12:30 p.m. ET: If Barack Obama beats John McCain three weeks from tomorrow, we may just look back at one particular date on the calendar as the day the race was decided -- June 19.
That was the day McCain said he would take public financing for the general election and Obama said he wouldn't, and the Republican has been fighting an uphill battle ever since.
(As an aside, there's at least one politician out there who is definitely having a worse day than McCain -- Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.). For the details, check out the ABC News scoop. It includes the always-welcome phrase "payoff to alleged mistress.")
Obama had $77 million in the bank at the end of August and, as The Fix suggests, may have topped the $100 million mark for September. McCain got $84 million in public funds for the entire general election. The result -- as anyone who watched the baseball playoffs last night (Go Blue!) noticed -- has been that Obama has been able to "flood the zone" with ads. His campaign aired a staggering 25,000 ads in a four-day period last week, and he bought those pricey half-hour primetime slots on NBC and CBS for Oct. 29.
Of course, money doesn't just translate into advertising. It also means that Obama can play in nearly every state, opening more offices and paying more staff than McCain and the Republican National Committee combined. So what can McCain do?
He could, as Bill Kristol suggests, "fire the campaign" and run a stripped-down operation with a simpler message. That appears unlikely. He could also conentrate on cheaper methods of reaching out to voters, like these direct mail pieces and robocalls suggesting that Obama doesn't care about Iowa flood victims.
Or McCain could keep doing what he did today at a speech in Virginia Beach: Deliver a new and largely positive message vowing to defend the country against all threats to the nation, both existential and economic, and to "never give up ... never quit." But he may end up looking back and realizing that he already did -- on June 19.
8 a.m. ET: Is this how it ends?
With three weeks to go, Barack Obama is up by double-digits, and John McCain's electoral standing and personal favorability both appear stuck. Obama is talking almost exclusively about the economy -- with a new plan being unveiled today -- while McCain is mostly negative and the Democrat is absolutely swamping the Republican on the airwaves.
Can the tide still be turned? Twenty-two days is a long time (we are contractually obligated to say that, right up until Election Day: "The polls close in 6 hours, an eternity in politics ..."), but history is not on McCain's side. McCain will try to turn that underdog status to his advantage, as he's planning to unveil a new stump speech today labeling himself a "fighter" and accusing Obama of "measuring the drapes" in the White House -- something an aide or decorator would surely do, not the president himself. Four Pinocchios!
McCain may have a new speech set to go but he does not, it appears, have a new economic policy to discuss, despite some suggestions over the weekend that new tax proposals would be forthcoming. Obama does have a new "economic rescue plan" to roll out this afternoon in Toledo.
McCain and Sarah Palin are in Virginia Beach this morning for a rally (food suggestion: they should stop for pancakes). Palin has been stepping up her broadsides at Obama over social issues, particularly abortion. Is this wise? On one hand, such rhetoric will likely play well in states like Virginia and North Carolina. On the other hand, if the Republican duo is still trying to persuade anti-abortion voters in southern states this late on the calendar, they've got problems.
October 13, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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