What Part of ‘It’s the Economy, Stupid’ Doesn’t McCain Understand?

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New Jets office in Florham Park, N.J. Photo: Getty Images

Today John McCain will seek to gain some traction on the economy with new policies aimed at seniors and investors. The plan includes proposals to cut capital-gains taxes, eliminate taxes on unemployment benefits, and lower taxes on seniors' retirement accounts, among other provisions. And while that's all very exciting, the question remains as to whether McCain can craft a clear economic message that's attractive to voters in the same way that Barack Obama, as John Heilemann writes this week, seems to have found a way to connect with "Joe Six-Pack." After promising over the weekend that he would announce a big new economic plan on Monday, McCain ended up giving a feisty, retooled stump speech instead. So while he will (we assume) produce his new plan today, it seems clear that McCain still has a struggle ahead of him.

• Jonathan Martin reports that the new plan will be "aimed at helping seniors and investors who are being hurt by the market volatility," but it's unclear whether "he focuses on any of this for the final three weeks." At the very least, it's "an acknowledgment that, for all the desire of some in the party to simply close out the election by savaging Obama, the political environment demands substance." [Politico]

• Marc Ambinder writes that McCain's plan could end up costing more than Obama's, but has more "targeted relief for seniors." Decreasing the tax on capital gains is "not exactly essential to getting the economy going in a year in which people do not have an awful lot of capital gains." [Atlantic]

• Chuck Todd and friends say that seniors, specifically "older white voters," which the economic plan is aimed at, "could be the final swing vote to focus on as we try and figure out exactly the contours of this race." If Obama can't win them over, "it's what keeps McCain in the game." [First Read/MSNBC]

• Dan Schnur says that "McCain continues to toggle back and forth between economic prescriptions and attacks on Barack Obama." But if McCain wants voters "to pay attention to his economic agenda" and "take him seriously as the steward of their financial security, then he must concentrate his energies singularly and wholeheartedly on these matters." [Campaign Stops/NYT]

• Mark Z. Barabak and Maeve Reston say that "[e]ven when he pivots to the economy," as opposed to Obama's ties to William Ayers, for example, "McCain has seemed less than sure-footed, veering between a laissez-faire approach and a call for more government intervention." [LAT]

• Chris Cillizza writes that new polling data "suggests that McCain's own reaction to the economic crisis … has done much to erode his position in the contest." Voters say McCain hasn't led on the economy and that they have little confidence in "McCain's ability to handle financial issues." If McCain is to win this election, he "must — and we can't stress this enough — find a way to reclaim (or claim) the economic issue as his own." [Fix/WP]

• David Von Drehle notes that what was supposed to be McCain's "big relaunching" yesterday turned out to be, "in terms of substance, a collection of things McCain has been saying already — but this time said in a really gloomy, harrowing way." [Time]

• Steve Benen notes that "over the course of 72 hours, according to his own campaign, McCain had a new economic plan, didn't have a new economic plan, and does have a new economic plan" — almost as if "they're trying to look erratic." [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Jonathan Stein contends that not actually unveiling a new plan after saying he would "sent a strong signal that McCain either didn't appreciate the difficulties facing everyday folks, or didn't have any solutions for them." Stein suspects that whatever the cause of the miscommunication, McCain's economic-policy team was probably scrambling to come up with something for today. [MojoBlog/Mother Jones]

• Noam Scheiber agrees, sarcastically claiming that "you know the proposals he finally trots out will have been deeply considered, painstakingly constucted [sic], and elaborately fine-tuned," because McCain certainly wouldn't "just pull a bunch of ideas out of his back pocket because people were disappointed when he didn't retool the first time." [Stump/New Republic]

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.