From NBC's Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro
So what if McCain shows up and tonight and says, "I'm sorry I couldn't sign on to this Washington-Wall Street plan that I worried was putting an even bigger burden on taxpayers than this mess already has. Now, Sen. Obama, I understand that you are confident in these folks in Washington and New York who have everyone convinced this is the only plan. And I respect that, but I am hearing from people all over the country who don't get this plan and don't understand how it will work. And why should they trust a group of folks in Washington and New York who broke this system to fix it?"
McCain is not winning this political battle right now as the media elite do believe the White House, Wall Street and Congressional Democrats on this. It's a pretty strong united front for us not to believe this. That said, McCain and House Republicans are channeling their inner populist, something the Republican Party hasn't done in quite some time. Don't write off this McCain strategy just yet if Obama appears too cozy with Washington and New York elites, and it's McCain who is the one looking like the outsider.
And there might be an immigration analogy here. Has McCain learned a lesson from that first battle that almost sunk his campaign and decided to listen to the base on this? This whole fight looks a bit like immigration with media, political elites on one side and "conservative populists" on the other.
On the other hand, Republicans were hurt in 2006 after running solely against immigration reform -- not helping them with Hispanics and female voters -- and it cemented the idea that Republicans were callous toward immigrants. Will House Republicans (and McCain) cement the idea that Republicans aren't interested in making government work?
Additionally, McCain (apparently) said nothing at the White House, he hasn't been decisive about a position or the state of the economy. And, as we wrote this morning, he has to either convince skeptical Republicans or present his own plan. He hasn't done either yet.
All of this pointed to McCain coming to the debate tonight because he owes the country an explanation of his actions. Now, we know he will be here, and what better way to explain than to 60-75 million people at the same time.