Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why Do Real-Life Events Have to Interrupt a Good Campaign Season?

Everybody's focus is naturally on the crisis, financial breakdown, collapse -- insert appropriate panic word here -- on Wall Street. Unfortunately, this news cycle has helped Obama in the polls and the McCain/Palin momentum that has been steamrollin' since the Convention seems at least momentarily derailed. Not that Obama has done or said anything that inspires confidence in his ability to solve this crisis.

Unfortunately, McCain's handful of proposals have not gained any traction with the media or the American public. McCain's most important selling point on this issue is that a couple of years ago he warned about problems with Fannie and Freddie. Saying there is too much corruption and greed on Wall Street may get wild applause on Main Street, but it's not clear to me there was widespread corruption. It seems like it was just bad and stupid investing.

In his radio address over the weekend, McCain did offer a 5-point plan, which seems to make sense on a more long-term basis. However, now it's Wednesday, and I'm not sure whether that plan is still what McCain is proposing as the solution. More recently, McCain came out with a new suggestion for a bi-partisan board to oversee Paulson's buyout plan.

Part of the problem that both campaigns are having is that they are trying to react to a news cycle that is quickly changing. First Lehman Brothers went under; second, AIG went under; then Paulson announced a $700 billion buyout plan for mortgage-backed securities. It's hard to stick to a clear message when things keep changing. Consequently neither candidate has looked that good on this issue.

Honestly, I have no idea what should be done to solve this crisis -- I'm not even sure it really is a crisis. What would be really interesting and maybe even a great political move is if McCain stopped traveling around campaigning, went back to Capitol Hill, and actively worked to pass legislation to handle the financial situation. It would be a risky move as any time not spent on the campaign trail is lost time, but it might show that McCain is more interested in solving problems than scoring political points in swing states.

But then again, none of this might matter as the first debate on Friday (where the focus is foreign policy) might change the entire news cycle and campaign momentum.

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