Last week, we were focused almost exclusively on John McCain’s low-road tactics as he tried to characterize Barack Obama as possibly too popular to be president. This week looks likely to revolve around an actual issue: energy. As Republicans stage a revolt in the darkened House of Representatives during the August recess to demand an emergency session for a vote on offshore drilling, Obama has indicated he may actually back the issue if it’s part of a bipartisan compromise on energy reform. Meanwhile, Obama is unveiling his energy plan in Michigan today and released a negative ad hitting McCain for his ties to the oil lobby. But while Obama would surely rather be discussing energy policy than his similarities to vacuous socialites, it’s clear the topic of gas prices may be an area where McCain right now has the upper hand.
• Peter Brown writes that the drilling issue “offers an opportunity to make [McCain] the candidate of change while branding Sen. Obama as the captive of the status quo by catering to environmentalists over the national interest,” thus undercutting “the central theme of Sen. Obama’s campaign.” [Political Perceptions/WSJ]
• Marc Ambinder sees Obama’s statements “as less of a shift and more as a gesture of sorts to the reality that the major cap and trade legislation next year that Congress will mark up … requires the participation of and compromise from the industry.” Oil companies believe they “ought to have more land/water to figure out where oil is and then tap those pools,” and Democrats are more likely to compromise on that point than windfall profit taxes. [Atlantic]
• Jake Tapper agrees that it’s “not quite a complete and utter reversal, but certainly a shift in tone and language, indicating a softening of his opposition and a recognition that energy legislation requires compromise.” [Political Punch/ABC News]
• Melinda Henneberger claims Obama “has taken flexibility too far, by selling out on offshore drilling.” Obama knows that offshore drilling won’t make a difference in gas prices, but “by even sorta backing new drilling, he is sending exactly the opposite message to the public, maintaining the fiction that there is no urgency to changing our ways.” How about explaining why gas prices won’t come down instead of just giving in to McCain’s attack ads? [XX Factor/Slate]
• The WSJ editorial board writes that after seeing “the polls move against them on energy,” Obama’s campaign is “now doing a modified, limited switcheroo to block any John McCain traction on the issue.” If Obama is really serious about drilling, “he’ll start to publicly lobby Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill to allow a vote on drilling when they return from their August recess.” [WSJ]
• Chuck Todd and friends say Obama probably can’t “break through” like McCain did last week, but “if he can control the message debate for a few days, it will be seen as a good week for Obama.” [First Read/MSNBC]
• Vaughn Ververs doesn’t think the ad is “game-changing,” but it “does signal a new willingness by the Obama camp to return the fire they’ve been taking for the better part of a week” and shows that “McCain appears to be getting some mileage on the issue of gas prices.” On offshore drilling, “Obama is proving adept at doing just enough to diffuse the situation without capitulating in any meaningful way.” [Horserace/CBS News]
• Ezra Klein doesn’t think the ad is very powerful, and it shows the Obama campaign thinks “McCain is hurting them on the offshore drilling issue.” [American Propsect]
• Jonathan Martin says the ad is Obama’s “first unprompted negative commercial,” one that “revolves around the notion that McCain will differ little from President Bush.” [Politico]
• Reid Wilson notes that in the past, “both parties have used gas and energy prices … during the Summer only to see it fade as a priority in the Fall (See, for example, 2006),” when gas prices drop. If gas prices drop once again this year, the issue may not be effective in November. [Politics Nations/RealClearPolitics] —Dan Amira
For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.