It’s becoming difficult to write about the presidential horse race, because I think we’ve reached the point where the daily back and forth among the candidates and their surrogates means very little, and the campaign has been largely been overtaken by events — specifically, economic events. The passage of the bailout package is better for McCain than if it didn’t pass, but either way the financial crisis will not resolve itself in the next 31 days. Meanwhile, between now and Nov. 4, every few days we’ll be treated to another sobering economic report, such as the bad job numbers that came out today. And at the end of this month, less than a week before Election Day, the Bureau of Economic Analysis will be releasing the advance estimate for third quarter GDP, which could very well show an economic contraction, and thus dominate the news cycle the weekend before the election.
So far, John McCain’s reaction to the recent economic news has been to strike a populist tone in hopes that it will shield him from the perception that he’s out of touch, and make up for the fact that economic issues are not his strong suit. It hasn’t been working, as he’s still sinking in polls. As much as I’d like to say that he’d be fine if only he confidently made the case for economic conservatism, from a political perspective, it probably wouldn’t make a difference. The problem is, though Barack Obama doesn’t engender much confidence on the economy, he’s the Democrat in a year in which most voters blame Republicans for our troubles. I could be wrong, and obviously there’s always the caveat in politics that anything can happen, but it’s getting more and more difficult to see how McCain can pull this thing off with so much of the race now out of his control.