I just got off of a conference call with McCain economic adviser Doug Holz-Eakin reacting to the failure of the bailout package, and it did nothing but reinforce my view that the decision to suspend his campaign was a major blunder that may very well have cost McCain the election.
McCain's entire argument for why he should be elected is that he has the experience to lead and record of forging bi-partisan compromises to get things done. He's supposed to be a doer, rather than just a talker. The suspension gambit was supposed to demonstrate this, when in reality, it made it look as the opposite.
Eakin said McCain suspended the campaign to bring the parties together, but when he got to
So did McCain give a rallying speech, and use his awesome legislative skills to forge a compromise, or present an alternative plan? No, said Eakin. He "held his tongue" so as not to be too partisan, and purposely didn't present his own proposal. He wanted to bring House Republicans into the process. Over the next few days, Eakin recounts, McCain "continued to monitor the process" and made dozens of phone calls. He came "to do his best to lead a process that would get results, and it didn't happen"
Now that's inspiring!
Eakin also called for the House and Senate to regroup and return to the negotiating table. He doesn't plan on suspending his campaign again, but will " engage as much as he feels it will be productive." In other words, do exactly what the campaign mocked Obama for last week.
If you check out the Gallup tracking poll, McCain still seemed to be hanging in there after the financial crisis, rallying to a tie the day after he announced his suspension (which wouldn't have reflected much reaction to the decision). Within three days, he was back in an eight-point hole. And I can't imagine that the failure of the bill will boost him any. Of course, if instead of playing the role of McCain the bipartisan leader, he played the deficit hawk role, he could have adopted the House Republicans plan and been proclaiming today that he saved American taxpayers $700 billion.