We knew this was coming, didn’t we? With John McCain essentially recycling Hillary Clinton’s questions about Barack Obama’s experience, the 3 AM question runs as the subtext of all of these ads. Why not make it explicit?

CLINTON AD: It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?

ANNCR: Uncertainty. Dangerous aggression. Rogue nations. Radicalism.

HILLARY CLINTON: I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House. And, Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.

ANNCR: Hillary’s right. John McCain for President.

Presidential candidates have plenty of material on opponents from primary challengers questioning their policies and previous votes, at least when they aren’t running against an incumbent President (who rarely get serious primary challenges). People point out that Obama can make similar ads if McCain picks Mitt Romney as his running mate. However, the difference is that Hillary didn’t attack Obama on policy, primarily because there wasn’t much difference between them in that sense. She attacked his readiness for the office and his experience — even though there wasn’t really all that much difference between them in those areas, either.

Whether Hillary wants to see herself starring in these ads or not, her statements speak on the record to the unreadiness of Obama to assume this office. McCain can make these statements directly with some impact, but undoubtedly Hillary’s statements will have more, because it’s a statement now against interests. Even when made against Obama as an opponent, it resonated sharply enough with Democrats that Obama only won a handful of the final 20 or so contests in the primary and barely made it to the convention with a lead.

Had Hillary used this strategy from the beginning, she would have won the nomination handily over Obama. Instead, she didn’t start attacking Obama until it was too late. McCain isn’t making that same mistake, and he’s not only using the most effective attack, he’s using its most effective spokesperson.