It seems like an eon ago that John McCain and Sarah Palin came roaring out of the Republican convention with Barack Obama flummoxed by McCain’s vice-presidential choice. That was before the collapse of Lehman Bros. three weeks ago and the deepening of the financial crisis that has wiped everything else from the news.
McCain has seen all the work he did over the summer and with the pick of Palin blown away. He is trailing in the daily tracking polls by about eight points, and his numbers in the battleground states, following the national numbers, have tanked. No wonder McCain is eager to turn the page on this chapter of the campaign, and talk about something else — Obama’s connection to Bill Ayers, for instance.
But the financial crisis and the weak economy aren’t going to disappear as issues. How should McCain address them?
First, he needs to address middle-class concerns. People were worried about the state of the economy before the financial crisis became dire, largely because of the state of their wallets. We have long advocated that McCain adopt a substantial middle-class tax cut, but the hour is late. McCain may have to make do with the policy arsenal he already has. He should do more to publicize his proposal to double the tax exemption for children, which would amount to more than $1,000 for a typical family. Of late, he has wisely been trying to present his entire economic agenda as a way to lower the cost of living. He spoke yesterday in New Mexico of getting “the rising cost of food and gas under control.” He needs to do more, especially with regard to his health-care plan (see this related editorial). McCain’s plan will lead to a large increase in wages as employers convert health benefits into cash for their workers. The result could be a $12,000 increase in take-home pay for a typical family. Obama’s health-care plan, by contrast, is a small-business job-killer.