Mr. McCain’s campaign is now under the leadership of members of President Bush’s re-election campaign, including Steve Schmidt, the czar of the Bush war room that relentlessly painted his opponent, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, as effete, elite, and equivocal through a daily blitz of sound bites and Web videos that were carefully coordinated with Mr. Bush’s television advertisements. The run of attacks against Mr. Obama over the last couple of weeks have been strikingly reminiscent of that drive, including the Bush team’s tactics of seeking to make campaigns referendums on its opponents — not a choice between two candidates — and attacking the opponent’s perceived strengths head-on.
For a long time, Republicans inside and outside the campaign have griped privately about the need to find their storyline. And there have been fierce debates about how to do it. Some of McCain's former advisers have said that McCain needs to stick to his historic strengths, his maverick, straight-talking approach, which appeals to the political center. Others have urged McCain to charge at Obama head on. If the race is going to be about Obama, they reason, then Obama must be taken down. Now the debate has come to an end, and the more aggressive approach has clearly won out.