The War Room operators in the McCain campaign are used to fighting Democrats, not hurricanes. But unless Gustav changes course or stalls, it looks like this the McCain campaign will have to fight on two fronts--on the one side with Mother Nature, on the other, Barack Obama.
The campaign had no choice but to curtail the festivities in Minneapolis this week. In a situation like this, you weigh what the press response would be under various scenarios; operatives chat with reporters, and sound them out. In this instance they would have uniformly heard, "You aren't really going to go ahead with this are you?" and acted accordingly.
But having no choice is not the same as liking the choice you have.
While the McCain campaign can try to make the best of the situation by having Senator McCain in the Gulf, projecting leadership and contrasting himself with President Bush and his incompetent response to Katrina, Senator McCain will likely lose his single best platform for getting his message out in a clear and direct way to the American people.
The McCain campaign had two major goals this week--define Barack Obama and ensure that John McCain gave the speech of his life: distancing himself from George Bush and sharing his life's story. Gustav makes these tasks much harder to achieve. Barack Obama spoke to a record audience last week--John McCain will have to compete with a Category 3 hurricane and two million Americans displaced from their homes.
It would have been hard enough for John McCain to battle Barack Obama. Fighting Gustav as well makes his job nearly impossible.