Pre-Debate Analysis: McCain’s Ayers Quandary

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It’s well known that John McCain has promised to “whip [Obama’s] you-know-what” in tonight’s debate, in part by bringing up William Ayers.

But there are a number of problems with raising Ayers tonight in New York. I’ll let Noam Scheiber explain:

If McCain goes that route, doesn’t that mean he’s mostly wasted the last several days, when he and Palin have substantially toned down their Ayers rhetoric? (Days he can hardly afford to waste, I might add.) It seems strange to pursue one strategy in the days leading up to a debate, then another strategy during the debate–particularly when the strategies are contradictory….

[But] if McCain doesn’t mention Ayers tonight, he’s going to get hammered in the press for making empty threats (cue the erratic meme) and essentially wimping out.

This has been about as haphazard as any media messaging strategy could be. And I’ll add that by letting Obama and his debate prep staff know in advance that he plans to raise the Ayers attack, McCain gave them the opportunity to prepare a response. I suspect it’ll go something like, My opponent wants to continue the old tired politics of guilt by association. I want to talk about how we’re gonna fix this economy.

How does McCain come out a winner here? I just don’t see it.

Update: Check back tonight for a debate live-blog. Here’s an example of how we roll, so you know what to expect.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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