Barack Obama's commanding lead in the polls began as a result of the financial crisis which reached critical mass a few weeks ago. Instead of telling voters what Democrats had done that led to the problems at Fannie and Freddie and sub-prime mortgages, McCain rushed to Washington to sign onto a big government bailout. Republicans had not only a strong case to make against Democrats on the issue, but had video from the likes of Barney Frank and others saying there was no problem and that more loans should be made to those who couldn't afford them. McCain had some amazing quotes from a Senate speech he made in 2005 advocating for legislation to address the problems and warning of what would happen if it was not addressed. Democrats killed that legislation. It was not a case of he said/he said. McCain had video and on the record statements to make his case (and which would have made some amazing campaign ads, to boot).
McCain blew it big time by not making that case early and often and by going along with the same big government bailout that Obama supported. He could have still made the economy work to his advantage by making some points about how national security, obviously his strong issue, influences the economy. It may be too late now, but there is still a strong argument there to be made.
The economy is tied to national security. Anyone who doubts that just needs to be reminded of what the stock market did following the 9/11 attacks. Joe Biden said he believes there will be a generated international crisis in Obama's first months in office to "test" him and he went on to say that many will question Obama's response to that crisis. Like them or not, the actions of the Bush administration have resulted in not one terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11/01. No one would have dreamed that was possible on September 12, 2001.
Most people now take that for granted. When I recently attended the state fair not only was my backpack not checked, I didn't even see a security guard when I entered the gates. I thought back on October 2001 and how thoroughly everything we took into the fairgrounds was searched. At the airport we are at least still checked almost as well as we were immediately following the 9/11 attacks, but I know I don't really think much about it anymore. I just see it as routine without really giving much thought to it as I did when the new shoe checks and other new rules were first instituted. I no longer think about where the exits are as soon as I enter a public event as I did in the first years following 9/11. I suspect that most are like me in that respect and in many ways are now living in a September 10 state of mind. So far, this has been a September 10 election.
Even though many might not give it much thought anymore, we cannot risk another terrorist attack at this time. Imagine what it would do to our already fragile and volatile markets. What our leaders do to prevent future attacks falls under national security, where Republicans still have a definite advantage.
Obama did not believe the surge would work. He said we could not win in Iraq. Harry Reid said we had already lost. If Obama had been president two years ago he would have withdrawn our troops in defeat and disgrace and the country of Iraq would now be a haven for terrorists and al Qaeda and Iran would have a huge victory to wave to the world. What happens in Iraq and in the entire world influences our economy in the stock market and in oil prices, among other areas. On policy regarding Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and other hot spots, Barack Obama is very vulnerable, but John McCain appears to have barely made an effort to remind voters of that these past few weeks.
The economy has emerged as the overriding issue over the past month, but it did not have to be a winning issue for Barack Obama. John McCain had history and facts regarding the sub-prime crisis on his side. He also could have made the case that his strength on national security was important to the economic well being of our country by reminding voters what another terrorist attack on U.S. soil would do to the economy. I don't know why he has not made that case, and don't know whether or not it is too late to help him in the polls at this late date, but I hope he will make that argument this final week because the voters should make their decisions considering everything that will affect their families and their futures. So far, between Obama's huge ad buys and the narrative the media has told, the voters have not gotten everything they need on which to base an informed decision.
Update: They don't tie it to the economy by reminding voters what a terrorist attack would do to the market, but they are talking about national security and that is good news.