David Frum: I'm voting for McCain, but...

A good post, mostly, and one for which he’ll probably catch hell. I’m not sure how to take what he says at the end about Ayers; he seems to think it’s either an illegitimate line of attack, which it isn’t, or that it’s legitimate but should be tabled because the election’s lost, which it isn’t. But I do agree with his main point about the economy. Like Douthat says (or implies), if McCain loses it won’t be because the public didn’t hear enough about Wright and Ayers. It’ll be because they cared more about the economic nuclear bomb that’s set to melt down their 401(k)s or their, er, food supply and didn’t trust him enough to defuse it. Which is amazing, really: The more dire things get, the more reassuring McCain’s years of experience should be vis-a-vis Obama. He has the GOP albatross around his neck this year, true, but he also has enough mavericky cred that he could have wriggled free of that if he’d had a compelling economic plan and had been hammering it for months. As it is, domestic policy has always been an afterthought for him (except for amnesty, ahem) while The One’s spent his days droning on about the middle class and health care. If the economy was fine and Iran was the hot issue right now, the polls would look very different. But them’s the breaks. As a great man once said, life isn’t fair. Frum:

American voters are staggering under the worst financial crisis since at least 1982. Asset values are tumbling, consumer spending is contracting, and a recession is visibly on the way. This crisis follows upon seven years in which middle-class incomes have stagnated and Republican economic management has been badly tarnished. Anybody who imagines that an election can be won under these circumstances by banging on about William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright is … to put it mildly … severely under-estimating the electoral importance of pocketbook issues.

We conservatives are sending a powerful, inadvertent message with this negative campaign against Barack Obama’s associations and former associations: that we lack a positive agenda of our own and that we don’t care about the economic issues that are worrying American voters.

Yeah, it’s not the negative campaigning that’s the problem. It’s the fact that negative campaigning’s being offered as the entree instead of the side dish. Exit question: Is there still time left to whip up something hearty and nutritious? Exit answer: Maybe.