John McCain’s new ad moves back to the issues, and addresses the financial crisis dominating the headlines. It also moves away from Palinmania and inside baseball in the election and projects an image of strength and leadership, two qualities in which McCain already has a large edge over Barack Obama in recent polling:
JOHN MCCAIN: The economy is in crisis. Enough is enough. I’ll meet this financial crisis head on.
Reform Wall Street. New rules for fairness and honesty. I won’t tolerate a system that puts you and your family at risk.
Your savings, your jobs … I’ll keep them safe.
ANNCR: Experience and leadership in a time of crisis.
The mood of the nation has changed, and the McCain campaign has shifted quickly to a more serious tone. Given the complicated nature of financial-market reform, neither candidate can squeeze much detail in their TV spots on this topic. The best either can do is use broad themes to assure nervous Americans that they can deal with a crisis and have a plan for resolving it and preventing more financial meltdowns.
In that sense, both campaigns could have put out this particular ad. The question, though, really isn’t about reforming Wall Street, but instead reforming Washington. This crisis started because of government interference in lending markets, and it will repeat until government learns to stop dictating lending policy and avoid guaranteeing lenders.
Which campaign truly gets the problem? We probably won’t guess it from the spots they produce over the next few days, so McCain and Sarah Palin will have to make sure they make it part of their stump speeches. McCain got it right in his two Wall Street Journal essays, and he needs to keep explaining it on the campaign trail.