From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann
*** Has the worm turned? After the news of the crisis on Wall Street, McCain's "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" stumble on Monday, the slip-ups yesterday by McCain's two biggest economic surrogates (see below for more on that), and four days of sustained TV ad and email blasts by the Obama campaign and the DNC, the political worm seems to have turned a tad since the Palin bounce. Indeed, while we're not crazy about focusing too much on those daily tracking polls, their needles have moved in Obama's direction the past couple of days (and we bet that continues today). And guess what -- we're not talking as much about Palin as we were last week, except for the latest developments in the Troopergate scandal in Alaska. The race has turned back into McCain vs. Obama, and it currently is sitting on turf (the economy) that should favor Democrats. In fact, even the McCain campaign tacitly acknowledges Palin's off the front pages with a new TV ad today that doesn't mention Palin at all -- not even a "McCain-Palin" Administration. It's simply McCain. By the way, a car-bomb attack today on the US embassy in Yemen (which killed 16 people, including six security forces, six terrorists, and four civilians) reminds us that the focus of the presidential race -- as well as that political worm -- can turn at a moment's notice.
*** McCain targeting Gordon Gekko: But even with the attack in Yemen, today's focus will probably remain on the economy. Both candidates have new TV ads in which they speak to the camera about the current troubles on Wall Street. Here's McCain's, which his campaign says will be televised nationally: "You, the American workers, are the best in the world. But your economic security has been put at risk by the greed of Wall Street. That's unacceptable. My opponent's only solutions are talk and taxes. I'll reform Wall Street and fix Washington. I've taken on tougher guys than this before."
*** Gone in 120 seconds: Meanwhile, Obama's out with a two-minute TV ad on the economy -- a sort of a mini-address to show he's taking the current Wall Street crisis seriously. "Here's what I believe we need to do," he says in the ad. "Reform our tax system to give a $1,000 tax break to the middle class instead of showering more on oil companies and corporations that outsource our jobs. End the 'anything goes' culture on Wall Street with real regulation that protects your investments and pensions. Fast track a plan for energy 'made-in-America' that will free us from our dependence on mid-east oil in 10 years and put millions of Americans to work. Crack down on lobbyists… And yes, bring a responsible end to this war in Iraq so we stop spending billions each month rebuilding their country when we should be rebuilding ours. Doing these things won't be easy. But we're Americans. We've met tough challenges before. And we can again." This ad isn't just a contrast with McCain; it's actually a contrast with President Bush. In the last six months since the country's economic problems have been front-page news, Bush hasn't done a major address to the nation like he has when there has been international news. By the way, neither this Obama ad nor McCain's emphasizes jobs. They both talk about them (or imply them), but they aren't the lead.
*** When surrogates screw up: McCain's top two economic surrogates had a tough day yesterday. First, Douglas Holtz-Eakin -- in a response to reporters' questions about what McCain did at the Senate Commerce Committee to understand how markets work -- whipped out his BlackBerry. "He did this," he replied. "Telecommunications of the United States is a premier innovation in the past 15 years, comes right through the Commerce committee so you're looking at the miracle John McCain helped create and that's what he did." That produced a slew of McCain-invented-the-BlackBerry jokes. Next, Carly Fiorina answered "no" to a question in a radio interview whether Palin has the experience to run a corporation like Hewlett-Packard. In a later interview with Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC, Fiorina said that none of the candidates was qualifed. "Well, I don't think John McCain could run a major corporation; I don't think Barack Obama could run a major corporation; I don't think Joe Biden could run a major corporation." The Obama camp immediately pounced. "If John McCain's top economic advisor doesn't think he can run a corporation, how on Earth can he run the largest economy in the world in the midst of a financial crisis?" Ouch.
*** A stroll through memory lane: Remember when two of the leading voices against Wall Street in the Dem Party were John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer? The Edwards and Spitzer rhetoric, even if from flawed characters, is being borrowed from heavily by both campaigns right now.
*** The Beltway buzzer: The buzzy piece of the day comes courtesy of the Politico's Roger Simon, who has some former Dem bigwigs wringing their hands slightly at the position Obama finds himself in. The most interesting criticism comes from Donna Brazile, who believes Obama's media strategists "need to sharpen their ads so they are more memorable and have a shelf life of more than 24 hours." This gets at a whisper campaign that we've been privvy to for some time about Obama's media team. A lot of smart political types have been surprised by the lack of "stickiness" of Obama's TV ads. McCain's ads might be getting killed by the truth-squadders, but they are being talked about and voters seem to remember them. There's not a memorable Obama TV ad that anyone can point to and say, "Wow, that's an interesting ad," even as they seem well produced and well focus-grouped. The most memorable Dem ad we can think of is one that has to do with a 3:00 am phone call. By the way, speaking of "sticky," there's a new MoveOn ad that uses McCain's "my friends" catch phrase very cleverly. Yet another ad from the Dem side that's catchy but not from Team Obama.
*** Republican Jews swift-boating Obama? Don't miss the Politico story about the Republican Jewish Coalition commissioning a negative poll about Obama in some battleground states. "The poll asked voters their response to negative statements about Obama, including reported praise for him from a leader of the Palestinian terror group Hamas and a friendship early in his career with a pro-Palestinian university professor. Some Jewish Democrats who received the poll – including a New Republic writer who lives in Michigan – were outraged by the poll, describing it in interviews as 'ugly' and disturbing. A group that supports Obama, the Jewish Council for Education and Research even staged a protest outside the Manhattan call center from which the calls originated Tuesday." It appears to truly be a message-testing poll -- and not a so-called "push poll" -- which goes to tens of thousands of voters. This was an actual survey testing the most effective attack against Obama.
*** Clinton's no second fiddle: In the span of about four hours yesterday, Hillary Clinton committed then decommitted to a planned Monday protest of Ahmadienjad in New York. For the opening of the UN General Assembly, a coalition of Jewish groups hoped to flex its political muscle by convincing both Clinton and Palin to participate in an anti-Iran protest. Well, no one told Clinton's folks Palin would also be there. When they found out, they felt blindsided and backed out. Palin isn't 100% yet on the protest -- but her attendance is very likely, particularly since her first meeting with some key Jewish leaders in the US didn't go so well. She needs to show some Israeli solidarity. Palin's appearance at the UN is a tricky decision by the McCain campaign because there's a fine line between introducing a future VP to the world and looking like someone participating in their first model UN.
*** On the trail: McCain and Palin hold an evening rally in Grand Rapids, MI. Obama is in Nevada, stumping in Elko and attending a rally in North Las Vegas. Biden, in Ohio, campaigns in Maumee and Wooster. And Michelle Obama visits Virginia, attending a women's economic roundtable in Richmond and then a voter-registration rally in Charlottesville.
*** Elsewhere: On Capitol Hill today, at the DNC headquarters, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Rosa DeLauro, Donna Edwards, Linda Sanchez, and Diana DeGette hold a press conference contrasting the Obama and McCain records on women's issues. Meanwhile, Clinton supporter and DNC Platform Committee member Lynn Forester de Rothschild (wife of international banker Sir Evelyn de Rothschild) holds a presser announcing her support for McCain.
Countdown to the first presidential debate: 9 days
Countdown to the vice presidential debate: 17 days
Countdown to the second presidential debate 20 days
Countdown to the third presidential debate: 28 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 48 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 125 days
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