12:15 p.m. ET: Sarah Palin continued her role as designated attack dog this morning (or, of course, designated lipstick-wearing pit bull) by going after Barack Obama again on his Bill Ayers connection. Some questions to consider:
1) Will anybody pay attention to the Ayers story (or the Keating 5 story) when the economy continues its death spiral? The Dow broke below the 10,000 barrier this morning.
2) Will the McCain campaign shell out any money to air ads on the Ayers issue, or are they just sticking with the "dangerous" Afghanistan ad? How much money is behind the latter spot, and will the Obama Keating 5 "Web video" actually go on the air? Is all of this just for the media's benefit?
3) Joe Lieberman introduced Palin at her event in Clearwater, Fla., this morning, calling her "so capable ... so competent." Could his excommunication from the Democratic caucus next year be any more assured?
4) Which candidate will be the first to accuse the other of negative campaigning and "gutter tactics" during the debate Tuesday? Will McCain himself bring up Ayers, and will Obama hit back with Keating 5 or try to take the high road?
8 a.m. ET: Send the children to bed and shield the elderly -- there's some negative campaigning up ahead.
Trailing in the polls, John McCain vows to run a more aggressive campaign that will raise questions about Barack Obama's judgment and even his "character" (ooohhh...). Step 1 in this plan: A renewed emphasis on Obama's ties to the Weather Underground's Bill Ayers. Sarah Palin helped get that ball rolling by accusing Obama of "palling around with terrorists" (cue a montage of Obama and Ayers going shopping and eating ice cream). The Obama camp hits back by vowing to run a "multimedia campaign" (translation: they're not spending any money on it) highlighting McCain's ties to the Keating 5 scandal.
This morning, we've also got a new McCain ad hitting Obama on Afghanistan, while Obama went up over the weekend with a spot tarring McCain as "erratic" on the economy. The next thing to expect is a series of tsk-tsking stories and editorials on the evils of negative campaigning, along with contradictory stories on whether negative tactics really do or don't work. Can we also expect a genuinely combative debate tomorrow night in Nashville?
Stories on negative campaigning may at least benefit McCain by reducing the media's attention emphasis on the GOP's shrinking map of electoral opportunities and financial disadvantage. It seems that McCain's (public) decision to pull out of Michigan marked a genuine shift in how the press is handicapping this race. Couldn't McCain have done it a little more quietly?
October 6, 2008; 7:55 AM ET
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