From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Who's not out of touch? Today begins another week with both McCain and Obama discussing the economy. Obama starts the day with an economic event from Charlotte, NC, while McCain holds his economic town hall from Denver. Here is what McCain will say, per advanced excerpts: "All of us know what is happening to the economy. It is slowing. More than 400,000 people have lost their jobs since December, and the rate of new job creation has fallen sharply." Hang on there a sec -- "slowing?" On a day when McCain is trying to suggest that he's NOT out of touch on the economy, that line might not do the trick. The economy isn't just slowing; it's already there. Why is it that politicians are so afraid to just describe the state of things as voters see them, rather than as how they wish voters would see them? Of course, as we saw during the primaries, Obama has his own challenges when it comes to connecting with working-class voters. We'll say this again: The candidate who best connects on the economy will win this presidential election -- no ifs, ands, or buts. Also, per Politico's Allen, McCain will call for balancing the budget by the end of his first term and will talk about fixing Social Security. Why does McCain want to start his economic week off by sparking a debate on Social Security, by talking about things the government might take away from people in some way (raising the age etc.) rather than talking about how he'll put money in people's pockets? However, McCain will win editorial plaudits for wanting to talk about tough things like Social Security; the question is whether the country wants to have tough conversations about the economy right now.
*** Does prevent defense ever work? The New York Times' Frank Rich has been a pretty big Obama fan throughout this cycle, but on Sunday he delivered what might be the most succinct way of hitting Obama from the left that we've seen: "For all the hyperventilation on the left about Mr. Obama's rush to the center — some warranted, some not — what's more alarming is how small-bore and defensive his campaign has become… [H]e is drifting away from the leadership he promised and into the focus-group-tested calculation patented by Mark Penn in his disastrous campaign for Hillary Clinton." Is Obama playing prevent defense? Sometimes, that seems to be the case. And on all days, another Obama backer -- the New York Times editorial page -- devoted an editorial on July 4th to just hammer Obama. "We are not shocked when a candidate moves to the center for the general election. But Mr. Obama's shifts are striking because he was the candidate who proposed to change the face of politics, the man of passionate convictions who did not play old political games. There are still vital differences between Mr. Obama and Senator John McCain on issues like the war in Iraq, taxes, health care and Supreme Court nominations. We don't want any 'redefining' on these big questions. This country needs change it can believe in." It's one thing to move to the center, but it's the clinical way in which Obama has done it that's making the cynical press start to get over its Obama love affair. Clinical leads to cynical… Just ask the Clintons.
*** Here come the ads: Over the weekend, the RNC -- through its independent expenditure arm -- began airing the first contrast TV ad of the general election. "Record gas prices, a climate in crisis. John McCain says solve it now," the ad goes. "With a balanced plan -- alternative energy, conservation, suspending the gas tax, AND more production here at home -- he's pushing his own party to face climate change. But Barack Obama? For conservation, but he just says no to lower gas taxes. No to nuclear. No to more production. No new solutions. Barack Obama: Just the party line." The ad is running in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. It's interesting that it ISN'T running in battlegrounds like Iowa and Minnesota. Is the GOP already writing off those states, or are they waiting to see if the needle moves in Wisconsin? If it does, look for Iowa and Minnesota to be added in. If it doesn't, then look for a doubling down in those Rust Belt states, which are turning into McCain's best chances at blue pick-ups, especially Michigan.
*** Shades of summer 2007? Management-wise, is everything finally starting to come together for McCain? There was the announcement last week of the staff realignment. There are now these RNC ads hitting Obama. And it appears that evangelical leaders are ready to work against the Illinois senator. (They may not be FOR McCain, but they are ready to be against Obama, which is all the McCain can ask for at this point.) All of this seems to signal a re-launch for the McCain campaign. And it's also a bit of deja vu of the summer of 2007 -- McCain doesn't have a chance, his campaign's imploding, he wasted all this time (money in 2007), but then he pulls a rabbit out of a hat and wins the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries. The difference is that this is the general election. He can't really play small ball, go state to state, and hope for key wins and momentum. There is no momentum; there's one day where everyone votes. So he needs to work with the momentum moments that he'll have, including the VP pick, his convention, and the fall debates.
*** Let's take it outdoors! It has been widely speculated, but First Read has learned that the Democrats will announce today that they will move the last night of the convention -- when Obama becomes the nominee -- from the 17,000-seat Pepsi Center to the 70,000+-seat Invesco Field, where the Denver Broncos play their football games. We guess this doesn't seem surprising for a candidate who drew some 70,000 to 80,000 in Portland. Then again, what if it rains or even snows (it's Denver, after all)? And just how does McCain respond? Mark Salter, speaking to the New York Times, seems to give a clue. "'John doesn't ever want to be something that he is not,' Mr. Salter said, including trying to pass himself off as a larger-than-life figure on stage. 'There's nothing in there about him that wants to be rarefied.'" So is it possible we see a really low key GOP convention in a way that emphasizes the serious over the rock star? It's the obvious way to go, and if Obama goes too rock star (as he's doing with the football stadium rally), it just may work.
*** On the trail: McCain is in Denver, where he holds a town hall on the economy. Obama, in Charlotte, NC, also gives a talk on the economy and later hits two fundraisers in Atlanta. By the way, the details of Obama's overseas trip are leaking out via foreign press reports. It appears he'll be in Israel the 22nd or 23rd per an Israeli media report, and he apparently might speak at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin per Der Spiegel.
Countdown to Dem convention: 49 days
Countdown to GOP convention: 56 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 120 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 197 days
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