The Note: Fundamentally Unsound

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. -- When it comes to the fundamentals, there's nothing like a full-blown economic crisis to make things very serious very fast in the race.

When it comes to the fundamentals, there's a very real opening for a candidate to jump through with an economic message that connects.

And when it comes to the fundamentals, Sen. John McCain widened that opening for his rival Monday when he said, again -- on a day of economic turmoil nearing panic on Wall Street and far beyond -- that the "fundamentals of our economy are strong."

Seven weeks out from Election Day, Team McCain is about to learn that some things even Gov. Sarah Palin can't make better.

(And as Palin's credibility takes a hit -- there are some things that even a stretch in the gubernatorial tanning bed can't make sunny -- could the Palin phenom be cresting?)

McCain, R-Ariz., did damage control Monday and into the Tuesday morning shows. Seems that whole fundamentally strong economy thing was a misinterpretation. Not only is it not fundamentally strong, but apparently the economy needs a 9/11 Commission.

"I said the fundamental of our economy is the American worker. I know that the American worker is the strongest, the best, and most productive and most innovative. They've been betrayed by a casino on Wall Street of greedy, corrupt excess -- corruption and excess that has damaged them and their futures," he said on GMA.

"And we're going to fix and make sure that every American who has a deposit in a bank, that their deposit is ensured. We're going to need a 9/11 commission to find out what happened and what needs to be fixed. I warned two years ago that this situation was deteriorating and unacceptable. And the old-boy network and the corruption in Washington is directly involved, and one of the causes of this financial crisis that we're in today. And I know how to fix it, and I know how to get things done."

But much of the damage is done:

"We know you meant what you said the first time because you've said it before," Obama said Monday night in Pueblo, Colo., per ABC's Jake Tapper. "I think it's good that Sen. McCain is celebrating the American worker today. But it would have been nice if some time over the last 26 years he stood up for them once in a while!"

Given a Democrat's built-in advantage on all things economic this year, the pieces are in place for Sen. Barack Obama to regain the momentum by tying it all together on a big issue -- something that suddenly matters here in Upstate New York just as urgently as it does in Lower Manhattan.

Does it all add up to a (Palin) buzz-kill? Or will it be another in a line of missed opportunities?

Obama, D-Ill., turns an ad in a hurry -- featuring McCain's fateful quote no less than three times. "How can John McCain fix our economy," the new spot asks, "if he doesn't understand it's broken?"

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton sees Obama jumping at the right time: "He's doing it -- he's talking about the economy, he's talking about what's at stake in this election," Clinton, D-N.Y., told ABC's Diane Sawyer aboard the "Good Morning America" "Whistle-Stop Express" in Albany.

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