The Note: Populism Now

Obama is making it all about Bush -- and, by extension, McCain: "What we've seen the last few days is nothing less than the final verdict on an economic philosophy that has completely failed," Obama said Tuesday.

"Senator McCain offered up the oldest Washington stunt in the book -- you pass the buck to a commission to study the problem," Obama said, per ABC's Jake Tapper.

"Mr. Obama is urgently working to seize the economic issue, using the collapse of Wall Street firms to illustrate a need for greater regulation and stronger oversight in the financial sector," per The New York Times. "But he is facing a challenge on that front from Senator John McCain, who has adopted a populist reformer message in vowing to 'clean up Wall Street.' "

"He can try to out-populist the newly populist McCain, although that is not his natural style," The Washington Post's Dan Balz reports. "He can simply stay on the attack, and that could pay dividends. But it's likely he will need more."

"Mr. Obama originally built his campaign on his opposition to the Iraq war, but his message has shifted to the economy," writes Jeff Zeleny, in The New York Times. "And now the financial crisis is presenting Democrats with a fresh political argument as they try to win back the White House."

Pitfall for Democrats? "Democrats are straddling two, conflicting arguments in their criticism of Sen. John McCain on the economy," ABC's Z. Byron Wolf reports. "With one foot, they're kicking forward the notion that McCain is a new Herbert Hoover, deluded and talking about a strong economy even as the stock market crumbled. At the same time, they're telling Americans there's not depression in the offing and 'Don't panic.' "

"At the same time that McCain is doing everything he can to associate himself with change, the Obama campaign is fighting back just as hard to remind voters of Sen. McCain's long tenure in office and close association with President Bush," Howard Wolfson writes for The New Republic.

A class war can work for Obama: "There has scarcely been a better time to shove the arugula aside and talk about the realities of class," Thomas Frank writes in a Wall Street Journal column. "It is heartening to see that Barack Obama is beginning to do just that, but he must keep hammering at the point until everyone in America understands the choice that lies before us."

But perceptions matter: "Barbra Streisand sings and the Obama campaign cash register ka-chings," Michael Saul writes in the New York Daily News. "The moneymaking festivities -- including a dinner at the opulent Greystone Mansion followed by a concert with Streisand at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel -- were expected to generate upward of $9 million for Obama and the Democratic National Committee."

"As if on cue, John McCain used the Illinois senator's lucrative detour from battleground states to Beverly Hills to mock Obama's professed solidarity with working people 'just before he flew off to Hollywood for a fundraiser with Barbra Streisand and his celebrity friends,' " Dan Morain and Michael Finnegan white in the Los Angeles Times.

"Obama's huge windfall is believed to be a record amount raised in a single evening by a candidate," Variety's Ted Johnson writes. "But it came with a price: Criticism from his rival McCain, who tried to characterize Obama's appearance in well-heeled circles as more evidence that he is beholden to entertainment elites."

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