Hey, big spender

HEY, BIG SPENDER…. During Friday night’s debate, McCain repeatedly went after Obama for proposing policies the nation can’t afford. Today, in a new ad, the Obama campaign returns the favor.

The new ad, which is scheduled to reach airwaves today, shows McCain telling a crowd, presumably about Sarah Palin, “I can’t wait to introduce her to the big spenders in Washington.” The voice-over says, “Big spenders, like John McCain. McCain’s tax plan means another $3 trillion in debt. His plan to privatize Social Security — another trillion. Tax credits sent to insurance companies, yet another trillion. So as we borrow from China to fund his spending spree, ask yourself: can we afford John McCain?”

I like the spot, in part because I’d like to see more talk about Social Security in the campaign. I also like the way in which the ad redefines the word “spending,” to include conservative ideas that don’t usually get characterized this way (Obama wants to “spend” on healthcare; McCain wants to “spend” on tax cuts for millionaires).

But I’ve also noticed that the Obama campaign has been hitting, with varying degrees of subtlety, the notion of tying McCain to risk. Yesterday in Colorado, riffing off recent reports about McCain’s affinity for casinos, Obama said, “I read the other day that Senator McCain likes to gamble. He likes to roll those dice. And that’s okay. I enjoy a little friendly game of poker myself every now and then. But one thing I know is this — we can’t afford to gamble on four more years of the same disastrous economic policies we’ve had for the last eight.”

For months, the right pushed the notion that voting for Obama is “risky.” Lately, the Obama campaign seems to be flipping this on its head — Obama is the safe, steady, reliable choice; it’s McCain that’s a gamble voters can’t afford. Interesting.

What’d you think of the ad?

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Steve Benen

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.