Fresno — John McCain had a good day in Fresno today. At a town hall like question-and-answer session at Fresno State, he suggested a massive government prize for anyone who can come up with a successful battery technology that weans us off gasoline powered cars and trucks. At a noon luncheon of government officials, business people, farmers and ag-industry leaders, McCain nevertheless came out against ethanol subsidies and tariffs on imported bio-fuels, but got applause nonetheless on Iraq, nuclear power, and fiscal sanity. Many in the second audience were prior Romney and Thompson supporters, but told me they were on board. He’s starting to get a theme: he takes on tough questions, appeals to traditional American virtues like winning wars, building energy plants and refineries, and tries to reason with his base where he disagrees.
Time usually has been crucial in many past campaigns. In 1968 Humphrey might have won in another week; while Jerry Ford could have overtaken Carter in another 10 days. Obama is already playing a sort of 4th-quarter defense. He knows that the more town-halls, and impromptu speeches and interviews, the more likely, given his inexperience and doctrinaire liberalism, he is going to say something that comes off quirky, whether the off-the-cuff rants at fund-raisers like the clingers speech or the latest about “them” going after his middle name and race, or Cartesque lectures about over-eating Americans in SUVs and the apparent utility of high-priced gas, or the flip-flopping on Nafta, the war, campaign financing, Rev. Wright, et al. McCain is the proverbial steady tortoise, Obama the flashy racing hare — the key question being how far exactly are they respectively along the course to the finish line in November?