Mickey Kaus ponders whether there is time for John McCain to go “positive.” But “positive” is in the eye of the beholder. As others have pointed out, Barack Obama’s campaign is one based largely on fear and a negative contrast with George W. Bush. (And don’t forget the grossly inaccurate ads on immigration, healthcare, and other topics.)
To a large degree, McCain has already gone positive–offering a tax plan (but mysteriously not talking about it at the last debate), putting out a market-oriented healthcare plan, offering a (sort of) budget freeze and stressing his commander-in-chief qualifications. Sure, he contrasts all that with the tax-hiking, protectionist, big-domestic-spending-plans of his opponent. But that’s sort of the point, isn’t it?
McCain for months has been struggling to convert an “experience vs. change” election into a “what kind of change?” election. He’s almost done it. While not as articulately or effectively as some would like, he used the better part of the last debate to shove George W. Bush out of the picture and contrast his slightly quirky right-of-center vision with that of “Senator Government.” That might not be pristinely “positive,” but it’s entirely substantive and very appropriate. This is what elections are about, after all: choices. It seems, however belatedly, that McCain has managed to formulate that choice by explaining his and his opponent’s plans. He may not win. But this is a positive development in the race.