Michael Gerson describes why the McCain camp is having some success. Aside from energy policy, Barack Obama’s brand-crushing flip-flops, and the elevation of Steve Schmidt, the McCain forces have gotten some help from The One. Gerson explains:
At least temporarily, Obama’s tactics have raised a damning political question: Who is this man? And the McCain campaign has begun to cleverly exploit these concerns, not with a frontal attack on his liberalism or his flip-flops but with a humorous attack on his “celebrity” — really a proxy for shallowness. The argument is powerful: McCain has roots and convictions. Obama has fans and paparazzi. And Obama’s European trip — more Princess Diana than John Kennedy — served only to confirm these impressions.
Gerson doesn’t quite get to it, but part of the credit also goes to the mainstream media. They sheltered Obama during the primary, perhaps encouraging him later to engage in a bargain basement sale of of his liberal positions (in the mistaken belief they would be too polite to notice). They provided the play-by-play commentary for his Berlin Obamapalooza venture. They tingled and giggled like school girls, which only contributed to the nagging sense that there was something not quite grounded about him. And then of course, embarrassed by his excess — and theirs — they began to steadily turn up the heat on everything from the race card gambit to his energy flip-flops. Like an errant teenager, Obama really did fall in with a bad crowd of media kids who only brought out the worst in him and, in the end, proved to be less than entirely loyal.
So where does the race go from here? Gerson properly notes that McCain still is not ahead in the polls. But McCain has done yeoman’s work during the dog days of summer: raise real doubts about his opponent, get his own house in order, seize on a viable domestic issue, embarrass the mainstream media, show he has more humor than his opponent and drive home the point that on the single most important national security issue in Obama’s short career he was unquestionably wrong (and still won’t admit it). Not a bad couple of summer months for the candidate who supposedly has already lost the race.