Thursday, September 18, 2008

Economic meltdown returns initiative to Obama in polling.

A flurry of spending by both camps yesterday showed that McCain had made what could turn out to be a fatal slip by stating that the US "economy was fundamentally sound".

McCain immediately took to the airwaves to claim that, when he said "fundamentally sound", he was referring to Americans workers, but there was something desperate in his claim, something which only his true believers could have clung on to. To the rest of us he was merely repeating a ludicrous claim which he has been making for months now.

Both camps responded by spending millions of dollars yesterday in an unprecedented advertising spree selling their economic messages, with Obama keen to push home what he obviously saw as his advantage and McCain spending millions to try to undo the damage which his slip might have done.

The polls suggest that Obama was the victor of this latest McCain blunder.

The new batch of polls appeared to bear out optimism in the Obama camp that he, rather than McCain, stands to benefit from the impact on voters of the financial collapses. Polls taken since the crisis erupted on Monday suggests the momentum built up behind McCain over the last few weeks has been halted. The latest polls leave the two in a dead heat.

A CNN/Time poll released last night showed Obama closing the gap in battlefield states such as Ohio and Florida, which both voted Republican last time. Obama is now tied with McCain on 48% each in Florida and enjoys a 2% lead in Ohio. In North Carolina, normally a safe Republican state, McCain's lead has been reduced to 1%.

A New York Times/CBS poll published today found six out of 10 of those surveyed expressed confidence in Obama to run the economy, compared with five out of 10 for McCain. More significantly for Obama's hopes, one in three said their family is worse off than it was four years ago.

Obama's ad called for an end to "the anything-goes culture on Wall Street, with real regulation that protects your investments and pensions".

McCain also put out a campaign ad, aimed at trying to undo damage caused by his remark on Monday that the US economy was fundamentally strong. He sought to distance himself from George Bush's administration and blame corporate greed, as well as to reassure voters.

"Enough is enough," he said in the ad. "I'll meet this financial crisis head on. Reform Wall Street ... Your savings, your jobs I'll keep them safe."

One of the most interesting things for me about this latest glitch is the language used by both camps. Obama sticks to the message which he has used for the entire campaign -"The truth is that while you’ve been living up to your responsibilities Washington has not. That’s why we need change. Real change." - whilst McCain appears to be saying whatever it is that he thinks you want to hear; which is why he says the economy is "fundamentally sound" in the morning and yet is calling it "in crisis" by the same evening.

There was something terribly desperate about McCain's behaviour yesterday, the whiff of panic that comes from someone who knows that they have potentially scored an own goal.

The movement in the polls show that Obama is the victor of this latest spat but, more importantly, all talk of lipstick and pigs and Sarah Palin was suspended.

McCain and his team would love nothing more than for this election to be decided on what Obama has called "small things". Yesterday the election became about serious matters, and the movement in the polls show that, when we distance ourselves from the froth that McCain is determined to wallow in, Obama is clearly better prepared and more on-message than his Republican rival.

That's why McCain is fighting the kind of fight that he is. The Republicans are well versed in winning faux wars, but when the shit hits the fan, they're not the people whose number you would want to call.

The outcome of this election will depend on whether or not Obama is allowed to fight the rest of this campaign talking about real things which matter or about phony manufactured outrage. McCain and his team would no doubt hope it could be fought about the latter. For, if it's fought regarding the former, Obama will walk it.

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