John McCain's campaign is in disarray. The economic crisis is turning the election into a referendum on the economy...which is McCain's greatest weakness. The disastrous Couric interview looks to have transformed the Sarah Palin VP pick from a blessing to a curse. And he failed to win a much-needed victory in last night's debate. So what can the original maverick do to turn this around?
I'm not going to lie and say that this is easy...hell, I've already called the election for his opponent. But there is one card left that he can play that might give him a long shot at victory, and ironically enough, this advice comes from ultra-liberal scribe Aaron Sorkin:
Let Palin be Palin.
Ever since the Palin pick, McCain's campaign team have Governor Palin sequestered somewhere, and are trying to cram her full of foreign policy knowledge so that she appears "ready" to be president. This is a losing strategy.
First, it's hard to develop a firm handle on foreign policy in a matter of weeks, no matter how intelligent and talented the student. If years of preparation have failed to make a dent in McCain's ignorance of basic economic principles, why does his campaign expect a few weeks to take Palin from novice to master in foreign policy?
Second, by sequestering Palin from the national media, the McCain campaign turned a natural ally into an enemy. Yes, the MSM is largely liberal, but they care more about ratings than ideology. Their natural instinct is to swoon over a telegenic, charismatic candidate with a storybook biography. By hiding Palin, McCain's campaign transformed what should have been a strength into an Achilles heel.
Fortunately, this is America, where decades of Hollywood blockbusters have conditioned us to accept secret twists and improbable reversals. What McCain's campaign has to do now is to pursue the opposite strategy--let Palin be herself, and rush her on to every imaginable media outlet.
Once upon a time, America decided that it liked Sarah Palin...and I can do so again. Her focus should not be on the minor details of foreign policy. Guess what, Americans don't give a damn about foreign policy when they're worried about losing their jobs. She should relentlessly focus on her understanding of the fears and needs of average working Americans. If interviewers try to get her to opine on foreign policy, she should admit her relative inexperience, but emphasize that such issues are of secondary importance to managing the economic crisis.
As I wrote in my last round of advice for the McCain campaign, a perfect answer would be:
"Like most Americans, I haven't had time to memorize the names of the world's leaders. In between governing my state and raising my family, I haven't had the opportunities to travel the world in private jets and have my picture taken on five continents. But I do understand the concerns of hard-working Americans who want to make sure they can keep their jobs and afford their homes."
Of course, based on what I've seen of Steve Schmidt's campaign management to date, I have little confidence that the McCain team will make any of these much-needed adjustments. No wonder Karl Rove keeps insisting that he's not Schmidt's mentor--I'd hate to have my good name dragged down by such an inept protege.
In this campaign at least, it looks like "The Ax" is going to beat "The Bullet."