Strategically, the competitive environment consists of two components, the climate and the ground. Climate is constantly changing while the ground is stable. Climate is tricky because trends don't continue in the same direction indefinately. They turn around instantly, as we have seen recently in n the market. We have to use the climate to build positions on the ground but those positions have to withstand changes in climate and bad decisions about climate can hurt positions.
This brings us to the current presidential race. I say that, given the right decisions about conditions, McCain can still win big despite the polls. Polls only measure the climate, people's changing attitudes, not the ground. The shifts and especially the number of uncommitted (twice that of most presidential elections) tell us that neither candidate has won the ground, but given the terrible climate for McCain (and his own poor decisions regarding climate), my conclusion is that he is in a better ground position and has been since the conventions when Obama's snubbing of the Hillary voters and McCain's pick of Palin won over the Democratic blue-collar vote. Joe the Plumber is an issue because of McCain's ground strength. Climate still has its say, and in the coming two and half weeks, stuff will continue to happen and if McCain can use them to build his position, he can still win big in this election. What does he have to do?
- Keep everything about the economy: Make the campaign about what Obama would do to the economy, emphasizing the idea that Obama is about "spreading the wealth around" while McCain wants to create more wealth by not punishing people for getting ahead. Whether the economy gets better, worse, or stays the same, this message is all that matters in these final weeks unless there is a major terrorist attack.
- Run against Bush and Washington DC: Stop proposing new programs as cures and instead propose vetos and stopping bad ideas. If he can make the case that more government, especially government spending, is not the solution but the cause of our problems, he will win.
- Make the specific case that Washington big government programs and specifically the Democratic protection of those programs created the current financial mess and giving them control of the economy will create a depression. Thing are bad, but they can get much, much worse.
- Use humor constantly to make fun of Obama, his elitism, his association, his idea that government control creates utopias, and especially his tax programs. If you didn't see it, McCain was great at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner. McCain has to get the word out, but he can't do it as the "angry old man" but as the "wry humorist." It was clear that Obama can stand to have his pretensions pricked.