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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain's bad gamble

My read of the political landscape is that Republican presidential candidate John McCain made a major blunder today in calling for Friday’s scheduled debate with Democrat Barack Obama to be postponed so the two senators can help deal with the nation’s growing financial crisis.

The spin from the McCain camp is that the GOP candidate is putting the well-being of the country above politics, but the reality is that this move is entirely political – the desperate act of a desperate man trying to gain favor with the electorate at a time when his poll numbers are sinking like a stone (ABC News and the Washington Post now have Obama ahead 52-43) and when the perception that Democrats are better equipped than Republicans to handle an economic crisis is being solidified.

Obama, wisely, has rejected McCain’s stall tactic, saying almost exactly what I said to a newsroom colleague earlier today: that a would-be president must be able to “deal with more than one thing at once.”

What the McCain camp should have done, but apparently failed to consider, was suggest that the subject of Friday’s debate be changed – from foreign policy to the economy (with foreign policy being shifted to the third debate, at which the economy currently is to be the topic).

This would have worked for McCain on so many levels: He would have been able to discuss the economy at a time when the nation’s fiscal ills are on everyone’s minds, he would have avoided looking like a fool by trying to avoid a debate at a key juncture in our nation's history, and, perhaps most importantly, he would have been able to have the final debate – the one that always makes the most significant impression – focus on foreign policy, the area in which he is strongest.

Instead, McCain looks weaker today that he has at any time during the campaign.



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