Six Weeks to Go

Friday night's big Round One debate between Barack Obama and John McCain is supposed to focus on foreign policy. Given the extraordinarily high stakes showdown in Washington over a federal bailout for banks, however, it shouldn't take more than a couple minutes for one or both of the candidates to link U.S. security in the world to economic security at home.

Of the two, Obama has more to gain by steering the conversation to Wall Street's meltdown, not only as a way to slip McCain's punches over the Democrats' failure to support the surge strategy in Iraq, but also for the simple reason that the financial crisis is helping him politically.

As the best poll of national tracking polls, posted by Real Clear Politics, has established Obama with a small but increasing lead, after several weeks of trailing McCain, a new Pew survey, posted here, highlights the key public attitude underlying his gain: 47 percent of Americans say he is better equipped to deal with the crisis than McCain, who is favored by 35 percent; Obama's strength is even greater among the crucial bloc of independent voters, where he holds 44-to-30 percent edge.

Of even greater practical significance are several new polls from Virginia and Florida which show Obama rapidly gaining ground and running at least even with McCain in both states, which have gone reliably Republican in recent elections. Politico has the details here.

As part of the Independent's special coverage Friday night, I'll be among those live blogging the event. Check this week's Indie for details.

NBS Alert: California's status as an NBS (non-battleground state) means that we get cheated out of seeing the slashing and sleazy attack ads that folks back in the Midwest get treated to on an hourly basis.

While Huffpost, Talking Points Memo and The Page do a pretty good job of bringing the best of the worst to their readers, Slate's John Dickerson, one of the web's more elegant national political writers, has rounded up his All-Time Top 5 presidential TV spots. The first one, aired by Lyndon Johnson's 1964 campaign against Barry Goldwater, is worth the price of admission alone; it features a bespectacled and extremely anxious alleged Republican who stops just short of having a nervous breakdown on camera at the thought of Goldwater in the White House. Check out Dickerson's report here.

Stroke, stroke, bail, bail: The ongoing Capitol Hill debate about the bank bailout has generated some excellent commentaries on the web. The Washington Post's Sebastian Mallaby was among the first to sound a note of
well-reasoned caution
that challenged the conventional wisdom about the plan; the Financial Times checked in with this well-timed blast at the irrelevancy of the campaigns of Obama and McCain to the issue; and Bill Kristol advised McCain early Monday to not get rolled by Paulson and Bernanke; by late Tuesday, it was clear McCain had been paying attention.

I'm just sayin': Steve Schmidt, McCain's resident strategic genius, is turning into a parody of himself.

After getting McCain back into the race with the now-famous Britney-Paris celebrity dis ad of Obama, and weathering the Sarah Palin hurricane, the bald-headed and belligerent Schmidt in recent days has taken to acting like a complete horse's ass. His bully boy act of trying to intimidate reporters with tedious tantrums and constant whining about allegedly unfair media coverage of his guy self-destructed on Monday. Schmidt's rant against the New York Times during a conference call with campaign reporters the Times is "not a legitimate news" organization, declared The World's Leading Authority on Practically Everything was so over the top that it did nothing but make him a laughingstock and hurt his own candidate.

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