The Corner

Debating McCain’s Strategy

Yesterday, NRO ran a shortened version of an article Rich Lowry and I wrote on how McCain could win. A few of the comments on it seemed worth responding to.

Jonathan Chait takes issue with our argument that the flip-flop argument against Obama could backfire by undercutting the case that Obama is an out-of-the-mainstream leftist. The data, he points out, shows that enthusiasm for Obama among young voters has fallen; he cites George Stephanopoulos for the proposition that media coverage of Obama’s repositioning is responsible for this fall. Note that even if Stephanopoulos is correct, it does not mean that it makes sense for the McCain campaign to concentrate on making the flip-flop argument. More important, Lowry and I never denied that the flip-flop charge might inflict short-term damage on Obama. The theory is that as Obama goes from being the redeemer candidate to a standard-issue Democratic politician, he is likely to lose some enthusiasm at first but to gain more voters in the long run.

At Salon, Justin Jouvenal argues that Hillary Clinton made a better fighter for working-class economic interests than McCain ever could. First, he writes that “McCain lacks the Clinton brand when it comes to the economy.” But to the extent Clinton appealed to these voters on economics, it was often by distancing herself from “the Clinton brand,” i.e., Rubinomics. Second, Jouvenal points out that McCain’s tax plan does not offer much to working-class voters: which is true, and why we urged McCain to modify his plan. Third, he notes that voters generally prefer Democrats on the economy. True: But a candidate can shift those numbers a little bit. And even if McCain does not persuade a majority of working-class voters that he is better than Obama on economics, he can make a lot of headway–especially when you consider that economics isn’t all that they vote on.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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