Sunday, October 12, 2008

Yepsen: Don't write off McCain quite yet

.....But as one who wrote off John McCain during the caucus campaign, I'm a bit reluctant to do so just yet. We don't know how many votes Obama loses because some folks just can't vote for a black man. We don't know whether Obama can actually turn out those hordes of new voters he's registering. Nor do we know whether there will be some last-minute character revelation, gaffe or national-security calamity that will jolt the country's attention away from the economy.

There are still three weeks and one debate to go. The question remains: What can McCain do to turn his fortunes around? If these unprecedented economic times are killing his candidacy, then he's got to take some unprecedented actions.

He should:

- Cancel all his negative advertising attacking Barack Obama. (Which is 100 percent of his commercials these days.) He should quit trashing Obama and call off the attacks from Sarah Palin and Cindy McCain. Campaigns often "go positive" at the end. McCain needs to do it immediately.

- Talk about solutions instead. He should use his paid media, stump speeches, surrogate efforts and bloviating friends on the radio talk shows to stress the four or five things he and the Republicans would do to fix the economy. He started doing that in the debate when he offered a mortgage assistance program. He needs to do more of it.

- Summon his inner Roosevelt. He needs to buy time on cable and radio stations to deliver a calm, presidential-style address, outlining his plans for a modern-day New Deal. He needs to address the fears Americans have, just as FDR did during the Great Depression. He needs to attack the big boys and corruption as Theodore Roosevelt did during his presidency and tell us precisely how he'll deal with it.

- Make a clean break with President Bush. Since both Republicans and Democrats have made economic mistakes, he can admit to those, say he's learned from them, and tell the country it's time to move on, not dwell on the past.

People are craving solutions. They also want hope. This is as much about psychology as it is economics. It's about getting Americans to feel someone competent is leading us.

McCain is still seen as more experienced than Obama. The Arizona senator should use the rest of the campaign to show how, in a time like this, a solid old hand on the tiller is what the country needs.

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