In the second presidential debate last night, John McCain finally attacked the Democrats and Obama for opposing tighter regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—I have been puzzled why he has not been doing this for the past three weeks—and presented something like the mortgage proposals advanced by conservative economist Martin Feldstein and Lawrence Lindsey. To be effective, such themes must be reiterated again and again.
It's not clear that McCain has the discipline to do this in campaigning or the funds to do it in television ads. Obama has been outspending him something like 3 to 1 in target states over the past few weeks. Obama's message has been that the economy is messed up because of eight years of George W. Bush policies and deregulation and that McCain would provide more of the same. That seems to me to be a flawed argument in several ways, but it appears to be having an effect. I have noted earlier in the cycle that TV advertising had not seemed to be as effective as in previous cycles. Obama heavily outspent Hillary Clinton in Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania but didn't move the numbers much; Clinton won all three. But now, as the public is in search of a narrative in unprecedented times, Obama's advertising does appear to be having the intended effect. It's hard to explain his lead in current polls in Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida in any other way.