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What McCain Could Learn From This Bad Week

Expanding on a point made Thursday by Huffington Post’s Sam Stein:

John McCain is still playing catch up to Barack Obama.

As the Illinois Democrat speaks before the picturesque Victory Column in Berlin …, the Arizona Republican is doing a slightly less exciting form of German outreach. He is having a lunch meeting with small business leaders at a German restaurant in German Village, Columbus, Ohio.

Not only is McCain playing catch up with Obama, McCain is ceding control over his own daily message to Obama. Granted, the photo-op at the German restaurant was a hastily-arranged replacement for his canceled New Orleans oil rig photo-op. And it was kind of funny, which was the point. But it also reflects the McCain campaign’s obsession with countering Obama’s trip. Not as bad as setting up a ghastly speech on the night that the Illinois senator essentially clinched the Democratic nomination — but close. This is a different team running the McCain campaign, but if they haven’t yet figured out that he’s not going to be able to compete with Obama this week, he’s in big trouble. Barring some horrific gaffe tomorrow, Obama has won the week. When he’s drawing 200,000 to a speech in Berlin, he’s going to own the headlines.

During a week like this — assuming it is an exception and not the rule — McCain would be better off quietly doing his thing: working local crowds during town hall meetings in battleground states, rather than trying to keep up with Obama. His message seems to be working. Despite three consecutive weeks that have been deemed "bad" by the press, new polls suggest Obama is not making much headway in swing states. Yet, it seems like everything I’ve heard McCain say this week has been about Iraq/the surge or Obama’s trip. Of course, this is a result of all the interviews McCain gave this week to counter Obama’s dominance of the news — and reporters are naturally going to ask his thoughts about the events overseas. Regardless, McCain’s week was supposed to focus on domestic issues while Obama was abroad. His time probably would have been better spent if he had just kept to that plan.

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