As Hillary Clinton wanders the country chanting “No way, no how, no McCain (and no Palin)!” and Barack Obama starts running ads about how McCain is “dishonorable” and “can’t use a computer,” it’s clear the Democrats are venturing into GOP-strategy territory. They’re ginning up simple, memorable catchphrases and themes that are aimed at creating lingering wounds on their opponents where they are weakest. Today Joe Biden addressed a swing-state crowd in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, and delivered a new stump speech called “Bush 44,” which had a handful of new, memorable barbs. Here are the ones that leaped out at us:
• “Just as George Herbert Walker Bush was nicknamed ‘Bush 41’ and his son is nicknamed as ‘Bush 43,’ John McCain could easily become known as ‘Bush 44.’”
• “Friends, I could walk from here to Lansing, and I wouldn’t run into a single person who thought our economy was doing well, unless I ran into John McCain.”
• “What is John’s response to the state of the economy? Let me quote him: ‘A lot of this is psychological.’ Let me tell you something: Losing your job is more than a state of mind.”
• “When Senator McCain was subjected to unconscionable, scurrilous attacks in his 2000 primary campaign, I called him on the phone to ask what I could do. And now, some of the very same people and the tactics he once deplored his campaign now employs.”
• “The same campaign that once called for a town hall a week is now launching a low blow a day.”
• “The wheels have come off the straight talk express.”
The tricky thing is, Democrats just aren’t as good at this sort of thing as Republicans are. They don’t have the balls to push the boundary into audacity and cruelty. But it’s notable that after much anticipation, they’re finally using Biden as an attack dog. And it’s also notable that they’re re-honing their message on McCain, and not Sarah Palin, and on policies rather than media memes. Perhaps this week’s economic crisis really is the story line change they’ve been waiting for.