We are currently observing a turning point in the American election season and I think it is the most crucial part of this election. Various polls are showing that Barack Obama has a comfortable lead over John McCain and the polling in the important toss-up states suggests that news is even worse for McCain. So what do you do if you're McCain? The answer is you attack and having just watched one of his rallies in the toss-up state of New Mexico it is obvious that he is doing just that.
Attacking is a good strategy to win elections. If you can get a good soundbite of something that your opponent believes in or thinks that sounds stupid or reprehensible and if you say it again and again, it could easily be something that the voters will think of immediately before casting their vote on November 4th. Governor Palin has been attacking Obama for befriending a domestic terrorist, William Ayers. When I first heard that she said this, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and read more about the case she was referring to. It quickly became obvious though that its a non-story. Obama's website - Fight the Smears - has been updated to fight this particular one too.
In his speech in New Mexico, McCain said that when he tried to question a particular view of Obama's he gets the cold shoulder from him. "For a guy that has written two memoirs", said McCain "he's hardly an open book". A good line and certainly one that some voters will remember, for want of more accurate and reliable information, before casting their vote. This is simply not the case though, in my opinion. McCain, it seems obvious to me, is trying to move away from speaking about the economy - the real issue that matters. This must be frustrating for the American voter. During their first debate, well over half an hour was spent on the bailout plan and a real attempt was made by the moderator to force the candidates to talk about the situation between themselves. Neither candidate sufficiently engaged with each other. This is disappointing because it would have been a fantastic opportunity to get a genuine one-over on the candidate.
The Obama camp has been on the attack too. However, their attack is valid, in my opinon. It comes in the form of a short documentary (13mins) called Keating Economics on their website. This documentary links a rather shady period of McCain's period in the Senate with his current (and future) attitude towards the economy. It shows that he doesn't have good judgment or people's best interests at heart when he is functioning as a leader. Having watched the documentary, I think its content is fair game. The same cannot be said for some of McCain's and Palin's most recent attacks on Obama.
This brings me to the reason that I am writing this. Tonight is the second Presidential debate. The bailout plan has now been passed by congress. Both candidates should be able to openly talk about the economy and get across to voters why their recovery plans are better than their opponents. Furthermore, both candidates should be able to commit to answering the question. This sounds silly; but, for example, if asked which parts of their plans for government are no longer feasible because of the need to be tight on the purse strings, they should be able to single particular areas out no matter how unpopular their ideas would be.
Tonight's debate is going to be won by the candidate that is most willing and able to engage with the key issue affecting voters: the economy. If McCain brings along his tacky one-liners, the American people should send him packing. If Obama isn't able to demonstrate his command over issues relating to the economy, then he should be judged weak too and voters, rightly, shouldn't vote for him because he's a Democrat. That wouldn't be fair game either.