Friday, September 05, 2008

republicans fourth night

I thought McCain did what he had to do. I think he was wise to eschew grand themes, which he wouldn't have done well anyway, and keep to the basics--let McCain be McCain, so to speak. I was particularly impressed that he began to steer the campaign toward a conservative reform agenda, including issues like school choice, worker retraining, and so forth, rather than simply attacking the Obama agenda (David Brooks has a good column on this in NY Times today). He may have sacrificed some applause lines in doing so, but he probably picked up some votes.

The question, of course, is how this will play--or even how long it will go on. As others have noted, the talk was largely discontinuous with the rest of the convention, which except for small hints in Palin's speech was largely devoid of specific proposals. There is also the problem of distancing one's self from a Government of one's own party, although McCain is better positioned for this than any other candidate, since no one really believes he likes Bush much and he hardly pretended to last night. And, of course, the Democrats have shared power in Washingtn for the past two years.

It will be very interesting to see what happens in the next couple of weeks. If the McCain camp reverts to ridiculing Obama without articulating a clear alternate vision, I think that any "bump" will disappear quickly and the election will begin to take on a 1992 or reverse 1980 character. If they can articulate such a vision, I think they have a real chance of winning, or at very least of creating a party that will be extremely competitive in future elections. Palin will be especially significant on this point. As I suggested in yesterday's posting, she is already too valuable to use as a mere attack dog. Indeed, as a working class woman untainted by Washington corruption, she may have more credibility as a reformer than the candidate himself. Is she up to this task, or is it already too late?


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