Looking forward to what we can expect from tonight’s debate, the most telling points are situation and character. The polls for the moment look good for Barack Obama. And what he needs to prove in the context of the entire campaign is that he has the stature and heft to be President of the United States. That and Obama’s character both suggest that he’ll try to put in a solid, reassuring performance rather than aiming for a knock-out punch or some game-changing moment.
Meanwhile, everything about John McCain’s character and the situation he finds himself in suggests he’ll do precisely the opposite.
Whether we call it John McCain’s freak-outta-palooza or just some freewheeling maverickism, everything John McCain has done over recent months and especially and with a new intensity over the last week has been geared to upsetting the applecart and creating some event which trips up Obama and shifts the trajectory of the campaign. Some of us may see it in a negative light or a positive light, but descriptively, I don’t think many people on either side of the political aisle would disagree with that analysis.
Add to that the issue of character. A high stakes campaign brings out the essence of an individual. And campaigns, in almost every case, are defined by the candidate. With these rapid-fire rash and erratic actions, I think we’re seeing the real John McCain. It may be filtered through and packaged by Steve Schmidt or Salter or Davis. But fundamentally I believe this all stems from John McCain.
(To add to the miss, note this pool report filed as McCain headed for the plane to Mississippi tonight with Rudy Giuliani in tow — the “general atmosphere is utter confusion.” Not conducive to going into a high stakes debate. But very much in line with McCain’s recent affect and behavior.)
Put those two factors together — recent behavior/strategy and fundamental character — and I think you have to expect a John McCain who is unpredictable, possibly uncontrollable and looking for any moment to launch a dramatic ambush or confrontation that will amount to his ultimate roll of the dice.