BOB DOLE ’08…. About a year ago, during the Republican primaries and long before it was clear who would emerge as the party’s presidential nominee, it was common to hear John McCain’s conservative critics equate him with Bob Dole.

Today, the New York Times’ Adam Nagourney picks up on the same tack.

Senator John McCain’s campaign events were once free-wheeling journeys marked by flashes of humor, candor and arch observations from the candidate about presidential politics — and John McCain…. Not these days.

As Mr. McCain worked his way through Florida and Ohio as the Republican Party’s nominee for president this week, he was a candidate transformed. The Arizona Republican unsmilingly raced through a series of relatively brief speeches, reading often from a Teleprompter, and served up a diet of the kind of sound-bite attacks that he used to dismiss with an eye-roll. […]

These days, he sounds less like his old self than Bob Dole, another senator who ran for president in 1996, sounded in the closing days of his campaign — speaking louder or repeating statements that he thinks might be overlooked.

“The American economy is in a crisis! It’s in a crisis!”

McCain does have a habit of communicating the exact same way, taking phrases he thinks are important, and repeating them, a few times, hoping they’ll be more persuasive that way.

The McCain campaign no doubt hopes to avoid the Dole comparisons, but the parallels are pretty obvious — both were quite old during their campaigns, both were seriously injured during service in a war, both ran for president more than once, both have well-known nasty streaks, both are long-time Washington insiders, and both launched campaigns because they thought it was “their turn” to be president. This didn’t work out well for Dole; we’ll learn soon enough whether McCain meets a similar fate.

Regardless, if the Dole=McCain meme catches on, it would be very unhelpful to the Republican ticket.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.