days, I hardly see this week as ending McCain's prospects.

    If it's less than 10 pts, it can easily dissipate over time into a very competitive race once again, unless the crisis stays at least as prominent as it has been. I certainly don't know whether the crisis will stay as bad, and I doubt that anyone really does, though God knows people will claim that they do. If they really did know what will happen, they should put their money where their mouth is, and make a huge amount of money on Wall Street by betting on a continued fall in the stock market. I rather doubt that they will do so, knowing perfectly well how they could also easily lose.

    Perhaps Wall Street soon recovers entirely, and pretty much stabilizes, in which case it's going to be much harder to point to failures that will truly impress the public.

    Honestly (none / 0) (#29)
    by CST on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:01:03 AM EST
    Even if the economy recovers to what it was before Monday (which I find very unlikely), it's too late to change the tune.  People were already saying "it's the economy stupid" before Monday, but now that it's a big story, the media is actually reporting what the candidates have to say on the economy, and the voters heard it.  That is something you can't undo.

    Also, if the economy recovers, it will only be after a massive tax-payer bailout that not a whole lot of people feel comfortable with, or want to repeat.

    I don't think "changing the narrative" can undo the damage this week has done to the McCain campaign.


    Gas (none / 0) (#44)
    by pooks1976 on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:48:48 AM EST
    Remember a month ago, when everyone was complaining about gas prices.  45 days is a long time.  The economy tanking gave Obama a huge opening to finally start talking about an issue again.  I don't know if he has made the sale, yet.  I think if he really does well in the first debate, he will be pretty safe.

    I gotta tell ya (none / 0) (#47)
    by Steve M on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 11:13:55 AM EST
    Even though yesterday and today look like good days on Wall Street, there is no way that a bear market caused by events of this significance works itself out in the span of one week.  If I knew exactly what was going to happen, I'd be rich, but I think my prediction is pretty safe.

    Regardless, stabilizing Wall Street is not going to stabilize Main Street.  People were feeling the pinch well before the events of this week and none of that is going to change in the next two months.


    FYI... (none / 0) (#35)
    by kredwyn on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:23:52 AM EST
    A guy I know who tracks the Dow/NASDAQ mentioned a while back that he thought market numbers were going to drop to around 1066 before it started to rise again.

    He mentioned that it dropped a bit faster than he expected.

    1066 and all that... (none / 0) (#38)
    by Salo on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:28:32 AM EST
    I thought that was an interesting number (none / 0) (#40)
    by kredwyn on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:36:00 AM EST
    what with the Battle of Hastings. But I know he wouldn't have known/thought about that. :)

    1066 and All That (none / 0) (#50)
    by Montague on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 12:09:34 PM EST
    After reading Richard Armour's book when I was a kid, I've never forgotten that date.

    Interesting... (none / 0) (#42)
    by kredwyn on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:41:00 AM EST
    10,609.66 is what it ended at yesterday. Wonder if he was talking about the first 4 digits...

    whoops... (none / 0) (#43)
    by kredwyn on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:42:21 AM EST
    that's the Wed. date...not yesterday.

    ::sigh:: Brain freeze...


    It really depends on what people are watching (none / 0) (#46)
    by Newt on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 10:54:30 AM EST
    If you look at left wing blogs, everyone's thrilled that McSame has blown the race.  If you watch Fox Fake News, you learn that the economic meltdown is Obama's fault because AIG gave him a bunch of money and he got Jim Johnson to vet the VPs.  He must be in bed with the bad guys.  When people on the fence look to see what McCain will do to fix the problem, they hear some pretty good stuff

    Obama's commercials, speeches and web communications are spot on.  But we're preaching to the choir.  Many major news sources are on message that the Repubs are to blame, but key news outlets are reinforcing the culture war.  Fox had another anti-liberal, anti-public funding rant on that repeated very damaging anti-Palin opinions by a woman on NPR.  It's horrid stuff that shouldn't have been on the airwaves, and it's perfect material to reengage their hostility toward all things liberal.  

    I think we need to reach people who are getting their news and impressions from Fox and Republican sites like Townhall, because they're not hearing that McSame was a champion of deregulation, they're hearing big daddy say he's going to fix this mess those bad lefties somehow caused.

    Dream on (none / 0) (#49)
    by Montague on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 12:07:50 PM EST
    That's not enough to kill McCain's campaign.  Not by a long shot.

    I'm just waiting (sadly) for AQ to trot out OBL (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) to mess with our heads yet again right before the election.