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Five Points Ahead

July belonged to Obama and he deserves kudos for pulling off a basically flawless international tour. Yet here we are in August and the senator from Illinois seems to be in a freefall. McCain, who pledged not to run a negative campaign, has done exactly that and the Republican smear machine has proven effective once again. Polls out today show McCain ahead by 5. August belongs to the Arizona senator.

In fairness, Obama has done little to help himself these last few weeks. He still seems to struggle to connect with mainstream voters and he hasn’t developed the Clintonesque ability to neutralize the negative attacks. He remains on the defensive.

Anything can happen between now and November. Anything. This is far from over. Hillary Clinton enjoyed a commanding lead prior to Iowa and she stumbled, allowing Obama to bounce back. McCain is likely to stumble at some point and the media wants a close race. Obama needs to do three things: (1) pick a solid running mate; (2) give a fantastic speech in Denver that introduces himself to the skeptical voters; and (3) he has to win the first debate against McCain in September.

The puindits are predicting an Obama/Biden ticket. Well, it could be worse. Biden certainly has the foreign policy credentials and he can connect with Middle America. of course, he’s probably the most likely to say something silly, given his past. Biden wouldn’t be my first choice. Part of me wonders if Obama is hesitating because he’s waited so long to announce his choice. Seems like he’s wasted an opportunity to get some free media exposure for the Democractic ticket.

McCain really really really wants to run with Lieberman. And I want him to pick the independent senator, hoping that he’ll be as weak a running mate in 2008 as he was in 2000. I can’t believe our conservative friends would embrace such a strong social liberal as Lieberman. We’ll see.

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