From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann
*** Pivoting to the economy: Yesterday, we were no longer talking about "lipstick on a pig." Or whose TV ads are more misleading. Or even -- at least compared with the last two weeks -- Sarah Palin. Instead, the focus was squarely on the economy after Lehman Brothers went under, Bank of America had to rescue Merrill Lynch, and giant insurer AIG is now in trouble. Obama appears to benefit at least in the short term, since we're talking about the issues, particularly one that traditionally favors Democrats. And, perception-wise, McCain didn't help himself when he said the "fundamentals of our economy are strong" -- words that Obama's campaign yesterday pounced on and McCain later backtracked from. In fact, the Obama camp is up with a brand-new TV ad today (airing in "key states") that whacks McCain for saying that. However, it's worth pointing out that those words from McCain weren't new. By our count, he has used that phrase at least 16 times between Jan. 1 and June 5th of this year. So why the outrage now? By the way, before yesterday, McCain had been closing the gap on the economy in the polls. Will that movement continue? Is this the time for Obama to unveil Bubba?
*** Is two better than one? Well, it didn't last long. One day after stumping solo in Florida -- and attracting smaller crowds in the process -- McCain joins Palin on the campaign trail again, in the battleground of Ohio. But this comes after a final solo stop today by McCain in Tampa, FL. As NBC/NJ's Matthew Berger reported last week, the campaign says that McCain and Palin might appear together more often than not for the remainder of the race. This unprecedented joint campaigning certainly has its rewards (producing bigger crowds as well as more excitement and enthusiasm from the base). But it also has its risks (limiting the ground the ticket can cover and making McCain seem beholden to Palin to produce big crowds for him). Then again, McCain isn't trying to win a bigger battleground; the GOP ticket is trying to win just a handful of states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, while assuming it can hold Virginia and Florida. So if you believe the McCain battleground is essentially a seven state strategy, then you can afford joint ticket campaigning. Also, don't miss David Brooks' column, in which he says -- very nicely -- that Palin doesn't seem ready to be VP. Brooks becomes the latest member of the conservative intelligentsia (joining Frum, Krauthammer, Douthat, and Will) who likes Palin but doesn't believe she's ready for primetime.
*** Troopergate news: Speaking of Palin, the Troopergate story in Alaska is garnering more headlines today, especially after a McCain spokesman said that Palin is unlikely to cooperate with investigators looking into the matter. Also, the McCain campaign dumped a slew of emails last night to suggest that ex-Public Safety head Walt Monegan was fired because of insubordination and not because he refused to dismiss Palin's ex-brother-in-law. But it's not helpful to Palin that Monegan is talking to reporters. Here's what Monegan told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow about the news that Palin is unlikely to cooperate: "I'm disappointed on two areas here. First off, because initially she said she was going to cooperate like you mentioned. But the other part, probably more fundamental, is that she campaigned and was all of Alaska's hope for an open and transparent government. And now, it's thwarted." This is a nagging issue, one that won't go away but without any major moment (like either Palin testifying before the election). It strikes us as one that won't get major attention because it does smack of petty small-town politics. Then again, the investigation seems to undermine her reformer credentials.
*** A star is born: By the way, after stumping for a second day in the battleground of Colorado, Obama heads to LA for a star-studded fundraiser (Barbra Streisand will perform!), where he's expected to rake in big bucks for his campaign and the DNC. Of course, it's always a risk for Democratic candidates – especially ones that Republicans are trying to paint as elitist -- to be seen hob-knobbing with celebrities. And remember that Whoopi Goldberg remark at that 2004 fundraiser for John Kerry? All of this is probably why the Obama camp is only allowing a print pooler to cover tonight's fundraiser. Then again, why is that when Republican candidates attend fundraisers with celebrities (like McCain's recent event with Jon Voight, Jon Cryer, Patricia Heaton, Angie Harmon, Robert Duvall), it garners less attention than when Democrats do? By the way, this fundraiser -- fair or not -- may spark questions as to why Obama has to spend precious fall campaign time in a non-battleground state to raise money. Couldn't a surrogate attend this event? Michelle and all the Bidens? Wouldn't that suffice?
*** Wooing women: One of the biggest reasons for the dead-even presidential race: The Palin pick has cut into Obama's lead among women. So the Obama camp has ramped up effort to woo women with increased women surrogates. As the Washington Post reports today, "It rolled out a women's outreach effort Monday, led by scores of prominent female entrepreneurs, athletes and politicians, including former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright, cosmetics entrepreneur Bobbi Brown and Yahoo! Inc. President Sue Decker. The women will act as surrogates for Obama, advocating his support for issues such as equal pay, expansion of family leave and reduction of health care costs. Prominent women also are flooding the airwaves on Obama's behalf, including Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Govs. Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), a former Hillary Rodham Clinton backer." Obama getting women to come back to his side is probably the difference between winning and losing.
*** Two additional questions for today: One, anyone notice what a lower profile Michelle Obama has been taking since the naming of Palin? Two, has anyone else noticed that the Obama campaign doesn't use his acceptance speech as the stump like McCain does? While Obama seemed to win the immediate convention speech contest with McCain, it's McCain who is taking his speech on the road and turning it into his stump -- amplifying the reform aspect of his speech. It's not that Obama doesn't use many parts of his acceptance speech on the stump; it's that there's nothing from that speech the campaign is amplifying -- whether it's his biography or the tough McCain lines. About the only line that comes across as memorable right now from Obama and that speech is the "enough is enough" stuff. McCain's speech, while not widely praised in the media, has had more legs. Could this be another lesson for the press not to judge an acceptance speech immediately? Remember, Al Gore's acceptance speech was widely panned on the night he gave it and it turned out to have more legs. Then again, maybe it's simply the advantage of going second.
*** On the trail: McCain holds a solo rally in Tampa, FL before joining up with Palin for another rally in Vienna, OH. Obama stumps in Golden, CO just a day after Palin campaigned there, and he later hits a fundraiser in Los Angeles (where Barbra Streisand will perform). And Biden attends a community gathering in Media, PA.
Countdown to the first presidential debate: 10 days
Countdown to the vice presidential debate: 18 days
Countdown to the second presidential debate 21 days
Countdown to the third presidential debate: 29 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 49 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 126 days
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