If McCain's team is smart, it'll drop the vague promises of "Reform. Prosperity. Peace" and start hammering away about McCain's attempts to provide relief at the pump, whether it be through repealing federal gas taxes or actually tapping the U.S.'s own oil. McCain needs to dwell on specifics. There's no way he can win a war of generalities against Barack Obama and the latter's gift for pleasant-sounding low-calorie rhetoric. I'd buy "hope" and "change" from Obama. I'm not going to buy "sustainability" from McCain. (Could this be enough to placate defense-minded swing voters? I don't know.)
That's not to say such specifics won't open McCain up to criticism. Obama, of course, is jumping all over McCain's change of stance on offshore drilling and his tax-relief plans. "Much like his gas tax gimmick that would leave consumers with pennies in savings, opening our coastlines to offshore drilling would take at least a decade to produce any oil at all, and the effect on gasoline prices would be negligible at best since America only has three percent of the world's oil. ... It's another example of short-term political posturing from Washington, not the long-term leadership we need to solve our dependence on oil."
But the voter responds to simplified pocketbook issues -- not to finger-wagging lectures reminiscent of supposed intellectuals such as John Kerry. (Let's not forget the fact that if offshore drilling had been allowed 10 years ago, we wouldn't have to wait another 10 years.)
This could allow Team McCain some material with which to smack Obama around some. It's as simple as saying, "We're trying to give you immediate relief, but that mean old, out-of-touch, rich, egghead Barack Obama is stopping us." Or: "The U.S. has its own vast oil resources. Tapping that would bring down prices and cut our dependence on foreign oil. Barack Obama wants you to keep paying at the pump." Or: "The U.S. is the only country sitting on billions of barrels of its own oil yet refuses to use it. You pay the price."
Quick and dirty as those messages might be, it's a solid area of differentiation between Obama and McCain that doesn't have to do with the war in Iraq (not that McCain should shy away from that arena). Play the cards right, and Obama will be hoping another rumor about Michelle crops up so he can distract voters with his ongoing battle against "politics as usual."
But instead of that, we're left with this bit of vague treacle from McCain's team: