For a sense of how ineffectively managed the McCain campaign is, consider the last-minute flap over coal. In a January 17 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Barack Obama declared war on America's coal-fired plants, pledging to regulate the industry so aggressively that "it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted."
Obama's comments had the potential to hit him hard in states like West Virginia (leaning McCain), Ohio (tossup), and Pennsylvania (leaning Obama, and critical to the McCain campaign), and McCain's people are milking them for all their worth.
The wonder, however, is that Obama's comments are only now getting attention from Republicans, 10 months after they were posted online and just a day before the election.
From a campaign-process angle, the re-emergence of Obama's coal remarks is too clumsy and too late to do much good for the GOP. The worm turned in these critical states weeks ago, and a savvier campaign than McCain's would have taken advantage of Obama's remarks long before.
Obama's gaffe over coal speaks directly to the fortunes of a key socioeconomic demographic in key states and easily parlays into a discussion of America's energy dependence and the economy—and in a way that benefits McCain. Consider the effectiveness of "Obama wants to bankrupt your livelihood" against "Drill, baby, drill!"
Democrats will no doubt claim that this "11th-hour surprise" is the work of the "evil Republican attack machine." If it is, then it's one more sign of how poorly the McCain campaign is run. My guess is it isn't—which is still another sign of how poorly the campaign is run.