Yes, yes, it's awful that McCain has stooped to McCarthyistic race baiting. The real story here, though, is that the McCain campaign is still flailing wildly. The Joe-the-Plumber / Obama is a socialist / anti-tax message of the last two or three weeks has been the only time since the convention that the Republicans have managed to have a consistent message for more than three hours running. It wasn't the greatest message in the world, but it wasn't bad enough to be worth throwing away for the sake of the latest entry in the evil association of the week club.

I mean, honestly, this isn't rocket science. Every campaign needs a consistent message. Obama has been saying every chance he gets for two years that he represents a change from the failed policies of the Bush Administration. It was always a foregone conclusion that Obama would say that the Republican nominee, whoever it turned out to be, represented more of the same.

Against that, John McCain could have had a similarly simple message. He could have said that after eight years of bungling, America needs an experienced leader. He could then have said that Obama, because of his inexperience, could turn out to be another bungler in chief, just like Bush.

Obviously, that message went out the window once Palin joined the ticket. Arguably, that means that picking Palin represented a strategic error. The really inexcusable mistake, though, wasn't that McCain abandoned his message for the sake of a short term bounce. Rather, it's that the McCain campaign hasn't replaced his old message with anything new. I had thought that Joe the Plumber had helped McCain find his footing, but I guess not.

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