Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I said a couple of days ago that I thought Barack's sudden and uncharacteristic "John McCain doesn't have the cajones to say these Ayers attacks to my face" line sounds like a trap. He pretty clearly wants McCain to bring up Ayers, and by appealing to John McCain's impulsiveness and machismo ("you callin' me yella'?") both personally and via surrogates, he's basically forced McCain to launch the attack at the debate or risk damaging his manly military reputation.
Well, looks like the baiting worked. John McCain has pledged to bring up Ayers at the debate.
Did I mention that John McCain was a POW?
Obama's motives for the trap here could be simple. Perhaps this is a contest of polling, whereby McCain's pollsters believe the attacks damage Obama while Obama's pollsters have come to believe (with the aid of recent polling) that the attacks actually backfire on McCain, raising his negatives while barely denting Obama's positives. McCain's losing position virtually guarantees that he'll have to go on the attack anyway, and the more he does it, the more likely he is to turn off independents and leaners who tend to be repelled by this stuff, as Mike Madden at Salon says. Also, others have noted that the candidate who goes hard negative in the debate usually loses it (Bentson being a notable exception). This seems like an imminently reasonable explanation, almost certainly the correct one. Such a strategy would be especially productive if Williams doesn't ask about it and McCain is perceived to have brought Ayers up unasked in the debate.
But on the other hand, you just have to marvel sometimes at Obama's luck, the serendipity of the news cycle. Amazing the stories that seem to fall out of the sky on the day of a major debate.