Jonah Goldberg

Hoping that the third time really is the charm, the McCain campaign has had yet another staff shakeup. As befits a press corps and Republican professional class always eager to gain favor and access to the newest man in charge, the accolades for the latest campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, are nothing short of superlative.

The argument that Schmidt is the right man for the job centers on the fact that he's a no-nonsense type who enjoys taking the fight to the enemy. That's good news given how much nonsense has come out of the McCain campaign so far.

For example, when retired Gen. Wesley Clark seemingly belittled McCain's military service as poor preparation for the Oval Office, the McCain campaign blundered by attacking the messenger, Clark, and not Clark's candidate, Senator Obama. Whether or not commanding a Navy squadron or rallying brutalized American POWs in the Hanoi Hilton is qualification for the presidency, surely this was a missed opportunity to ask whether voting "present" in the Illinois Legislature nearly 130 times is a superior qualification.

The hard truth for the McCain campaign is that this election will ultimately be a referendum on Barack Obama. A McCain presidency will be the consolation prize of an Obama defeat.

The majority of voters want to vote for a Democrat and for Obama. Hence, if they feel comfortable with the Democratic nominee, he will win. If they don't, he'll lose. This is bad news for McCain because he is congenitally discomfited from attacking his political adversaries (while emotionally buoyed when attacking his natural political allies).

As many have noted, it's ironic that Obama supporters who profess to want bipartisanship are indisputably voting for the wrong guy. There's next to nothing in Obama's record that suggests he's better equipped to reach across the aisle and work with the opposition party, against the wishes of his own party's activist base. Obama is bipartisan on popular issues, not on controversial ones. Meanwhile, that's McCain's whole schtick.

What's more ironic is that bipartisanship wouldn't be an issue for a president Obama. If, as expected, the Democrats win large majorities in the House and Senate, Obama won't need Republicans for anything, and there's no reason to expect he would find common cause with the GOP against the base of his own party. In the Illinois Legislature, Obama was a pliable creature of the corrupt Democratic machine. Why, McCain might ask, should we expect that he will be otherwise at the national level?

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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