To use a sports analogy, a campaign can be looked at like a basketball game. Not an organized game with referees and enforced rules, but more like a pickup basketball game -- "make it, take it" style.
That is, when you are on offense and you score - you pour it on. You get the ball back and try to score again. This continues until there's a game-changer. Great defense gives the other team the ball back. A thunderous block shot (Ben Wallace, 2006). A magnificent steal (Larry Bird, 1987) . Or the offensive team simply blows it -- like perhaps the worst and most humorous play in the NBA last year where New York Knicks forward Zach Randolph was amazingly awful.
Moving into football, we saw that same sort of thing last night with DeSean Jackson's unbelievable pre-touchdown celebration. The Philadelphia wide receiver thought he had crossed the goal line and threw the ball away on the one before launching into a Chad
Johnson Ocho Cinco-like pose-off.
It's a battle for offense right now. Both campaigns lob bombs, hoping to make an impact and gain momentum. If something doesn't work, they try something else.
McCain's anti-Obama Paris Hilton ad in early August was a game-changer. It refocused the campaign. Everything was Paris Hilton.
The conventions gave momentum to both sides temporarily, and the Sarah Palin pick literally stopped the campaign for two full weeks.
Who's got the ball?
Who's on offense right now? Obama. The campaign is pressing hard on the economy. The Democrats have seized on McCain's "the economy is fundamentally strong" statement and are running with it. It got traction yesterday because of the Wall Street meltdown.
Could the economy be fundamentally strong? There are many who agree with that. McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds sent an email out yesterday afternoon pointing the media to a Politico story where New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg agreed that "fundamentally America has an economy that is strong." That's a risky strategy, because if things get worse such rosy scenarios can look hopelessly out of touch.
Sound bites are king
In what many people would consider "insane" news cycle -- with no time for analysis or slowing down to check the facts -- the sound bites win out. And that's where McCain lost it yesterday. And where Joe Biden - yes, Joe Biden - won it.
McCain's sound bite, "the economy is fundamentally strong" didn't work.
Both campaigns are doing morning news programs this morning before fanning out across the country. The Obama campaign launched a new ad continuing on the economic front. An email from the Obama camp says the commercial "shows how disturbingly out of touch [McCain] is with what's going on in the lives of ordinary Americans."
While the McCain campaign sends a good morning email with, what we think, is a bit of a sarcastic note:
"We don't know about you, but we're looking forward to the Barbra Streisand fundraiser for Barack Obama tonight," says McCain spokesperson Joseph Pounder. "Also, did you catch Joe Biden saying this morning that their tax cut will allow Americans to buy a toaster? Nothing says a sound economic plan like buying a toaster."
Dirtiest campaign ever
Although there is constant change in any political campaign - one thing remains the same: charges that "this year" is the dirtiest campaign ever. It's the same mantra - every four years politicians say it, the media regurgitates it, outraged public interest groups condemn it, and voters complain about it. It's as though we've forgotten that four years ago we were saying the exact same thing.
Is either candidate alleging that if his opponent wins the spread of nuclear weapons is all but a certainty? No. Those were charges back in 1972. Check out the Hubert Humphrey ad.
How about the infamous Willie Horton spot of 1988?
Or the "Daddy of 'em all" the Daisy commercial from 1964.
Is this the dirtiest campaign ever? Sure. Until 2012.