As Obama opens up bigger leads in national polls, like this 8-point margin in the Gallup Daily Poll -- what will McCain do? He likes to take bold moves -- like naming a popular, contrarian but mostly unknown Alaska governor, Sara Palin, as his running mate, or suspending his campaign to promote congressional enactment of the bailout to free up credit and soothe the markets.
Neither of these moves had a Houdini-like effect on the campaign -- most likely because they weren't carefully thought out (something you could never accuse Houdini of). ln the current circumstances, McCain has no choice but to stay bold, but with more tactical care. The financial crisis has benefited Obama, even though the Democratic candidate isn't doing much to capitalize on his gift. As the bailout compromise legislation heads toward a vote, McCain should go all out to point out what he thinks are its defects. If he believes the compromise still rewards Wall Street at the expense of Main Street, he should say so. And, on Wednesday -- when the Senate vote is scheduled -- he should be in the well of the chamber, calmly but firmly spelling out his concerns and objections, even if he ultimately votes aye.
In truth, the bailout, despite the massaging that the legislation has produced, is flawed, perhaps fatally. It would not be reckless or "political" for McCain to question the current language. "Bailout" is the wrong solution to the crisis. What's needed is a workout, as I argued last Tuesday. McCain should go after this core weakness of the legislation If he loses in Congress -- which he is more than likely to do -- he may win in the court of public opinion and help his faltering campaign.
Voters are still trying to get the measure of the presidential candidates. By taking a courageous stand on the massive federal forgiveness of Wall Street recklessness, McCain can clearly reveal how tall he stands.