The Note: McCain’s Move: Brilliant or Boneheaded?

By Hope Ditto

Sep 25, 2008 8:30am

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports in Thursday’s Note: There was no bailout coming for Sen. John McCain’s campaign. So he tried to create his own.

McCain’s move is a gamble, something of a gimmick — and something that only a campaign headed in the wrong direction might do. But for a campaign trying to project “country first,” there may not be a better chance to live the message.

Whether or not there’s a deal and therefore a debate, McCain dealt himself back into the biggest issue of the campaign.

A day of candidate phone tag — capped by asking for a debate rain check — put Sen. Barack Obama on defense at least for the moment, leaving him (perhaps awkwardly, perhaps elegantly) defending politics while McCain talks policy.

As of Thursday morning, McCain aides tell ABC News that the candidate isn’t going to Mississippi Friday unless a deal on the bailout bill is in place — though the prospects of such a deal are looking up.

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.

Maybe he’s seen, ultimately, as nudging things along. But is this a measure that McCain wants to be witnessed touching?

“John McCain is a gambler by nature, and the bet he placed Wednesday may be among the biggest of his political life,” Dan Balz writes in The Washington Post. “What he risks, if things don’t go as he hopes, is a judgment by voters that his move was a reckless act by an impetuous and struggling politician that hardened partisan lines in Washington at just the wrong moment and complicated efforts to deal with the biggest financial crisis in more than half a century.”

It’s the surge all over again: McCain now owns a policy that’s viewed with fierce skepticism, even (and especially) by members of his own party. It’s not that he hasn’t been here before — it’s that he hasn’t been here before this close to an election.

Did someone mention a gamble? “Faced with unfavorable odds in the presidential campaign, John McCain time and again finds a way to roll the dice,” Peter Wallsten and Peter Nicholas write for the Los Angeles Times. “And, like naming a running mate untested on the national stage, it carries risks: Will voters view McCain’s move as decisive, or unsteady, or even as an overtly partisan act to gain traction on an issue that he said Wednesday should transcend partisanship?”

“Bold or bonkers,” reads the New York Daily News headline.

Continue reading today’s Note by clicking HERE.

ABC News’ Hope Ditto contributed to this report.

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