The economy isn’t going away

THE ECONOMY ISN’T GOING AWAY…. The Washington Post had a widely-read item yesterday about the McCain campaign’s intention to drag the campaign even deeper into the gutter. According to McCain aides, the goal is to shift the public’s attention away from substantive issues, most notably the economy, which have put McCain on the defensive. Greg Strimple, one of McCain’s top advisers, said the campaign is “looking forward to turning a page on this financial crisis.” Another senior Republican operative said, “There’s no question that we have to change the subject here.”

Today, the New York Times has another good item, summarizing the political landscape, and noted that the McCain campaign really seems to believe they can change the subject.

Mr. McCain’s advisers said their hope was that the issue of the economy would recede somewhat from the public consciousness, now that Congress has passed a bailout plan, and open the way to try to turn the contest back into a referendum on Mr. Obama’s credentials.

Maybe I’m misreading public opinion, but this notion that economic concerns might “recede” over the next 30 days seems wildly unrealistic, if not fanciful. Before the crisis on Wall Street began in earnest, the economy was easily considered the top issue on the minds of voters. That hasn’t changed. For that matter, the crisis hasn’t gone away.

What’s more, there’s that other candidate, Barack Obama, who’ll probably have the audacity to keep talking about the economy, even when McCain is trying to “turn the page” on the issue. The nerve.

There has to be more to this, doesn’t there? When voters are feeling deep economic anxiety, and we’re in the midst of a financial crisis, the McCain campaign’s principal goal is to stop talking about the economy?

If Obama is really lucky, McCain will actually pursue this strategy.

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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.