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Starting Gate: A Change In Game Changers

It's a sign of the uphill battle John McCain has faced in this general election that his more dramatic and controversial moves have often been described as "game changers." His campaign's ad campaign framing Barack Obama as a "celebrity," his shocking selection of Sarah Palin and his decision to suspend his campaign to focus on the financial crisis have all fit into that "game changer" category in one way or another.

New polls out today show the degree to which the electoral game could really change however, and not in McCain's favor. Three new polls from Quinnipiac University hold dreadful news for the Republican ticket. Obama leads in the new surveys by eight points or more in three of the most important battleground states on the map, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.

Two of those states are must-wins if McCain has any hope at winning the White House and states where he has held at least a slight lead in most previous polling. Are there any more "game changers" in his pocket?

Of those developments that seem likely to in any way tilt the election landscape, none are too friendly to the McCain campaign. The turmoil caused by the financial crisis appears to have boosted Obama, if only slightly, in the national polls and McCain's highly publicized decision to involve himself in the bailout plan hasn't gotten him any credit, especially when the House voted the proposal down on Monday. Even if the bill gets through Congress this week, it remains a question mark as to how popular it will eventually be among voters and how much credit, if any, McCain might get for it.

More importantly, the vice presidential debate tomorrow in St. Louis is a high stakes venture for the McCain campaign. After giving him a big boost coming out of the conventions, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has seen her fortunes turn sour in the face of the media crush, even among conservative commentators. While she remains popular among conservatives and continues to energize the grass roots activists the campaign will need on Election Day, the gains the ticket made among some of those key voting groups early on appear to have waned.

The foreseeable "game changers" on the horizon look more likely to break for Obama than McCain. A stabilization of the economic situation and a solid performance by Palin in the debate would be positive developments for the Republicans but only because it would allow them the opportunity to try and change the subject to more friendly turf and give them a chance to raise questions about Obama. It was only a year ago that McCain looked like he was on the verge of being knocked out of the race altogether. Since then, he has been able to surprise a lot of experts and voters alike. Does he have any more up his sleeve?

Around The Track

  • Both McCain and Obama return to Washington in the expectation of voting for the financial rescue bill in the Senate.
  • Despite her sometimes uneven performances in recent media interviews, Palin has a wealth of experience in high stakes debates, the Politico reports.
  • Joe Biden has some Democrats worried about gaffes in tomorrow night's debate the Boston Globe reports.
  • "Wall Street and Washington were full of people who were 'qualified and experienced' in the field of finance. Sen. Barack Obama, for one, has a great deal of experience in the housing field. So do many of his closest advisers. I would have traded some of that experience for a few more leaders with less experience and more courage to buck the establishment and tell the truth about what was happening." -- Former Sen. Fred Thompson, writing in defense of Palin on
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