John McCain looks like he's closing the gap, or even taking the lead, in some national polls. RealClearPolitics now gives him a 274 to 264 edge in the electoral college without toss-up states. There are plenty of explanations for this, and they all might be valid: McCain starting to hit Obama hard, Obama's failure to come up with a coherent strategy in the midst of great tactics (something Soren points out), etc.
One of the new theories is Obama's failure to sell his economic message to voters. David Leonhardt of the New York Times Magazine released his Sunday story today on Obama's academic battle on economic policy:
"With Obama, there is vast disagreement about just how liberal he is, especially on the economy. My favorite example came in mid-June, shortly after Obama named Jason Furman, a protégé of Robert Rubin, the centrist former Treasury secretary, as his lead economic adviser. Labor leaders recoiled, and John Sweeney, the head of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., worried aloud about “corporate influence on the Democratic Party.” Then, the following week, Kimberley Strassel, a member of The Wall Street Journal editorial board, wrote a column titled, 'Farewell, New Democrats,' concluding that Obama’s economic policies amounted to the end of Clintonian centrism and a reversion to old liberal ways."
"Some of the confusion stems from Obama’s own strategy of presenting himself as a postpartisan figure. A few weeks ago, I joined him on a flight from Orlando to Chicago and began our conversation by asking about his economic approach. He started to answer, but then interrupted himself. 'My core economic theory is pragmatism,' he said, 'figuring out what works.'"
Pragmatism? Figuring out what works? Really? Fantastic! Not only is there a fight between the netroots and grassroots of the Left, there's a fundamental fight within the academic wing of the Left on the principles of free markets vs. the principles of European social democracies. They're obviously trying to merge the two in some sort of coherent fashion, but have failed miserably. So how can McCain take advantage of this and continue his surge in the polls?
- With voters under 35, Obama leads McCain 56 to 38.
- With voters over 65, McCain leads Obama 51 to 35.
- With voters that have the economy as the #1 issue, Obama leads McCain 44 to 38,
- WIth voters that have gas prices and energy as the #1 issue, McCain leads Obama 50 to 34.
This is significant because it shows that McCain's domestic energy production message is working, and that people aren't buying Obama's economic message and his "drill nothing, tax everything" energy policy. The #dontgo campaign might be having some effect, but this provides great news for the McCain campaign. One of the critical questions here is whether or not the energy issue from McCain can provide some coattails to Congressional Republicans. I'm still skeptical about any coattails McCain can provide on any issue.
If McCain's many advisers and media consultants can come up with a strategy that merges the energy and economic messages, along with touting the "Commander-in-Chief" message on issues like Georgia, he can make a lasting impact from the GOP convention and afterwards. Patrick is going in the right direction with branding the GOP as "The Party You Can Afford", but here are a few more ideas for targeted audiences:
- An energy policy that leads to lower prices at the pump will lead to lower prices at the grocery store.
- Lower gas prices will also help small businesses that are heavily dependent on transportation, and will enable them to make investments in more jobs and more capital.
- An "all of the above" energy strategy can create jobs and economic stability. Is Obama right that an alternative energy policy can create jobs? Yes, but at the expense of other jobs. Diversifying our energy consumption, both in the renewable and non-renewable worlds, can lead to short-term job creation and long-term sustainability through innovation.
- A comprehensive energy policy is the linchpin to comprehensive, broad growth in the economy. So, we should drill here and drill now.
Anybody have any other ideas on merging the energy and economic message?
This really is an opportunity for McCain to jump past Obama in some critical states. And while Obama is stuck in neutral because of the academia within his campaign ...
"When Obama gives a speech about his economic plan, there is often a moment when you can sense him shift from poetry to prose. He can be inspiring when talking about how the country ended up being the envy of the world. But when he comes to the part about what he wants to do next, how he wants to keep America the envy of the world, it can sound a little like a State of the Union laundry list."
"His advisers are divided about how much of a problem this is. Some of them told me that he did have a unifying theme — the middle-class squeeze — and that it would become clearer to voters as they began paying closer attention to the race. Others said they didn’t think Obama had yet come up with a simple way to explain how he would alleviate that squeeze."
... McCain, and the conservative movement after November, can make energy a deeper pocketbook issue than it is now.