So far, this has been a September 10 election. Barack Obama's current lead in the polls is largely a result of the financial crisis which reached critical mass in September and cemented the economy as issue number one. Even though it has gotten slight attention over the past few weeks, national security is more important now than ever because the economy is inextricably tied to it. Anyone who doubts that just needs to be reminded of what the stock market did following the 9/11 attacks -- not to mention the individual effects on the airline, oil and other industries.
That case could (and should) have been made all along, but I admit it might have been a bit difficult to hear it over the frenzy of those attempting to fashion a multi-billion dollar bailout into a bandage to stop the bleeding Dow. Even the first debate, which was scheduled to be on John McCain's strongest issue, foreign policy and national security, was upstaged by the financial crisis and began with a discussion of the problems on Wall Street and the proposed solution. Even worse, McCain allowed Obama to use the debates to lay the blame for the financial crisis on "Bush's failed policies."
Throughout several weeks in September and October, not only did Republicans fail to remind voters how important our national security is to the economic security of the country, but they were ineffective in explaining how the actions (and inaction) of Democrats led to many of the problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and to the overall sub-prime mortgage mess. McCain did little to remind voters that he had not only warned of a coming crisis in 2005, but had co-sponsored legislation to address it -- legislation Democrats killed. Instead he rushed to Washington to sign onto a big government bailout bill.
Republicans had not only a strong case to make against Democrats on this issue, but even had video of Barney Frank and other Democrats saying there was no problem at Fannie or Freddie and that more loans should be made to those who couldn't afford them. That case, combined with McCain's strength on national security, might have prevented the surge Obama experienced in the polls over the past month. Since mid-September, though, it has been difficult for Republicans to discuss national security, and in the past anytime they have brought the issue up they have been accused of fear mongering. They have been in a bit of a tough spot.