Pre-Debate Run-up Talk

Amanda Carpenter
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Posted: Oct 06, 2008 1:49 PM
In the run-up to the second presidential debate, there’s a lot of speculation about the effectiveness of John McCain and Barack Obama’s negative attacks on each other and “what needs to be done” tomorrow night at the debate.

 I’m prepping for an appearance on CNN’s Headline News late this afternoon and a forthcoming post-debate wrap-up for CNN late night tomorrow night and thought I would share my thoughts on these items.

First, on the negative attacks. The McCain campaign is forming a broad attack on Obama’s associations, maybe his “otherness” so to speak, by hitting him on his connections with Ayers, Rezko and positing allegations about accepting donations online from foreign nationals.

Don’t look at each of the individual attacks. Look at them together. Palin is going after Ayers, the campaign is making ads about the slumlord and the RNC is asking the FEC to audit Obama’s contributions for foreign donations. Those three things pretty convincingly paint Obama as a shady, untrustworthy individual and play into each other quite well.

And, they don’t even have to mention Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Everybody remembers him.

As for Obama, the Keating Five attacks aren’t meant to raise questions about McCain’s associations per se. It’s meant to implicate the senator in a financial fraud scandal that rocked Capitol Hill and made Americans distrustful of government. (Um, sound familiar?) And, Obama might prod McCain to flash a bit of that infamous temper of his by bringing it up and attacking McCain's honor.

The Obama attacks have a better segue into the debate on Tuesday, since the economy is still the number one voting issue and everyone has the Dow and the bailout on their minds. It’ll be harder for McCain to easily work in his attacks on Obama’s associations, but he has three different ways to do it: Ayers, Rezko and funny foreign donations.  And, I believe McCain has a better way to answer the Keating/bailout attacks by saying he was cleared of all charges and highlighting the Democratic party's longtime support of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and his own work to advance GSE reform.

I’ll be interested to see what sticks in the aftermath of the debate: economy issues or questions about Obama’s past. If it’s the economy, Obama will probably “win.” If it’s the latter, I’d say the “W” will go to McCain.