McCain campaign strategy: Go nu-cular or go nice?


New McCain theme song for the week? With all the squabbling going on within Republican circles about what John McCain should do, shouldn't do, should have done, shouldn't have done, McCain and running mate Sarah Palin could start singing the old Stealers Wheel chorus:

"Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you."

With 22 days to go before the election and polls not favorable to the Republican ticket, everyone has advice for the McCain campaign. Everyone.


Some believe he should amp up the attacks. Others believe he's got to tone it down. Probably most would agree that sending Sarah Palin to Philadelphia -- a city which booed Santa Claus -- to drop the puck at a Philadelphia Flyers hockey game might be risky.

Yep. That idea blew up. Here's a link to the video. Thankfully there was no snow. Santa appeared at an Eagles game and was greeted by hostile snowballs.

But she's a hockey mom. What went wrong? Wardrobe malfunction.

A Forbes blogger writes that Palin brought some of this on herself. Apparently, a week earlier while in Philadelphia she tried - unsuccessfully - to go out for a jog in a New York Rangers hockey jersey.

No hockey fan in their right mind would show up in Philadelphia wearing a jersey of a New York team, or vice-versa, without expecting some sort of fight to ensue.

Yeah, maybe that was a bad decision to go. At least she didn't turn the Stanley Cup upside down.


If it was just the hockey game, that would be one thing. But conservatives are saying there are many more problems. Conservative New York Times columnist Bill Kristol says there should be a Columbus Day liquidation sale at McCain Inc.

"The McCain campaign, once merely problematic, is now close to being out-and-out dysfunctional," Kristol writes. "Its combination of strategic incoherence and operational incompetence has become toxic. If the race continues over the next three weeks to be a conventional one, McCain is doomed."

His prescription? Fire 'em.

"What McCain needs to do is junk the whole thing and start over," he writes. "Shut down the rapid responses, end the frantic e-mails, bench the spinning surrogates, stop putting up new TV and Internet ads every minute. In fact, pull all the ads — they’re doing no good anyway. Use that money for televised town halls and half-hour addresses in prime time."

He says for the remainder of the campaign, McCain and Palin should go out and be accessible and cheerful. "The two of them are attractive and competent politicians," he writes. "They’re happy warriors and good campaigners. Set them free."

Go Nu-cular

If they go the happy approach, they should tip off the state parties to that strategy. That means don't compare Barack Obama to Osama Bin Laden.

Speaking to volunteers this past weekend, Virginia party chairman Jeffrey Frederick linked the two together:

"Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon," he told volunteers before a day of canvassing neighborhoods. "That is scary."

What's more scary is the thinking that this could win over the undecideds.

No name calling

Ed Rollins, Ronald Reagan's political director, says McCain must take the level of discussion to a higher level. Forget the attacks and use a modified version of Clinton's 1992 mantra: "It's the economy, stupid!" Says Rollins, the motto should be: "You morons, what have you done with my money, my life and my kids' future?"

"All I can advise is 'Engage us, John!' You are an honorable man who has dedicated your life to serving this country. Quit the name calling and make the last weeks about leadership and solutions," writes Rollins.

"Accept Obama's challenge issued last week: 'The American people aren't looking for someone who can divide this country. They're looking for somebody who will lead this country,' he continues. "Tell us how you will lead this country through the greatest crisis we have faced in modern times."

Rudy, Rudy, Rudy

Night after night, FOX News commentator Bill O'Reilly gives very specific advice on how McCain can win. He's got to identify Rudy Giuliani now as his prospective Attorney General. In announcing the appointment, McCain should describe Giuiliani's mission. It's not a kumbaya approach.

"Tomorrow morning he should get up and say,'Rudy Giuliani is my new attorney general. And mandate is to prosecute every SOB on Wall Street and investigate Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Chris Cox, and everybody else in the government who failed to provide oversight and all the lobbyists for all of these brokerage houses and banks. Here's Rudy. He's going to do it. And here's Mitt Romney. He's secretary of Treasury. And Romney is going to help turn the economy around. Now, I'm going to go out on the stump, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney. We're cleaning up Dodge City.'"


Although we don't know if he's going to name some honchos who would serve with him in a McCain administration, we hear that part of his turnaround strategy is to focus on the economy providing specifics on plans to weather the economic storm.

"The theme is the new direction that Sen. McCain will take the country through his specific plans for creating jobs, helping those nearing retirement, keeping people in their homes and curbing spending," a campaign staffer told CNN.

No Ayers?

Running mate Sarah Palin seemed to be going that direction yesterday when speaking in Ohio. Absent from her remarks was any mention of Weather Underground co-founder Bill Ayers. Obama's relationship with Ayers has been a staple in her stump speech over the past week. Instead she focused on reform.

“All across America, I know that there’s a lot of anger right now,” Palin said. “There’s anger about the insider dealing of lobbyists and anger at the greed of Wall Street, and anger about the arrogance of the Washington elite. And with serious reforms to change Washington, John McCain is going to turn your anger into action.”

The Drive

As for McCain, he sounds like John Elway in the 1987 AFC championship game. Down by seven late in the fourth quarter and 98 yards away from the end zone, Elway told his teammates, "We got 'em right where we want 'em."

The same set-up could occur here. Down by between four and ten points (depending on the poll) and late in the campaign season, McCain told his staff yesterday:

"Let me give you the state of the race today. We have 22 days to go. We're 6 points down. The national media has written us off. Senator Obama is measuring the drapes, and planning with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to raise taxes, increase spending, take away your right to vote by secret ballot in labor elections, and concede defeat in Iraq. But they forgot to let you decide. My friends, we've got them just where we want them."
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