2:30 p.m. ET: President Bush (32 percent approval rating) will address the nation tonight on the economy, in a speech that seems likely to be aimed as much at a recalcitrant Congress (21 percent approval rating) as it is at the viewing public.
Straight from the Department of Obvious Metaphors: The speech may postpone or preempt the airing of "David Blaine: Dive of Death" on ABC. But beyond that public service, what does Bush hope to accomplish tonight? For starters, he can combat the assertion by some critics that he has been largely absent during this crisis, leaving the heavy lifting and public pronouncements to Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke.
Along the way, maybe he can figure out how to frame the bailout plan so that Barack Obama and John McCain are both willing to support it publicly. If either man runs against it, particularly McCain, it will make passage that much harder (though there may be some signs of life for the plan on the Hill now).
Today has turned into "pushback day" for the Arizona Republican. First there was the effort to attack the New York Times for its Rick Davis story, and now McCain's camp is working to cast doubt on the results of the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. For what it's worth, Gallup is out with today's tracking poll, showing Obama with a three-point lead, unchanged from yesterday.
11 a.m. ET: John McCain's campaign against the Old Gray Lady continues apace this morning, as his campaign attacked this morning's NYT front-pager on Rick Davis' lobbying firm's work, or lack thereof, for Freddie Mac. Of course, the Times wasn't the only publication to report on this subject in the last 24 hours (see here and here), but let's not confuse the message.
McCain had an economic roundtable this morning with a group of Wall Street fat cats, at which he was noncommital on the question of whether he would back the economic bailout bill in the Senate. The GOP nominee is also at the UN today with Sarah Palin, huddling with world leaders just as economic issues are rising to the fore at the expense of nearly all others. Note that today's WashPost poll still gives McCain a 24-point advantage on who would be the better commander-in-chief, but also gives Barack Obama a narrow lead on which candidate is more trusted to handle "international affairs."
Obama is in the Tampa area today for a big rally. How will attendance compare to Palin's giant gathering in Orlando last week? And will he mention offshore oil drilling, a huge issue on both Florida coasts? Speaking of Florida, check out this interesting shift in the debate over Cuba policy and the wisdom of the ongoing embargo. Will either presidential candidate risk a move to the center on this topic?
8 a.m. ET: Remember triangulation? Put simply, it's when the president uses his own party on the Hill as a foil by teaming up with the opposite side to get a bill passed. (See Clinton, Bill and welfare reform.) Current lawmakers certainly do remember triangulation, and there is evidence this morning that both parties increasingly fear -- for different reasons -- that President Bush is setting them up for it on the economic bailout, a dynamic that would present interesting decisions for both presidential candidates.
Harry Reid has told the White House that it needs to secure John McCain's support for the plan if it wants significant Democratic backing. Nancy Pelosi is making similar noises about the need for Republican votes in the House. Newt Gingrich is pushing for McCain to bolster his maverick credentials by running against the bailout. If McCain does that, can Barack Obama afford to back the bill? How could he make the case that McCain would be Bush redux if Obama votes aye and McCain nay?
It does seem that McCain needs to do SOMETHING to change the dynamic of the race, aside from winning the debates. The new Washington Post-ABC News poll puts Obama up 9 points among registered voters. And the Bloomberg-LA Times survey gives Obama a 12-point edge on who would do a better job handling the financial crisis.
On the other hand, Joe Biden hasn't been doing his ticket any favors lately. You will hear plenty more about his complicated views on coal in the coming weeks, and the "gaffe-prone Biden" story will likely take on a life of its own.
But even if the Democrats' No. 2 is having a bad stretch (and the bloom appears to be off the Sarah Palin rose too, according to the WashPost poll), it's still that pesky $700 billion bailout that's driving the race right now. McCain's and Obama's votes on the bailout in the Senate might just be the deciding factor in how the rest of America votes in November.
September 24, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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