John McCain Attacks Barack Obama as the Debate Looms

This campaign has been ugly for a while, but it’s only going to get worse.

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Back during the summer, when John McCain was essentially accusing Barack Obama of treason, I wondered to friends and colleagues: If McCain’s going with treason now, what’ll he bring out if he’s down in October?

Now we’re going to find out.

It starts, of course, with Bill Ayers and now Jeremiah Wright. It includes hints and flat-out assertions that “ Barack Hussein Obama” is if not an actual terrorist then close enough (Pennsylvania GOP: Obama is a “ terrorist’s best friend”).

And does it work? It’ll be tough for McCain to pivot to Ayers this evening during the debate.

More broadly, there’s the question of whether attack politics can work here. We’ve got two great takes on this between Dick Morris and former Rep. James Leach, arguing about whether negative campaigning is helpful (to campaigns, to society).

Dick makes a great point about the McCain campaign:

Negatives must be thematic. John McCain, in the current campaign, is too scattershot, one day hitting Barack Obama for his Chicago political connections and then accusing him of vapid celebrity the next. It is only when the negative campaign paints a consistent picture that it can work.

Even if the McCain campaign sticks to one theme for the next month, does it have time to paint a picture? Time is one thing McCain doesn’t have.

And in any case, what are the odds the campaign will stick to one theme? When the new McCain message— Who is the real Barack Obama?—debuted yesterday, I said to a colleague: Give it a couple of days; they’ll be on to something else.

Of course, the question is—what’ll the next attack be? Hold tight—we’re going to find out before too long.