SIGNIFICANT SHRINKAGE…. The nation’s GDP, as expected, has fallen into negative territory, with the worst economic contraction in seven years. It wasn’t a surprise, but that’s cold comfort under the circumstances.

The economy shrank at a 0.3 percent annual rate in the third quarter, its sharpest contraction in seven years as consumers cut spending and businesses reduced investment in the face of rising fears that recession was setting in.

The Commerce Department said the third-quarter contraction in gross domestic product was the steepest since the corresponding quarter in 2001 though it was slightly less than the 0.5 percent rate of reduction that Wall Street economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast.

The McCain campaign, presumably with a straight face, issued a statement that argued Barack Obama, by moving the country in an entirely different economic direction, “would accelerate this dangerous course.” The McCain campaign added, Obama is “change Americans cannot afford.”

I have to admit, this is rather amusing. The economic policies of the last eight years clearly haven’t worked. Obama is offering a new approach. McCain’s argument, in effect, is that we need to stick with what we know has already failed. If we can only keep doing what Bush has done, and wait for it to start working, everything will work out fine. Indeed, we “cannot afford” to go in a different direction.

Why anyone would find this persuasive is a mystery.

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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.