McCain Passes on Opportunity to Introduce New Solutions on Economy; Obama Makes Him Pay

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Today, another misstep for the McCain campaign. How much will it hurt the candidate?

Just about everyone is suggesting John McCain find a more effective way to address the American people’s current economic insecurity. But instead of starting the week with a concerted effort on that front, the campaign decided over the weekend that it would decline to unveil any new ideas. Reached for comment, spokesman Tucker Bounds said, “We do not have any immediate plans to announce any policy proposals outside of the proposals that John McCain has announced.” McCain’s top policy man Douglas Holtz-Eakin could only add, “I have no comment on anything, to anybody.”

The Obama campaign is determined to make them pay for their inaction. This morning, it unveiled a “rescue plan for the middle class” that is essentially a bailout for the rest of us. To create jobs, Obama proposes to (1) give companies a $3,000 refundable tax credit for every job they create in America; (2) eliminate the capital gains taxes for small businesses; and (3) finance public works projects that the campaign estimates will save or create one million jobs.

But the plan doesn’t stop there. It seeks to extend unemployment insurance for an additional 13 weeks. It reforms the bankruptcy code to remove impediments to broader mortgage restructurings. It includes a 90-day foreclosure moratorium (a plan first proposed by Hillary Clinton many months ago). It marks billions for state and municipal fiscal relief, including loans for entities like California struggling with the credit crisis. It even gets down to the nuts and bolts, offering help with high heating prices and a plan to permit small withdrawals from retirement accounts without penalties. You can see the whole plan here [pdf].

In a recent poll, voters said they see Obama as more in touch with the economic problems of everyday people. It wasn’t close: 58 percent picked Obama as better on the question; just 28 percent picked McCain. Monday’s plan, should it achieve significant exposure on the cable networks or in the major papers, will likely cement that perception and worsen McCain’s electoral problems. It is a prospect the McCain campaign must dread.

Update: A reader writes in and speculates that McCain is setting the table for a surprise announcement at Wednesday’s debate. Clearly, his standard approach isn’t working: McCain did nothing particularly special in both the first and second debates and viewers said Obama won resounding victories. So is McCain saving a new economic platform for the final debate? We’ll know Wednesday night.

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