The Plank

The Number That Explains It All


 From yesterday's CBS/NYT poll:Fifty-nine
percent of registered voters think McCain's economics would favor the
wealthy; just 11 percent the middle class. Far more than being a
"center-right" country, this is a middle class country, and a candidate
who fails to speak to the concerns of the middle class does so at his
own peril.Certainly to some extent, rough economic times favor
the Democrats, at least when there's a Republican in the White House.
But in general, I think the pundits have been too judicious; Obama has
gotten too little credit, and McCain not enough blame, for their
handling of the financial crisis.McCain
did himself no favors with his "fundamentals" comment, nor the
"suspension" of his campaign. But the former might qualify as a
capital-G gaffe -- McCain seemed to want to retract his words as soon
as he uttered them -- and the later was a snap decision the
implications of which were hard to see in advance. These were arguably
errors of tactics rather than strategy, if you will.There have
been plenty of other occasions, however, on which McCain had plenty of
time to contemplate his message, and wound up coming across as tone
deaf. The failure to mention the phrase "middle class" even once during
the three presidential debates was either brazen, incompetent, or both.
The notion that a capital gains tax cut would be persuasive to middle
class families was naive. Joe the Plumber is gimmicky, and seems that
way to most Americans. And McCain's best talking point about the
economy -- that of high energy prices -- has been strangely absent from
the discussion on the post-Lehman economy, or has mutated into a
strident catch phrase about offshore drilling.Conversely, it is
not as though Obama was Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney -- someone who
was seen coming into this crisis as an economic savant. But the basic
message that a robust middle class is the foundation of economic growth
is exactly the right one in troubled times like these, and Obama has
delivered it with discipline and grace.

--Nate Silver 

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