Sometimes, when a sports team is down and it isn't really clear what to do, a desparate coach will call for a trick play. If that trick play pays off, then the coach may be tempted to go back to the well again--and gets caught.
During the Republican National Convention, the McCain campaign managed to pull off a major trick play. By postponing their convention for a day due to Hurricane Gustav, the Republicans were able to disinvite George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The RNC, freed from the spectre of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, went on to be a success in terms of providing McCain with a bounce.
But that bounce had already evaporated when last week kicked off a week long series of catastrophes for the McCain campaign. McCain said the economy was fine on Monday, in crisis on Tuesday, opposed bailout of AIG on Wednesday, supported bailout of AIG on Thursday, and generally looked like an ass on Friday. McCain's poll numbers plunged. What to do?
But that wasn't McCain's only problem. Another trick play he'd made was going bad. Sarah Palin wasn't panning out the way McCain hoped. McCain didn't vet her properly, he'd taken the word of others, and had been let down by their judgment. Palin was fine (even quite good) in front of a tame audience, reading a prepared script from a teleprompter, But it has become increasingly clear that Palin can't think on her feet, and can't answer unexpected questions from reporters. Her interview with ABC was bad, her interview with Fox News was staged, and the McCain campaign began hiding Palin from the press: not allowing questions or even access.
Things were looking bad for Team McCain. What to do? What to do? The answer came at once: let's run another trick play.
Seizing on the financial crisis that was killing his campaign as an excuse, McCain declared that he would "suspend" his campaign and would not debate Barack Obama this Friday. Instead, he said he would debate Obama the following Thursday, forcing the cancellation of the vice presidential debate, which could be rescheduled for "later." Zing! Problem solved! No one would get to see Palin debate Joe Biden, which would be a disaster if the video below is any indication:
She blew the question about Rick Davis, standing there unable to answer. Pressed by Couric, Palin can't give an example of McCain's support for greater regulation. She completely blows the last question. She's faking it: she has no idea what she's talking about.
Palin can show up for her debate or she can try to back out: either way, Joe Biden will be debating an empty chair.