The election is now less than a month away, and I couldn't be happier. Barring some major development, the race is in the bag for Obama. Every possible indicator out there, from electoral college predictions to Intrade to national polls, puts Obama ahead by a significant margin. Electoral-vote.com has Obama with 329 votes as of yesterday. Fivethirtyeight.com has him at 339.7, the highest level of the campaign. Intrade's electoral prediction puts Obama at 338. The consistency among these numbers is especially encouraging. The Gallup daily tracking poll has had Obama leading with statistically-significant lead for nine days straight, currently at 50% to McCain's 43%. With mere weeks until November 4th, what is the McCain campaign to do? Limited by public financing and having to play defense in places the GOP has taken for granted for years (Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, etc.), he's between a rock and a hard place. So, of course, McCain is going to let Steve Schmidt take this campaign into the mud.
The McCain campaign has now devoted nearly all of its advertising resources to negative ads. TPM is reporting that "nearly 100 percent" of their weekly budget is devoted to a slew of ads that attack Obama by name on a variety of issues. The veracity of the ads aside, this is not an indication of a confident campaign. This past weekend, the campaign announced that it will be going more on the attack, seeking to divert the nation's attention away from the economy and towards what they perceive to be flaws in Obama's character. They let slip that attacks linking Obama to former Weathermen leader Bill Ayers, whom Obama has met professionally on several occasions, and real estate developer Tony Rezko are on the way. Unfortunately for the McCain campaign, both ties to Obama were thoroughly fleshed out by the media during the primary season. Unless they are sitting on some new stuff, these attacks will likely fall flat.
The problems with this strategy don't end there. I assume that both campaigns have prepared in advance for the possibility that everything goes totally negative. By announcing their strategy for the remainder of the election, the McCain campaign gave the Obama camp some time to dust off their ads and make media buys. In fact, Obama is pre-empting the attacks. Until now, even for the mainstream media, McCain's involvement in the savings and loan scandal of the late 1980s as one of the "Keating Five" has been largely off the table. Consider that over and done with. Politico is reporting that the Obama campaign is launching a "multimedia" push today to remind voters everywhere about McCain's involvement in the last financial crisis this country experienced. Expect the McCain camp to respond with their usual "Obama said he would rise above this kind of politics, but look at him now!" Blah blah blah. The central difference between the two styles of attack is that McCain is attacking Obama's character through linking him to people who most would consider to be unsavory. Obama, on the other hand, is bringing up McCain's connection to a crisis that is eerily similar to what we are currently going through. The savings and loan collapse resulted directly from a lack of regulation, corporate greed, and influence peddling in Washington. Remind you of anything? Which line of attack do you think will resonate more strongly with blue collar workers worried about their jobs? You tell me.
The weirdest thing about this whole situation for me is McCain's personal experience with dishonorable campaigning. During the 2000 Republican primaries, McCain was the target of one of the most despicable kinds of political tactics I have ever heard of. In a Boston Globe piece from 2004, Rick Davis (McCain's current campaign manager in name only) describes how Bush supporters used something called 'push-polling' to destroy McCain's lead in South Carolina. McCain has an adopted Bangladeshi daughter named Bridget, and these people used the fact to implant vicious lies in voters' heads. It would happen something like this: you'd get a call from someone saying they were conducting a poll. After a few innocuous questions designed to determine whether you were supporting McCain or Bush, the 'pollster' would ask a hypothetical question along the lines of, "If you knew that John McCain fathered an illegitimate black child out of wedlock, would you be more likely or less likely to vote for him?" Presumably, racist voters who had seen Bridget with McCain on TV would make the intended connection themselves. Davis attributes McCain's loss of South Carolina, and thus likely the primary, to this type of attack. Having been on the receiving end of that kind of insanity, how can McCain do essentially the same thing to Obama? It must be because Steve Schmidt has been given complete control of the campaign, and has promised John a win at all costs.
I used to like McCain because I used to believe him. He stood out from and stood up to the rest of his party. He has completely tarnished that image during this election, and his loss will be well deserved come November 4th.