There was obviously good news for John McCain in his large margins of victory in both Wisconsin and Washington last night. However, there was more than just vote tallies to please the McCain team. Obama showed a little leg last night and to the relief of the McCain camp showed himself to be a rather ordinary liberal. It sounds trite to recite the litany, but the list of his policy proposals was trite: tax the rich, roll back trade agreements, spend more money, do something (I couldn’t tell what) about lobbyists, and give everyone in America an affordable college education (you might get some Republican takers if you started taxing educational institutions with billion dollar endowments), all while providing universal healthcare. On foreign policy you will find no Joe Biden realism, let alone any Scoop Jackson muscular defense strategy. (He did seem rather enthusiastic about using funds we will save from retreating from Iraq to build roads and provide broadband service in Houston, though.)
This is good news for McCain on two fronts. First, it helps solve, if not totally obliterate, his problem with rallying the base. If conservatives cannot get revved up to oppose a platform that looks like something Ted Kennedy cooked up (come to think of it…) then nothing will rally them. Second, this will enhance McCain’s ability to snag independents. (When you throw in Obama’s positions on everything from partial birth abortion to gun control the task becomes that much easier.)
McCain will, of course, need to fight through the throngs of media boosters and shout over the “Yes, we can” chants. But if the only thing innovative about Obama is stylistic, then McCain may not be such a long shot after all. (He can only hope Obama gives a rambling, self-indulgent mess of a speech after every victory between now and June.) However, it is becoming increasingingly unlikely that Obama can continue his “change” offensive without further scrutiny, as passages like this from Robert J. Samuelson suggest:
The contrast between his broad rhetoric and his narrow agenda is stark, and yet the media — preoccupied with the political “horse race” — have treated his invocation of “change” as a serious idea rather than a shallow campaign slogan. He seems to have hypnotized much of the media and the public with his eloquence and the symbolism of his life story. The result is a mass delusion that Obama is forthrightly engaging the nation’s major problems when, so far, he isn’t.
As Samuelson has discovered, there is indeed a “huge and deceptive gap between his captivating oratory and his actual views.” It will be McCain’s job to make sure the voters recognize it.