Pre-Debate Analysis: McCain’s Ayers Quandary

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It’s well known that John McCain has promised to “whip [Obama’s] you-know-what” in tonight’s debate, in part by bringing up William Ayers.

But there are a number of problems with raising Ayers tonight in New York. I’ll let Noam Scheiber explain:

If McCain goes that route, doesn’t that mean he’s mostly wasted the last several days, when he and Palin have substantially toned down their Ayers rhetoric? (Days he can hardly afford to waste, I might add.) It seems strange to pursue one strategy in the days leading up to a debate, then another strategy during the debate–particularly when the strategies are contradictory….

[But] if McCain doesn’t mention Ayers tonight, he’s going to get hammered in the press for making empty threats (cue the erratic meme) and essentially wimping out.

This has been about as haphazard as any media messaging strategy could be. And I’ll add that by letting Obama and his debate prep staff know in advance that he plans to raise the Ayers attack, McCain gave them the opportunity to prepare a response. I suspect it’ll go something like, My opponent wants to continue the old tired politics of guilt by association. I want to talk about how we’re gonna fix this economy.

How does McCain come out a winner here? I just don’t see it.

Update: Check back tonight for a debate live-blog. Here’s an example of how we roll, so you know what to expect.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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