For Obama to win, he must fight on many fronts. He must fight the battle of experience, which McCain does not have to do. McCain is accepted as a fit commander in chief; Obama is not. The months-long drumbeat from the Obama camp of "Bush-McCain" has not moved the needle. However, the McCain camp could get real traction by positioning Obama's economic message as "trust me, I know what's best for you." Based on Obama's promise to raise taxes, his inexperience, and his liberal senatorial voting record, McCain should fare very well focusing on the economy.
McCain's picking Sara Palin as his running mate was a bold move on many levels, but it wasn't about bolstering his creds as much as it was about shaking things up and appealing to middle-class voters and women. Obama's pick of fellow Sen. Joe Biden was a clear attempt to boost his foreign-policy and national security shortcomings and adds nothing to his economic portfolio.
To clearly illustrate this point, McCain should give Palin a specific set of economic responsibilities ASAP. She would make a great point person on energy for a McCain administration. Getting key economic responsibility now would separate her from Biden, who has zero creds on the economy and is really a one-trick foreign-policy pony. It would also take the burden off her to be a jack-of-all-trades. If the economy is key, then give her a piece of that pie to call her own. Obama should lay off Palin and concentrate on the top of the ticket.
Going further, McCain should unveil for the American people the group of key economic advisers upon whom he will rely. It cannot be just one person. It must be a team of experienced leaders who will give the electorate confidence that he not only has the answers but also has attracted the people to get it done.
In a "Super Economic Year," each side must zero in like a laser beam on the economy. The American people will elect the person who best sells to them a credible economic plan that is reflected in every major issue—taxes, energy, wars, security, healthcare, immigration, and the military.
In the end, substance will trump style.
Bradley A. Blakeman was a deputy assistant to George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004.