A thought about the McCain gambit: A big part of suspending the campaign and pushing back the debate has to do with money.
What does he hope to gain from suspending his campaign?
- This back his "putting country first" argument.
- Delay the debate until Oct. 2, which would conveniently postpone of cancel the Vice Presidential debate.
- Put Obama in a position to also take ownership of a politically risky bailout plan. McCain was needed to secure Republican votes for the measure, so this move helps him spread the risk.
Fortunately, most observers and voters have called this for what it is: A naked political ploy. But I think there's one other reason that could have a hand in this. Money.
Obama has more cash than McCain, and is spending that fortune to get his message out to voters. McCain can't hope to compete with the resulting flood of Obama ads.
To neutralize that advantage, McCain needs to dominate national news coverage. He's succeeded in the past, most recently and spectacularly with the Sarah Palin pick. The fact that she's tanking now almost doesn't matter, from this perspective. He got two solid weeks of campaign buzz and momentum out of that.
The drawback for McCain, of course, is that this is tantamount to blowing hard into a toy boat's sails. It gives you a strong push forward in the water, but it slows to a stop almost as quickly. So you need to blow again. And harder. This gambit is another hearty gust from the senator. Unfortunately for him, it doesn't look like it's working. He may have blown a little too hard and capsized the boat this time.
(That's my tortured metaphor: John McCain blows. A lot.)
So what happens next? We'll see if people internalize this move the way McCain wants them to—as an act of integrity—or for what it is: A last ditch effort to get some free pub for a campaign that's faltering under a losing issue. This could be the move that decides the election.