The news of McCain's call to suspend the debate reminds me of a bit comedian, David Cross, did concerning the fallout from 9-11. Cross discussed how there were probably people in the aftermath of the attacks who were upset that football got canceled for a week. They may not have vocalized it, but there was probably some quiet discontent among a segment of the population. Well, political debates are certainly not to be equated with football, but to political junkies they may as well be one in the same.
Having said that, I'm still trying to sort out this McCain campaign suspension and the possibility of a debate delay. This obviously hasn't happened before. And as history (and Thomas Holbrook in Do Campaigns Matter?) would tell us, presidential election years rarely overlap with economic or military crises. But here we have one smack dab in the middle of what has already been an unprecedented presidential campaign. [Remember, if __________ can happen, then ____________ is more likely than ever to occur during this campaign. I joked a couple of weeks ago that we will see an electoral college tie and there will be a disputed state result simultaneously. This will trigger a battle between the legislative and judicial branches to decide the issue. I look forward to it.]
Here, though, are my instant history thoughts on this move by the McCain folks:
1) McCain once again has to do something to shake up the race. The Palin thing has faded with the focus shifted to the economy and the polls the last two days are favoring Obama in some of the critical battleground states.
2) This, to me, is a potential "damned if you do, damned if you don't" sort of proposition for Obama. If he stays committed to the debate, he can be cast as not caring about dealing with the economic crisis. If he goes along with McCain's wish, Obama will be the second person on the scene. In other words, he wouldn't look like much of a leader. My thinking here is that the McCain folks would once again try to craft a replay of some of the narrative surrounding Obama's trip abroad over the summer. Now, is this the way I expect this to play out? No, but the parallel did enter my mind. Which brings me to...
3) If this is politically motivated (I know, that never happens, especially in politics. Obama's trip, for instance, was just a fact-finding mission.), what does McCain expect get out of it? On the one hand, trying to push back the debate looks moderately defeatist. But on the other, focusing on the bailout issue, shows his willingness to take problems head on. Again, the leadership dimension. And I think that's where the answer lies. McCain = leader. Obama = follower. At least, that's the way they may try to spin it.
Thoughts? This one is a doozy.
The Electoral College Map (9/24/08)
The Electoral College Map (9/23/08)
The Links (9/23/08): Debates and Nightmares