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What’s The Message?

John McCain has a new ad out that gives some hints about his approach to the financial crisis, or rather to the campaign about the financial crisis (there is a difference). First, he’s countering Obama’s “you’re all losers” tactic. In Obama’s world, everyone is getting knocked down and is chained to that proverbial kitchen table with no healthcare and no clue how manage their lives. In McCain’s world, workers/voters are essentially capable people who are operating in an uncertain world.

Second, McCain’s begun to focus on what Obama is actually planning to do — raise taxes. This comes at a time when a plan to raise taxes — on anyone — is becoming increasingly implausible. The New York Post, for example, explains a new study detailing just what impact Obama’s tax plans, even the scaled down ones he is still planning, will have in New York:

The study, from the conservative-oriented Manhattan Institute, examined the impact in 2009-2010 of Obama’s proposals. The Democratic candidate wants to repeal President Bush’s reduction in the top two tax brackets, while also imposing higher capital-gains and dividend taxes on those earning more than $250,000 a year. . . Both the state and city face massive looming budget deficits because of the ongoing Wall Street meltdown, the related subprime mortgage crisis and the national economic slowdown. E.J. McMahon, the report’s author, said research has shown that high-income taxpayers usually react to federal tax hikes by earning less and sheltering income, resulting in a sharp drop off in tax revenues. Still other wealthy taxpayers may simply pack up and leave New York, the report says. The report estimates that changes in taxpayer behavior caused by Obama’s tax increases would reduce state personal-income tax revenues by between $800 million and $1.1 billion over two years, while the city’s potential revenue loses would be between $144 million and $285 million. The report noted that Republican presidential hopeful John McCain’s tax plan would retain Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy while providing an additional $675 million in tax reductions to low- and middle-income New York families.

And finally, McCain is trying to make this an issue of leadership. Obama, he claims will “talk,” while McCain argues, “I’ll reform Wall Street and fix Washington. I’ve taken on tougher guys than this before.”

Will all this work? Perhaps. But McCain will have to convince voters, probably in the debates, when the audience is at its largest that not only is he not Bush’s “clone”–who will continue whatever “disastraous policies”everyone is attributing to him (but not to the Democratic Congress charged with oversight)–but that he is a more competent, get-it-done leader. Ultimately, he will need to make the case that Obama is a talker and he’s a doer. But the public already suspects that is the case.



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