(LYNCHBURG, VA.) - Back on the road with Barack Obama in Virginia, one senses an immediate shift to offense.
The new and feistier McCain camp seems to have landed several blows that knocked the Illinois senator off-message and off-stride.
Instead of hammering McCain as the heir to the Bush administration's legacy, Obama had been dwelling on the Republican insinuations that he is a shallow celebrity who gives big speeches to large witless crowds.
But this week, Obama is in a fighting mood, repeatedly charging that on issues which matter to Americans, McCain "just doesn't get it."
This is not to say that the 71-year-old Arizona senator is too old to "get it," but the whiff is there for anyone who's willing to take the scent.
For Obama, the shift comes at a time when polls, including our new CBS News sampling, are turning up for McCain. In other words, Obama seems to be listening to the importunings of party stalwarts who said he was playing a punching bag poorly.
Whether he's responding quickly enough or not, the poll has some very bad news for Obama.
Large majorities find mccain potentially very effective as commander in chief. At a time of two wars, that could be huge for the Republicans.
That's probably why Obama is talking more about the economy and trying to make this election about the Bush record and McCain's support for Bush's policies. The last thing Obama needs is to have this race become a referendum on him.
But McCain may overplay his hand. On Wednesday, while lambasting Obama's judgment -- never his patriotism, he insisted -- McCain said Obama was counseling retreat in Iraq "even today with victory in sight."
While victory in Iraq specifically and the war on terror more broadly is every American's wish, I think few would go as far as McCcain in saying it was now "in sight."
Anyone who has spent any time in the Middle East can tell you that "victory" often turns out to be a mirage.
It is something a man of McCain's experience must know.