For all the debate about when, why, or how to have that sit-down with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, foreign policy is not something that necessarily hits home with the average voter. “Talk with him, ignore him, who cares — I’m paying $4 for gas” is the way thoughts are trending this week. Yesterday, Barack Obama jump-started the issue of the faltering economy in a speech in North Carolina, yet again explaining why a John McCain presidency would be tantamount to another Bush term. McCain hit back this morning with a rowdy speech focusing on Obama’s liberal, knee-jerk urge to tax. He would still rather be talking about national security, but the election is shaping up as a battle centered on the economy.
• John Broder writes that yesterday Obama offered his “most pointed and sustained attack on Mr. McCain’s economic agenda,” a strategy meant to “move those concerns ahead of Iraq and national security matters, where Mr. McCain has more experience.” [NYT]
• Justin Fox contends McCain’s economic policies really would be an extension of President Bush’s, as Obama likes to claim. If the election “becomes a referendum on the recent performance of the U.S. economy,” Obama will win, clear and simple. At the same time, Fox notes that Obama’s own economic policies “haven’t coalesced into anything you could really call a rallying cry.” It’s not that his proposals are bad, but, for the most part, “they’re not what you could call new or transformative either.” [Time]
• Scott Helman sees Obama’s economic “broadside” against McCain as a marked departure from the way John Kerry began his general-election campaign in 2004. Where Kerry “sought to burnish his commander-in-chief credentials and downplay criticism of the president,” Obama has “decided to go right at McCain.” In his speech yesterday, he highlighted his own proposals, but his real focus was on attacking McCain’s plan. [Boston Globe]
• Perry Bacon Jr. notes that despite Obama’s call for a new kind of politics, “much of the Illinois senator’s speech here could have been given word-for-word by John Kerry four years ago when he took on President Bush.” [Trail/WP]
• David Paul Kuhn thinks McCain will suffer from the public’s record-high concern about rising gas prices, as people tend to blame the president’s party for a poor economy. Also, McCain’s support for a gas-tax holiday hurts him among independents. [Politico]
• Alex Koppelman notes that states with areas hit hardest by rising gas prices also happen to be important battlegrounds. So while a gas-tax holiday may not make sense economically, it could help McCain politically. [Salon]
• Richard Johnson reports that “Money Honey” Maria Bartiromo is sounding the alarm about the effects of an Obama presidency on the middle class. Obama plans on raising the income taxes on “people who make over $200,000. That’s not rich. So it’s actually going to impact more people than you may think.” [NYP]
• Chuck Todd and friends see a lot of Hillary Clinton in Obama’s speech yesterday, with the focus on the middle class, the “dash of populism,” and the “Clintonian theme of fairness.” [First Read/MSNBC] —Dan Amira
For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.