Will McCain’s Rick Davis Scandal Stick?

By
Mark Ruffalo
Mark Ruffalo Photo: Getty Images

Let the war continue! Just a few days after the New York Times reported on the ties between Rick Davis, John McCain's campaign manager, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they're back at it again. This time, the paper (and also the Washington Post, Newsweek, Roll Call — everybody!) says Davis and his lobbying firm had been paid by Freddie all the way up until last month. This story sound boring? It kind of is! But making it more interesting is the tough spot the McCain campaign finds itself in. First, McCain had denied on Sunday that Davis had anything to do with Fannie and Freddie for a few years, and welcomed anyone to examine the record for themselves. Also embarrassing is that the McCain campaign has recently run ads attacking Obama's relationship with the mortgage giants; they weren't false, but look hypocritical now. And of course this all comes at a time when voters' preference for Barack Obama's position on the economy is pushing him ahead in the polls. So how bad is this really for McCain?

• Ben Smith calls the McCain campaign's response to today's story an "extended non-denial," since their statement calls into question the paper's motives but doesn't "dispute … the actual news in the story: the $15,000 monthly payments from Freddie Mac." At this point in the race, "the campaign seeks to escalate this into an argument with the Times, rather than a conversation about Davis's ties." [Politico]

• Steve Benen thinks that, given the false denials and the attacks on Obama, "it's hard to see how McCain keeps Rick Davis on as campaign manager." He'll have an excuse, at least — that Davis misled him. But either way, McCain is now "in a very awkward position." [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Chuck Todd and friends points out that McCain knew it was a risk when he put "two of Washington's more well-known power players — Rick Davis and Charlie Black — at the top of his campaign pyramid." Fortunately for McCain, his "brand is better established than Davis or Black." [First Read/MSNBC]

• Kevin Drum suggests we "concede that Fannie and Freddie were bipartisan clusterfucks and just call it even as far as the campaigns are concerned." But Davis still needs to come clean about "what his firm was doing for its $15,000 a month or else he needs to provide a plausible explanation for why his firm continued to receive that sum for doing nothing." [Mother Jones]

• Michael Tomasky believes this is a "terrible, terrible story for McCain" and "may be the biggest political story of the campaign." Not only was someone lying — either Davis or McCain — but McCain had been "going around putting lobbyists, specifically for F & F, at the heart of the whole [Wall Street] problem." Consequently, he has "trouble seeing" McCain keeping Davis on. [Guardian]

• Andrew Sullivan says McCain seemed to have "no clue" about Davis's ties, and asks, rhetorically, if "we really want an out-of-it president surrounded by corporate lobbying sleazeballs." [Atlantic]

• Noam Scheiber opines that if "you're [a] GOP operative with a lucrative lobbying business, you probably want to lay off attacking a Democrat for connections to a firm that skews Democratic," because the Times' sources on today's story seem like they were looking for payback. [New Republic]

• Jennifer Rubin suspects "there is a cat and mouse game going on. The Grey Lady comes up with wacky allegations from obviously biased sources" and the McCain campaign lets it go to print before pointing "out it is demonstrably false." It is "hard to argue" against the McCain campaign's complaint that "the Times gotcha pieces all go one way." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Jake Tapper thinks "maybe today's news partly explains Mr. Schmidt's jeremiad against the New York Times" earlier this week. [Political Punch/ABC News]

• Josh Marshall believes that the McCain campaign may be telling the truth when it says Davis hasn't been paid by his lobbying firm, but "at this point with Davis and the campaign caught in so many different lies, do they really have any credibility to make such claims absent actual evidence?" In addition, the owner of a company doesn't "have to draw compensation today to reap benefits from the company's current success and profits." [Talking Points Memo]

Related: Ken Layne and Ben Smith on Being ‘In the Tank’ and Why McCain’s So Resilient
McCain’s War Against the Gray Lady: A Timeline

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.