Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What a Day

John McCain was dealt two very low cards in this quadrennial edition of political Texas Hold 'em--a seven and a four, say. (Other candidates, like Romney, were the dreaded 2-3 combo of doom.) He just doesn't have a lot of options. Thus was his situation revealed this morning, when he beheld the latest ABC News/WaPo poll numbers: Obama 52, McCain 43.

(Sample analysis: " As a point of comparison, neither of the last two Democratic nominees -- John Kerry in 2004 or Al Gore in 2000 -- recorded support above 50 percent in a pre-election poll by the Post and ABC News.")

Financial crisis, advisor's on the payroll of Fannie/Freddie, debate imminent ... a rough start of the day. Well, why not call the whole thing off?

Tomorrow morning, I will suspend my campaign and return to Washington after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative. I have spoken to Senator Obama and informed him of my decision and have asked him to join me....

We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved. I am directing my campaign to work with the Obama campaign and the commission on presidential debates to delay Friday night's debate until we have taken action to address this crisis....

Following September 11th, our national leaders came together at a time of crisis. We must show that kind of patriotism now. Americans across our country lament the fact that partisan divisions in Washington have prevented us from addressing our national challenges. Now is our chance to come together to prove that Washington is once again capable of leading this country. [itals mine]

This put Obama in a slightly awkward position. As we all madly clicked around to find out what the hell this meant, there was a period of a couple hours where no one really knew. It was clearly an effort to turn that 7-4 hand into a winner, and it did sort of highlight the whole "Country First" theme. It was also, simultaneously, an obvious Hail Mary (Barney Frank: "the longest ... in the history of either football or Marys."), and so we pondered what Obama might do.

[Wrinkle: Turns out Obama had called McCain this morning so the two campaigns could draft some joint language about pulling together, and then while the Obama camp waited, McCain stormed up the high road to try to seize the day. Or not, depending on which campaign you listen to.]

I was sitting in the office of a co-worker strategizing--apparently on a wavelength Obama was tuned into--arguing that he needed to come out hard and say this is exactly the time for a debate. Oh Joy!--he did (and I'm taking the credit):

It’s my belief that this is exactly the time the American people need to hear from the person who in approximately 40 days will be responsible with dealing with this mess. In my mind, actually, it's more important than ever that we present ourselves to the American people and try to describe where we want to take the country and where we wnt to take the economy as well as dealing with some of the issues of foreign policy that were initially the subject of the debate.

What I think is important is that we don’t suddenly infuse Capitol Hill with presidential politics.

Presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time. It’s not necessary for us to think that we can do only one thing, and suspend everything else.

This is a world-class smack-down (cool and elegant, Obama-esque, but smack-down nonetheless), and with it Obama flipped the debate. Now it looked like McCain was charging down a blind alley, not up the high road. It gets worse. David Letterman was openly (and effectively) mocking him:
David Letterman tells audience that McCain called him today to tell him he had to rush back to DC to deal with the economy.

Then in the middle of the taping Dave got word that McCain was, in fact just down the street being interviewed by Katie Couric. Dave even cut over to the live video of the interview, and said, "Hey Senator, can I give you a ride home?"

Earlier in the show, Dave kept saying, "You don't suspend your campaign. This doesn't smell right. This isn't the way a tested hero behaves." And he joked: "I think someone's putting something in his metamucil."

"He can't run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second string quarterback, Sara Palin. Where is she?"

"What are you going to do if you're elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We've got a guy like that now!"
Meanwhile, rather shockingly, Survey USA released a poll about the news that had happened earlier today. Major finding? 86% want the debate to go on as scheduled; only 10% want it cancelled. D'oh!

Meanwhile meanwhile, it looks like the bailout deal, the stated crisis that caused McCain to supsend his campaign in the first place, is 98% done. According to Kurtz, "Treasury has capitulated on almost every point (draft version of the deal here)," meaning that Dems will claim victory and the janitor will be cleaning up just in time for McCain to arrive and bring his own special brand of bipartisan comity.

Wait, I think I spelled that last word wrong.

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