That's it -- the number of days that Sen. McCain's team has to right what appears to be a fast-sinking ship.
I've read opinions from all over the web as to what McCain needs to do to rescue his falling poll numbers. But since I'm so obviously always right, here's what Team Maverick needs to do:
1. Find a 527 group that will do the dirty work of blasting out the Obama-Rezko and Obama-Ayers narratives. Sen. Kerry was defeated in 2004 in large part because of the Swiftboat attacks, but the Bush team made sure to distance themselves from and condemn the 527s attacking Kerry's service. Bush benefited in two ways four years ago: 527s took shots at his opponent and called his character into question, and Bush looked like the good guy by condemning them. In 2008, it's been the candidate's team themselves who have brought these matters up. Right or not, this looks very un-presidential, and I'd farm this work out to someone else.
2. Create a sensible, articulable economic policy and find a way to combat Obama's populism. The Hopemonger's two strongest policy arguments are that he plans to give the bottom 95% of wage-earners at tax cut, and that McCain's tax policies will benefit only the rich. The Senior Senator looked terrible trying to respond during the first debate. Point out that McCain too wants to give out a middle-class tax cut. Point out that cutting the corporate tax rate will stimulate the economy and spur job creation. Ask Obama how higher taxes on small businesses and even large corporations will breed anything but job loss and plunge the country further into a recession. Point out that Obama has no experience with economic matters and highlight any work McCain done in the Senate on anything of economic substance. Obama has tried to paint McCain into a corner as out-of-touch and ill-equipped to deal with this historic economic crisis. And because McCain has no interest in economic matters, it's worked.
3. While we're on the topic of domestic issues, stop talking about earmarks, the Bridge to Nowhere and the DNA of bears in Montana. It sounds stupid, and I'm sick of it.
4. Stop playing the grumpy old man. It's painfully obvious that McCain can't stand Obama, but it shouldn't be the first thing many voters talk about after the debate is over. In 2000, McCain managed to simultaneously be sarcastic and affable, and masterfully walked the line between irreverent and serious. Even at 72, he's still the guy who sits in the corner of weekly GOP Senate luncheons and cracks jokes, razzes the speaker and generally raises hell. Let the voters see that guy, and start tonight.
5. Finally, stop wasting Gov. Palin. She is a tremendously talented politician who Team Maverick has limited to three major interviews in six weeks and who only has appeared at highly scripted campaign rallies, recycling the same stump speech over and over. Palin performed very well last week in her debate against Sen. Biden, and she must be turned loose. She can be both an effective attack dog against Obama and a forceful proponent of McCain's policies. If she is continued to be kept under lock and key, campaign manager Steve Schmidt never should work in politics again.
Here's to hoping he pulls it off.