Schaller: Let's move to an exit question. Put yourself momentarily in the shoes of [McCain campaign manager] Steve Schmidt or [Obama campaign manager] David Axelrod. You've got three months left. You've got VP picks and conventions and debates and ads to create and circulate. Give me one piece of advice you'd give to each candidate for Obama to open up a lead again or for McCain to keep it close as it moves toward November.
Murray: If I were David Axelrod, what I would focus all my energies on is really to shine at the debates. These will be a big moment. I would have as much preparation as possible and really be able to draw contrasts there. One thing that's interesting, as we all saw over 20-plus debates during the Democratic primary season, Barack Obama often wasn't the best debater. At the same time, he did have a lot more practice than John McCain, particularly in one-on-one debates. You saw him have three debates with Hillary Clinton. I think to shine at the debate, I don't know what kind of advice or how, but that'd be the one thing I'd focus on.
And then for the McCain campaign, I just go back and continue -- to use a boxing metaphor -- continue to bearhug Obama. To really make this race all about him, to really focus all the energy they can on him. I do think that in some respects, the Britney/Paris ads, the trying to really set the campaign's agenda, while it might end up backfiring in the long run, is probably as good of a tactic as you can have now, when most Americans are really going to judge this presidential election on whether they want to have Barack Obama as president or not.
Ginsberg: For my old buddy Steve Schmidt, I think he has a genuine American hero for a candidate, and he needs to reinforce every day and every way that that is true and, at the same time, draw the contrast with Barack Obama as not ready to lead. Just too inexperienced. And more than anything else, I think that John McCain as a candidate has shown a weakness for not staying on message consistently. If there's one thing that the McCain campaign has to do to make the overarching strategy work, it's to stay on message consistently -- that's true of the debates, Mark's absolutely right about that, but it's also true with the daily campaign appearances.
For David Axelrod, I think they have to pick a number of issues and events that show that Obama is ready to lead. That includes the debates to be sure, but also substantive issues and personality traits as well. And above all else, what I think they're doing well -- and the story that never gets reported on before the elections but gets talked about a lot in exit polls and the day-after analysis -- is the organization. Make sure that your organization is well-funded and really out there expanding the electorate and bringing in new voters to the process. That's the story that doesn't get seen and reported on as you follow what the candidates do publicly on a daily basis, but boy, can that make a difference in a 3-, 4-, or 5-point national race.
Edsall: I think that McCain has sort of begun a message of Obama as an elitist, but to make it really work, you have to show that the liberal elitist is actually going to cost the average guy money or a job. That the elitist is going to tilt money or benefits away from regular working people -- i.e., whites -- and towards special-interest groups and the well-to-do. That's all the resources of government, not just money. That's the very nasty process Republicans have done well with in the past, and I think McCain is going to have to do that in a more effective way that goes well beyond Britney Spears.
I think the reverse is true for Obama. He's got to put some detail to his rhetoric. You have to be a candidate who is going to make life better at a time the country is having real economic difficulties and may face much worse ones in the future. You can't be highfalutin, in a sense. He's got to come down from the mountain to the people. That's my two cents for today.