46 Days Out: "You Probably Know You're Not Winning the 3:00am Phone Call Challenge on the Economy When..."

Jesse Lee is the Online Rapid Response Manager for the DNC, this is a daily update on the day's messaging.

In light of Obama's cool and collected full press conference this morning, McCain's "policy speech" this morning certainly was interesting. A speech billed as providing intricate detail on his plans for the economy prompted headlines like "McCain Offers Few Details on Economic Plan," and was filled with attacks McCain knew full well to be false along with hollow attempts to create distance from President Bush. McCain's big claim to big-and-boldness, calling for the firing of SEC Chairman Chris Cox, went soft on Cox, implicitly admitted he can't actually fire him, and managed to get the agency altogether wrong calling it the "FEC."

With that attempt to distance himself from the Bush administration policies he's so fully embraced fizzled out, he then "offered veiled criticism of the Bush administration, suggesting the Treasury Department had not hewed to clear practicies in determining what institutions were worthy of bailouts. McCain promised 'consistent policies in deciding whether to guarantee loans.'" Loyal HuffPo readers will note that this is the very attack excised from the draft of yesterday's McCain release, which made the same point, elaborating that "Taxpayer money was used for Bear Stearns, it was not used for Lehman Brothers and now it is used again for AIG. The American people need to know the thinking and the standards behind using taxpayer's money to support these private sector institutions." That's a rather empty attempt to distance himself from Bush given that McCain supported every one of those decisions, and McCain's own "consistent policies in deciding whether to guarantee loans" was nowhere to be found.

And then there were the hilarious attacks on Obama and lobbyists, which prompted even the New York Daily News to exclaim, "our jaw dropped just now listening to McCain blame lobbyists and Obama advisers. Just consider that McCain advisers (chief among them Phil Gramm) wrote the laws that deregulated these markets and lobbied hard to keep scrutiny to a minimum." For the record, of McCain's 177 lobbyists on his campaign, 83 of them have worked for Wall Street, which to be fair is less than 50% -- maybe that can be his new talking point: "less than half of my hundreds of lobbyists worked for Wall Street!"

McCain's lobbyist-filled, golden-parachuted, o' so much more of the same economic team just happened to be the subject of Obama's new ad incidentally:

So what do you call McCain's increasingly "erratic response"? Some would call it "failing"...

First Read: "McCain flailing? But you probably know you're not winning the 3:00 am phone call challenge on the economy when 1) you resort to saying your opponent is trying to reap political gain of the current Wall Street troubles; 2) you call for the firing of a guy -- Republican SEC Chairman Chris Cox -- who doesn't appear to be the culprit here; and 3) your campaign cuts a new TV ad linking your opponent to the former CEO of Fannie Mae, when your own top advisers come from many of the troubled financial institutions (Merrill Lynch's John Thain and Martin Feldstein, who serves on AIG's board). Indeed, the McCain campaign has been scrambling to change focus slightly. It launched a Web ad hitting Biden over his remark on taxes yesterday. And last night, McCain took a shot a 'risky' Obama, per NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy. ('A vote for Sen. Obama will leave this country at risk during one of the most severe challenges to America's economy since the Great Depression.') But is this current economic crisis too consuming for all of these slight distractions to work?"

Joe Klein: "This is shaping up as a pretty bad week for the McCain campaign. First, the economic fundamentals are sound. Then we're in a major crisis. He talks about the excessive compensation that CEOs receive, but continues to have Carly Fiorina ($100 million for her failed stewardship of Hewlett Packard) as an economic spokesperson. He wants to have a vigorous new regulatory regime patrolling Wall Street--even though he has always opposed such a regime and his pal Phi Gramm was the guy in charge of dynamiting the regulations--and yet he is running this ad, warning against excessive federal power. This is called flailing. This is why his campaign is losing some altitude. It seems to me McCain has to make a choice: reformer or deregulator. Reform means the restoration of a serious, activist regulatory presence--in other words, more government. Deregulation means more of what we're seeing this week on Wall Street, the excesses that occur when government steps away from its responsibility as referee and guarantor of a fair playing field. As in recent weeks, McCain has made a bet on the stupidity of the American people--he thinks he can have it both ways."

Somebody find John McCain somebody to fire, stat!