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McCain: Here's the backseat driving

As we noted last week, this was bound to happen: Quite a few Republicans have decided to do some public backseat driving. "'He has to make the case that he's different than Bush and better than Obama on the economy,' said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, one of more than a dozen prominent Republicans who in interviews during the past week expressed concern over the course of McCain's bid. 'If he doesn't win that case, it's all over, and it's going to be a very bad year for Republicans.'"

"Several Republicans, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid angering McCain, said the campaign should have sought to plant doubts about Obama's associations with 1960s-era radical William Ayers and others months ago, rather than waiting until the campaign's final weeks. Doing so now, they said, makes the 72-year-old McCain come off as angry, grouchy and desperate, playing into Democrats' hands. Rather, these Republicans said, McCain needs to strike a balance in his tone -- appearing presidential while also questioning Obama's readiness to serve and judgment to lead. And, several said McCain should close the campaign on an honorable note. 'He doesn't need an attack strategy, he needs a comeback strategy,' said Alex Castellanos, a longtime national GOP media consultant who worked for McCain primary rival Mitt Romney.

The Sunday New York Times: After a turbulent week that included disclosures about Gov. Sarah Palin and signs that Senator John McCain was struggling to strike the right tone for his campaign, Republican leaders said Saturday that they were worried Mr. McCain was heading for defeat unless he brought stability to his presidential candidacy and settled on a clear message to counter Senator Barack Obama. Again and again, party leaders said in interviews that while they still believed that Mr. McCain could win over voters in the next 30 days, they were concerned that he and his advisers seemed to be adrift in dealing with an extraordinarily challenging political battleground and a crisis on Wall Street."

And what should McCain do? The campaign is reportedly conflicted. "There have been internal disagreements over how far to go, with some advisers pressing McCain to criticize Obama on his relationship with his incendiary former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. McCain earlier had ruled that out of bounds. Some advisers fear charges of racism. One senior McCain adviser said the worry isn't just that McCain may lose but also that, in defeat, the attacks on Obama could cause long-term damage to McCain's image. It's not clear whether it's concern about McCain's legacy that prompted the senator to defend Obama on Friday, and advisers insisted there wasn't a conscious decision to soften the criticism. One, Mark Salter, told reporters traveling with McCain: 'He responded to questions he didn't think were appropriate.'"

The New York Times: "Despite signals that Senator John McCain would have new prescriptions for the economic crisis after a weekend of meetings, his campaign said Sunday that Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, would not have any more proposals this week unless developments call for some. The signs of internal confusion came as the campaign was under pressure from state party leaders to sharpen his message on the economy and at least blunt the advantage that Democrats traditionally have on the issue in hard times. Republicans have grown fretful as Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, has edged ahead in polls three weeks before the election, while Mr. McCain has veered between ill-received economic plans and attacks on Mr. Obama's character." 

McCain will appear on Letterman Thursday after Letterman has skewered him for canceling to "suspend" his campaign as the bailout was being negotiated.

The Reform Party threw its support to McCain.