This morning, the Obama campaign posted a website articulating John McCain’s involvement with the Keating Five scandal. It is Obama’s strategic response to the Bill Ayer’s controversy revisited by McCain this past Saturday. The website currently contains a short teaser of a longer documentary that will be posted at noon today. You can also read about the website and Obama’s decision at Politico.
The Keating Five scandal is important for three reasons: it negates the Ayers controversy, it demonstrates McCain’s poor judgement, and it ties itself directly back to the government bailout of the banking industry. While McCain wants to divert our attention off of the economy, Obama gets the clear advantage by using the Keating Five scandal as a vehicle for discussing the economy. It will be a brilliant move as long as Obama can stay positive, which will be difficult.
This also has the potential to make John McCain really angry, which, in turn will make him really erratic. No doubt it is frustrating for McCain to revisit this embarrassing scandal every campaign season – and he might have thought he’d get through this one without having to talk about it. Obama has done to McCain what McCain had hoped to do unto Obama – make it so close to the finish line, only to trip on your own hubris.
This may quickly devolve into both campaigns spinning out of control as the candidates abandon their strategy and race for the finish line with a raw mix of desperation and humility. If you need a visual, think of the final scene of “Talladega Nights.” As for October Surprises, it seems that both campaigns were holding on to the Guilt-By-Association card until the last few weeks of the election. Whether this is the only surprise each campaign has remains to be seen.
So How Will This Play Out?
Both candidates take a big political risk by allowing these two issues to dominate the few remaining news cycles. McCain and Palin are choosing to bring the Ayers controversy to the surface by making it a centerpiece of his and her stump speeches starting today. While this method provides instant (and free) media distribution, it also serves as an albatross around McCain’s neck: if this backfires, he’s still stuck with it. Obama, on the other hand, emailed a link to the Keating Five website to millions of his supporters early this morning and urged them to distribute the link to their friends. We’ll see later today if Obama begins making this connection in his daily talking points.
This leaves both candidates in a vulnerable position, but I predict that the Ayers controversy will remain in left field while the Keating Five scandal will be paired with the economy for a one-two punch for Obama.