“The critical event was McCain’s unfortunate comment that the economy is sound. He’s been really slow to pick up on what’s been going on. He stumbled knee-deep into a pile, and it’s going to be hard for him to get out. This has been the biggest faux pas committed by either of them all year.”
– Charlie Cook of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in a story about Mccain’s awful week.

Whether you like it or not, people are talking about the “fundamentals of economy are sound” line this week like they were talking about Palin’s fumbling of the Bush Doctrine last week. This is why McCain has gone negative on Obama and tried like hell to tie him to this crisis. Because he needs to climb out of the hole he’s dug himself.

But as Politico explains (in the linked story above), that may be working to Obama’s advantage…

McCain aides, recognizing the political difficulties of the moment, are trying to turn the debate over an economic crisis into a fight over Obama’s character and leadership. In a blistering speech Friday in Green Bay, Wis., McCain tried to put the blame for the financial meltdown on Obama and resurrect a larger debate over taxes and the candidates’ competing economic plans.

Obama, by contrast, has sought to play the steady, if cautious, statesman — studiously avoiding a position on the AIG bailout, aligning himself with economic advisers such as former Clinton Treasury Secretary and economic soother Robert Rubin, and talking about the need to put politics aside and address the problem at hand in a fashion his advisers hoped seemed presidential.

“Today,” Obama said in Coral Gables, Fla., “I fully support the efforts of Secretary [Henry] Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman [Ben] Bernanke to work in a bipartisan spirit with Congress to find a solution of this sort.”

Obama remained above the political fray Friday — at least until McCain attacked, at which point Obama returned fire by mocking his rival as being “panicked.”

McCain desperately needs this race to shift from the economy, and with more than a month left it very well may. But for right now it’s the economy, and McCain’s flub is making many think he’s simply not the guy to turn the fundamentals around.

More as it develops…

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