Wright redux?

WRIGHT REDUX?…. Way back in March, John McCain appeared on Fox News, and Sean Hannity practically begged McCain to attack Barack Obama over Jeremiah Wright. It didn’t work. After Hannity noted questions about the former pastor of Obama’s former church, the Fox News personality asked “Would you go to a church like that?” McCain responded, “Obviously, that would not be my choice. But I do know Sen. Obama. He does not share those views.”

That, in a way, should have effectively ended the story, but that obviously didn’t happen. The “issue” lingers, and the Republican Smear Machine is chomping at the bit to start making Wright the single most important issue in the campaign. McCain, according to most media accounts, has said it’s the one attack he won’t make.

That is, that was what McCain said last week. Now, all of a sudden, Wright might be on the table again.

John McCain’s campaign manager says he is reconsidering using Barack Obama’s relationship with Reverend Jeremiah Wright as a campaign issue during the election’s closing weeks.

In an appearance on conservative Hugh Hewitt’s radio program, Davis said that circumstances had changed since John McCain initially and unilaterally took Obama’s former pastor off the table. The Arizona Republican, Davis argued, had been jilted by the remarks of Rep. John Lewis, who compared recent GOP crowds to segregationist George Wallace’s rallies. And, as such, the campaign was going to “rethink” what was in and out of political bounds.

“Look, John McCain has told us a long time ago before this campaign ever got started, back in May, I think, that from his perspective, he was not going to have his campaign actively involved in using Jeremiah Wright as a wedge in this campaign,” he said late last week. “Now since then, I must say, when Congressman Lewis calls John McCain and Sarah Palin and his entire group of supporters, 50 million people strong around this country, that we’re all racists and we should be compared to George Wallace and the kind of horrible segregation and evil and horrible politics that was played at that time, you know, that you’ve got to rethink all these things. And so I think we’re in the process of looking at how we’re going to close this campaign. We’ve got 19 days, and we’re taking serious all these issues.”

Rick Davis has said a lot of blisteringly stupid things over the course of the campaign, but this might top them all. Davis wants to put Wright on the table because McCain’s losing, but he doesn’t have the courage to say so. He has to rationalize his craven decisions by blaming John Lewis, which is just pathetic, even by Rick Davis’ standards.

For what it’s worth, I think if McCain reverses course on this now, it’s likely to backfire. First, everyone in America has already heard all about Wright — voters who are going to base their vote on the former pastor of Obama’s former church decided a long time ago not to support Obama.

Second, the more McCain tries to move the campaign away from the economy, the more he cedes the one issue most on the minds of voters.

And third, pivoting to Wright in the final two weeks would reek of desperation, reinforce the “erratic” meme, and shrink McCain’s stature at the very moment he needs the opposite. I wouldn’t be especially surprised if the Obama campaign hopes McCain does go this route.

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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.