Over at the Times, Stanley Fish offers a deft narrative of how the Barack Obama has managed to create and maintain such a solid lead:
The McCain campaign huffs and puffs and jumps from charge to charge: Obama consorts with terrorists; he’s a socialist; he’s a communist; he is un-American; he’s not one of us; he’s a celebrity; he’s going to take your money and give it to people who never did a day’s work; he’s going to sell out Israel; he’ll cozy up to foreign dictators; he’s measuring the drapes.
In response, Obama explains his tax policy for the umpteenth time, points out that capitalists like Warren Buffet support him, details his relationship with Bill Ayers, lists those he consults with, observes that Senator McCain, by his own boast, voted with President George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, and calls for change.
What he (or his campaign) doesn’t do is bring up the Keating Five, or make veiled references to McCain’s treatment of his first wife, or make fun of Sarah Palin (she doesn’t need any help), or disparage his opponent’s experience, or hint at the disabilities of age. He just stands there looking languid (George Will called him the Fred Astaire of politics), always smiling and never raising his voice.
The behavior of McCain (and his campaign) telegraphs the opposite impression that he’s trying to establish. McCain wants to be known as the steady hand, the tested leader, the guy you can count on when everything is a mess. But everything is a mess, and Obama has been calm and consistent in his message, while McCain seems anything but. By failing to live up to his own frame, McCain makes himself look unauthentic or, worse, unable to live up to his own standards.
This is, incidentally, the same bind that the campaign has found themselves in with regard to personal finances. They say that people who work hard and earn a lot money shouldn’t have to apologize for it; but when word of Palin’s $150k outfits came out, the campaign tried out a series of excuses, rather than just saying “hey, she’s running for vice president—hasn’t she earned the right to look good?” If wealth is a virtue, why treat it like a vice?