McCain is a straight talker, and that's what he's got to be tonight. The American people hear the economic news, and they are frightened. Of course, it's no time to start mouthing Pollyanna platitudes, but McCain must send a three part message:
1. Make sure Americans know that some in the media and on the other side consider it to be in their political interest that Americans be afraid about our economy and our future. They calculate that the more worried people are, the more it will help their candidates. So he needs to reassure people that all may not be as dire as some would lead them to believe.
2. Assure Americans that, though times are tough, they will get better -- so long as we work together. He, McCain (contrast to Obama implicit), knows this country is the greatest on earth -- and he isn't ashamed to say so. There is no problem greater than our spirit, our talent and our resolve. We don't need to be afraid, so long as we recognize that we are in this together, as Americans.
3. Make the case that he's the guy best equipped to get us through the tough times -- which, in fact, he is. It's paramount that McCain make the policy arguments, but he also needs to remind Americans that he's been in a tough spot or two before. He knows what it's like to be in crisis (staring death in the face in a Vietnamese prison camp will do that for you), but he's not afraid. He didn't give up then, and if he's President, he won't give up now -- until the problems that confront us are solved.
Obviously, he also needs to make sure that he connects the dots for everyone on Barack's connections to the financial crisis, and makes it clear that the one way we won't recover economically any time soon is if the taxaholic trio of Obama/Pelosi/Reid are in charge.
Finally, he needs to drive home the fact that Barack Obama is the least-known, least-vetted, most radical candidate ever to run for the presidency. No, the press won't like it. But it's true. And if McCain loves his country as I believe he does, he will care enough to warn them straight out about what an Obama presidency could mean.