Suspending Campaign Doomed McCainMy own political analysis at the time wasn't quite that well-developed or intelligently expressed, but it was one of the few occasions during the campaign that my instincts were good.
A post-election assessment by Wilson Research Strategies concludes that though Barack Obama "leveraged a Democratic advantage on the economy throughout the campaign," it wasn't until John McCain's "ill-fated efforts to 'lead' on the bailout that he truly lost control of the issue."
I sent a brief email to Liam the day McCain suspended his campaign:
Subject: McCain Is NutsTwo days earlier, as the stock market collapsed, McCain had delivered his infamous remark that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong."
And I think he just lost the election.
By then suspending his campaign, he not only seemed lost in dealing with the economic crisis, he also called into question his own leadership skills. Rather than appearing presidential, he seemed erratic and confused.
The impression was even more pronounced when compared with Obama's cool-headedness.
I haven't seen any post-election analysis that mentions The Letterman Factor, but one wonders how much impact David Letterman had when he tore McCain to shreds on national television that night. He immediately understood the lack-of-leadership implications of McCain's stunt, and he slammed the candidate brutally before millions of viewers.
"You don't quit.The one factor ignored in the Wilson Research Strategies report is how well Obama turned McCain's stunt against him. He brilliantly suggested that McCain couldn't do two things at once - a crippling charge against a man who wants to lead the country in a time of crisis. And by refusing to cancel the first debate that was scheduled two days later, as McCain foolishly suggested, Obama looked confident and strong while his opponent seemed desperate.
You don't suspend your campaign. This doesn't smell right. This isn't the way a tested hero behaves. I think someone's putting something in his metamucil.
What are you going to do if you're elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We've got a guy like that now!"
Obviously, there were many reasons why McCain lost the election - the pick of Sarah Palin being another major element. But I do think the week of September 22-26, 2008 was the pivotal point in the election, when the nation turned away from McCain as a possible leader. Amazingly, it had nothing to do with his opponent; it was a purely self-inflicted wound.
There are several other interesting chunks of information in the WRS report, which is presented as an easy-to-follow slideshow.