At least this time, no one is adding “stupid”. We’re all in this
bind, both presidential candidates have ideas for relieving it, and
both are focusing needed attention on it starting this week. Neither
one ‘owns’ the issue or clearly defines the solution.

What will they do?

The crush of bad economic news — six consecutive months
of job losses, rising rates of home foreclosures, gasoline prices
seemingly headed toward $5 a gallon — is increasingly setting the
contours of the race between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain.

Both candidates plan to spend this week focusing almost entirely on
the economy. But both face political problems with the issue.

Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, has been shadowed by his
statements earlier in the campaign that he is not expert in the subject
of the economy and by the likelihood that voters will associate him
with the economic policies of the Bush administration. He has embraced
President Bush’s stands on central issues like tax cuts and trade
policy.

Mr. Obama, Democrat of Illinois, has had difficulty connecting with
working-class voters, and his more ambitious responses to economic
problems like expanding access to health insurance would be paid for in
part by tax increases, always a risky proposition.

They’ll both spend the rest of the summer on this. So will the media. Watch for the spin.

It appears likely that activity on both sides will
involve appearances notable more for their political symbolism — and
attacks against the other side — than any attempt to come up with ideas
for dealing with the problems. Mr. McCain will probably continue to
attack Mr. Obama for supporting tax increases, and Mr. Obama is likely
to portray Mr. McCain’s views as an extension of Mr. Bush’s economic
policies.

Now why is Mr. McCain likely “to attack Mr. Obama”, while Mr. Obama is likely “to portray Mr. McCain’s views”? Cue the reader…

“The economy is going to be a driving force throughout this campaign,” said David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s chief strategist.

In what is perhaps an unwelcome turn of events for Mr. McCain, the
Iraq war has faded in the news as the country has seemed to quiet down
— arguably providing a validation of his call to increase troop
strength there, which Mr. Obama opposed — putting even more emphasis on
an issue that Mr. McCain would prefer be secondary.

What? That’s a backhanded way of saying the surge is working, for
one thing. For another….why is that “an unwelcome turn of events for
Mr. McCain”? And not Mr. Obama? Or rather, isn’t that a good turn of
events for everyone right now?

Here’s a good line from the piece, from a former Bush strategist, about the need for both candidates to focus on the economy:

“They have to do two things: they have to demonstrate
that they have an understanding of where people are in their lives —
have some empathy for the anxiety that is created. And secondly, do
they have a prescription for the problems?”

We’re listening.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....