McCain to push a pro-gridlock message

MCCAIN TO PUSH A PRO-GRIDLOCK MESSAGE…. The campaign that changes its pitch on a nearly daily basis is about to change its pitch again. The new argument is pretty straightforward: if voters elect Obama, there will be a Democratic president working with a Democratic Congress.

In making the case, Republicans acknowledge, McCain is caught in a bind. The argument that they think may best resonate with independents is the one that calls upon them to make an issue out of a party label McCain has worked elsewhere to shrug off.

“That argument is a bank shot,” said McCain strategist Charlie Black. “We’re reminding them that by considering Obama they’re delivering a monopoly to liberal Democrats.”

Yesterday, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham introduced McCain at a rally in this St. Louis suburb as “the best check and balance you can find to tell Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi not to raise your taxes and grow the government.” Over the last week, McCain has regularly declared that Obama is “planning with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to raise taxes, increase spending, and concede defeat in Iraq.”

Advisers say that McCain will begin marketing divided government more directly in coming days as part of a summation targeted at undecided independents.

As arguments go, I suppose McCain has offered worse, but there are a few drawbacks to this.

First, “vote for gridlock” isn’t exactly a compelling pitch. As the argument goes, voters should support McCain, not because he’s right, but because he’ll fight with Congress. In other words, if you’re not tired of partisan spats and a dysfunctional Washington, McCain wants to deliver a few more years of it.

Second, McCain may find this hard to believe, but Obama’s policy agenda is actually pretty popular. By running as the pro-gridlock candidate, McCain is effectively telling voters, “If you vote for Obama, he’ll be in a position to do all of the things he’s promising to do.” Given that a majority of Americans support a middle-class tax cut, ending the war in Iraq, a comprehensive energy policy, and universal healthcare, the message may not resonate as much as McCain might hope.

As it turns out, McCain may end up with this message by default — nothing else has worked. The smears aren’t connecting, and McCain’s policy agenda, such as it is, isn’t exactly winning voters over. A pro-gridlock appeal is arguably the only card that hasn’t already been played.