I’m warmer to it than pretty much everyone else in the political commentariat, I think. Yes, the inclusion of Paris and Britney was kind of silly, but you’ve got to look at that as cable and YouTube bait (800k hits so far). The McCain folks did a 60-second ad a few weeks ago that was inarguably “worthy” of McCain, and how much attention did it get or good did it do McCain? Oh, you don’t remember it? Never mind. McCain’s not going to win without defining Obama in a negative way. He’s just not. There are other ways to do it, but pumping Obama up as a celebrity–and pointing out how arrogant, gassy, and remote he is–is a pretty good frame that has the added advantage of being true. This post at The New Republic gets the basic idea. It says something that Obama responded to the ad so poorly–mocking may be the best weapon against him–and used the race card in a way that will likely backfire.
The question is whether McCain will stick it out. Here’s good stuff from First Read:
The Day After Britney-Paris: Today might be a day when John McCain ought to simply forget to read the news clippings, turn off the cable TV, and not browse The Google. The editorials that are blasting his new Britney-Paris ad and other attacks against Obama are piling up. (An example from the St. Pete Times: “The self-described ‘happy warrior’ in the 2000 presidential campaign has turned sour in 2008, and the candor and straight talk that once made him such an attractive candidate are rapidly disappearing.”) And so are the blind quotes from Republican strategists questioning his campaign’s tactics. (See the next paragraph.) The danger here for McCain is that, by all accounts, he’s more sensitive to criticism by the media and fellow colleagues than your average Republican; as someone who’s been praised by the press more often than not, he cares what the New York Times has to say. So today and tomorrow, McCain’s body language will be interesting to watch. But since his campaign has made the decision to go after Obama — it has now produced four consecutive negative ads against the Democrat — the best course for McCain may simply be to put on the blinders and move forward. The question is whether McCain has the self-discipline to ignore the noise and march forward and accept this strategy as the winning one.
If he doesn’t stay focused and tough, McCain remains a huge threat to his own candidacy. I’m with these folks, cited in The New York Times:
Mr. McCain’s advisers continue to look for ways to bring more discipline to his message, and are being urged by some supporters to cut back the frequency of his question-and-answer sessions with reporters, a staple of his campaign but one that occasionally yields unscripted moments, misstatements and off-the-cuff pronouncements that divert attention from the themes he is trying to promote.
And Dan Henninger has a brutal piece on McCain’s wanderings on the stump and in interviews today in the Journal.