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Get Into The Game

ABC had this report from a John McCain fundraiser Saturday night:

“You know, this election is about trust, and trusting people’s word” McCain told a crowd of donors to his campaign. “And unfortunately, apparently, on several items, Sen. Obama’s word cannot be trusted.” McCain’s remark came at the conclusion of a number of examples of what McCain said were Obama’s changes in position. McCain cited a proposal that he and Obama appear together at town hall meetings -– which Obama originally seemed to be in favor of, but has not agreed to yet -– and Obama’s reversal on whether or not to take federal financing for his campaign as signs that Obama’s word could not be trusted.

On rare occasions McCain has personally gone after Obama on an issue of integrity or judgment. But more often than not, and especially at critical junctures like the emergence of Reverend Wright, McCain has shied away from getting his own hands dirty, evidencing a hesitancy to take on his opponent. So does this latest comment by McCain suggest a new tactic, one more consistent with what his campaign staff and surrogates are trying to do (i.e. raise fundamental questions about Obama’s character and judgment)? Or is it an exception, soon to be blunted by some bland comment about his respect and admiration for his foe?

Certainly, a candidate shouldn’t get into a verbal fistfight with his opponent at every turn. But often the candidate himself is the only one to capture the media’s attention on an attack. Moreover, McCain can’t very well step on his own campaign’s lines by rushing to assure the public that he really thinks the world of his opponent. It seems he has the perfect opportunity now to point to Obama’s series of position changes and simply ask which position was the real one and how will we know which one will stick. With the media echoing those same queries McCain can hardly be blamed for calling voters’ attention to the ever-evolving Obama.

And perhaps McCain will feel more at ease on this particular issue than on Reverend Wright, for example. After all, McCain was hardly quite effective attacking on this very issue in the primary against his main opponent, when he declared during a debate:

I haven’t changed my position on even-numbered years or have changed because of the different offices that I may be running for.

Going after an ill-defined, slippery opponent with gobs of money wasn’t easy. But McCain eventually became his campaign’s most effective needler. It might work again.


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