The Note: Will McCain’s Attacks Backfire?

By John Santucci

Jul 31, 2008 8:29am

ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports in Thursday’s Note: When Britney and Paris were thrust into the campaign, it was not a happy day in Obamaland. 

Which is not the same as suggesting that it was a banner day for Team McCain.

It was a day where Sen. John McCain’s campaign — maybe for the first time in the general election — found a coherent argument to effectively push. (Though it might not have been the argument McCain himself wants/needs.)

It was a day that made Steve Schmidt’s team whirl with Rove-like efficiency. (And made John Weaver stir with un-Rove-like alacrity.)

It was a day that may have forced Sen. Barack Obama into a rare unforced error.  (Yet may have forced McCain into the box he’s been avoiding.)

Read the rest of The Note — and get all the latest on the 2008 election, Congress, the White House and the wide world of politics every day — from Rick Klein by bookmarking this link.

It was a day when a quote — however mischaracterized — placed an exclamation point on a narrative. (Maybe two narratives, actually.)

"The new McCain ad depicts Obama as a celebrity akin to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton — pretty, pampered . . . not up for being president," ABC’s Jake Tapper reported on "Good Morning America" Thursday. “Now Obama is casting McCain — who already has a reputation for having a temper — as negative and angry.”

Humor is humor, but there are other ways to make the same points about inexperience/riskiness/otherness — frames that haven’t been fully constructed yet.

The ad marks a critical point of concession: McCain is saying that the campaign isn’t really about him, after all. And if he keeps this up, winning the presidency will continue to be far more about tearing Obama down than building himself up.

"John McCain’s campaign gave its clearest signal yet that its main focus right now isn’t talking about the presumed Republican nominee," Bob Drogin and Peter Nicholas write in the Los Angeles Times. "Instead, it is trying to shape the public image of Obama — in this case, by comparing him to two celebrities who are widely mocked as lacking substance."

(Was it a necessary concession? Sure, the campaign has been waged on Obama’s terms to date, but things are tight as ever in new polling in battleground states.)

Continue reading today’s Note by clicking HERE.

ABC News’ John Santucci and Alexa Ainsworth contributed to this report.

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