How McCain Could Have Won
By Bryan Caplan
Yesterday my RA, Brian Blase, made the smartest point about political strategy that I’ve heard all year. In fact, if Blase were McCain’s right-hand man instead of mine, the Republican candidate’s probability of victory would be about 40% instead of less than 10%.
Blase’s magic bullet is simple: McCain should have opposed the bailout. There was a lot of popular resentment of it; it would have put a mile’s distance between McCain and Bush’s failures; it would have given McCain a great populist issue to ride; and it would have put Obama in the awkward position of defending Bush to the country. Even though the public wanted to “do something,” McCain could easily have screamed “Yea, but not this!” from the rooftops – and people would have listened.
The main counter-argument: If McCain had opposed the bailout, it might not have passed – making it much harder to campaign against it. Indeed, Obama might have seen the trap and opposed the bailout, too, making it even harder for McCain to make the bailout his central issue. I wouldn’t dismiss these possibilities. But even if they came to pass, an anti-bailout McCain would have had better chances than he does today.