The opportunity for Obama in McCain’s erratic behavior
You may have already seen this quote today, where Republican campaign consultant Craig Shirley assessed the effect of John McCain’s re-reversed stance on attending tonight’s presidential debate (via the Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein):
In the end, he blinked and Obama did not. The ‘steady hand in a storm’ argument looks now to more favor Obama, not McCain.
The Obama campaign couldn’t have framed things any better, you might think to yourself, and you’d be right — Obama spokesman Bill Burton used the same metaphor yesterday (via Ben Smith at Politico):
Throughout the course of this crisis, Sen. Obama has shown voters that he would be a steady hand at the wheel were he to be elected president at a time of crisis, and I don’t know that voters would have gotten the same impression having seen John McCain over the course of this same week.
Burton’s comments today on behalf of Obama have continued to push this steady-vs.-unsteady theme, and you can bet that Barack himself will find a way to work it into his debate arguments tonight.
Ironically, one of the reasons McCain had for wanting to avoid the debate is that being seen as the “safer,” more experienced candidate is traditionally a plus in presidential elections — and in the past, nationally televised debates (most notably for Ronald Reagan in 1980) have been a forum where a candidate seen as risky or inexperienced could cross the “credibility threshold” by coming across as composed and knowledgeable enough to be a plausible President. Already ahead in most polls, Obama could close the proverbial deal tonight with many wavering voters with a calm, confident presentation.
That danger for McCain is now magnified by the clumsy impulsiveness he’s demonstrated the past few days. Just by keeping his cool, Obama can portray himself as not only the outsider who will bring change to Washington, but as the safer, steadier leader — a rare combination that will be hard to defeat.
McCain’s insistence on seeing the election (and world events) as mere vehicles for his all-consuming personal drama has been noted before. Now, it’s almost impossible not to notice… and it may be about to guarantee his defeat.
(Cross-posted at Firedoglake.)