Maybe, with the issue of lobbyists in the campaign festering, McCain had to address it head-on and get the pain over with, rather than suffer a drip-drip of stories over the coming weeks about which aide worked for which dubious government or corporation. But it sure seems like his campaign write large was not well-prepared for its new vetting edict. And the immediate effect has been to make the press spotlight a long list of lobbyists affiliated with McCain to whom no one was paying any attention before. (Had you heard of Susan Nelson, John Green, Carlos Bonilla or Christian Ferry?)
McCain aides retort that this is an "inside-th-Beltway game" that voters don't care about. But the media still has the power to construct meta-narratives that do influence voters, and this whole affair will allow the media to snipe at McCain's anti-Washington cred every time he tries to invoke it in the months to come. So it's a big winner for Obama. Which is good, because I'm not sure he's willing this Iran debate. The way he revised his assessment of Iran--he first called it a country that doesn't "pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us," then in a letter to McCain clarified, "Let me be absolutely clear. Iran is a grave threat"--suggests a certain note of defensiveness, and perhaps a recognition that people really do find Iran quite formidable and scary.