Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
After months of mixed messages or no message at all, the McCain campaign has finally hit on something that I think might get some traction. For starters, it's actually about McCain, and not simply slamming Obama.
The thing is, this election is tailor-made for the John McCain of eight years ago. A Republican has spent eight years screwing up the country — only a Republican that was willing to embrace moderate or liberal solutions and to shoot straight about his own party's failures would have a chance to earn the GOP another term.
I acknowledge that McCain couldn't do this in the primary. But as soon as he had won it (or maybe after a short, graceful transition), he should have begun saying the sorts of things you find at the beginning of this ad: "Washington's broken. John McCain knows it. We're worse off than we were four years ago." No mention of Iraq, no mention of tax policy, no mention of free trade — issues where he echoes the president.
If McCain had done this since March, the choice placed between the American people would be two reformers, two change candidates — except one with a track record and experience. Instead, he spent several months saying nothing much at all, or attacking Barack Obama for being too well liked.
That said, I don't think it's too late. If McCain can maintain a laser-like focus on message and hammer the point that he is the reformer with results... throw in some really nasty third party attacks on Obama in September and October... maybe this election stops being Obama's to lose and becomes McCain's to win.
For the record, here's what McCain was saying in the primary.