The two candidates for president stood even in the polls when the financial tsunami hit around mid-September. Since then, the Democrat has pulled ahead.
Perhaps there was nothing John McCain could have done that would have changed things. It may be that voters are primed to blame the party in the White House for any bad news (to say "the party in power" when the Democrats control Congress is to say too much).
Or was it this? Democrats are so much better at placing blame. From the first moment that Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson warned of a freezing in credit markets, the Democrats, led by Barack Obama, were ready with an explanation that was partisan, simple, and wrong. It was trickle-down economics. It was resistance to regulation. It was, in short, Republicanism that had brought on the crisis. Nancy Pelosi, in a statement on the House floor before the first rescue bill was voted upon, condemned what she called the "Bush recklessness … the anything goes economic policy. No regulation. No supervision. No discipline."
But if the Bush administration's laissez-faire economics is responsible for the banking mess, why are France and Britain, both of whom heavily regulate their economies, in the same boat?
The drumbeat goes on. On Oct. 22, Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, continued the harangue: "The list of mistakes is long and the cost to taxpayers is staggering. Our regulators became enablers rather than enforcers. Their trust in the wisdom of the markets was infinite. The mantra became that government regulation is wrong. The market is infallible."
It's a plausible claim because Republicans do tend to have more faith in markets than Democrats. The Republicans had an answer. But to find it you needed to search the pages of the Wall Street Journal, or read conservative columnists, or listen to talk radio. It didn't come from McCain or Palin. They wasted crucial days decrying greed on Wall Street. And while you and I know that Wall Street is peopled by Obama-backing Democrats, most Americans think Wall Street is the home of Republicans in frock coats and bowler hats.
What they should have done is to point out that Democrats love to give things away. Voters know that this is true. The thing the Democrats were intent on giving away this time was mortgages to those who could not afford them. When the Bush administration (with the strong backing of John McCain) attempted to tighten regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- the Democrats' sandboxes -- Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, and Barack Obama refused.