As Economic Crisis Peaked, Tide Turned Against McCain The presidential race entered a critical three-day period in September when the economic crisis cast the candidates' differences in sharp relief. On Sept. 24, with financial markets verging on panic and the economy thudding, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama placed a call to rival John McCain. He wanted to suggest they issue a joint statement on proposed financial-bailout legislation. As hours went by without a return call, Obama aides emailed each other, asking, "Have you heard anything?" One answered: "The McCain camp is cooking up something." Later that day, Sen. McCain went before the cameras to say he was suspending his campaign to focus on helping craft the legislation. "What does that mean -- suspend the campaign?" Sen. Obama asked his staff on the trail, according to aides. At a news conference in Florida, he said, "It's going to be part of the president's job to be able to deal with more than one thing at once." Later that day, Sen. McCain went before the cameras to say he was suspending his campaign to focus on helping craft the legislation. "What does that mean -- suspend the campaign?" Sen. Obama asked his staff on the trail, according to aides. At a news conference in Florida, he said, "It's going to be part of the president's job to be able to deal with more than one thing at once." Beyond the economic tumult, troubles in the McCain camp had contributed to the Republican's extraordinary move. These included a shaky performance by his running mate in a mock debate and an admonition to Sen. McCain by some major donors to quit blasting Wall Street and focus on solutions. Suspending the campaign, one McCain adviser recalls hoping, would let them "push the reset button." The next day, while conservative House Republicans maneuvered behind the scenes to block the bailout bill, Sen. McCain sat largely silent at a crisis summit at the White House. Afterward, Sen. Obama called his staff from his car: "I've never seen anything like this," he said, according to several aides. "Some of the Republicans are clueless. Bush and I were trying to convince them." The presidential candidates were essentially tied at the time, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed, with Sen. McCain just a point behind. But in the next few weeks, as the handling of the economic crisis overshadowed all other issues, Sen. Obama opened a 10-point lead. Although Sen. McCain began to gain some ground at the end, he never fully recovered from the pivotal late-September juncture. Sen. Obama's recipe for victory, of course, had many ingredients: a record $640 million haul of donations, a vast network of campaign workers, his stance against the Iraq war, his success in portraying his foe as heir to an unpopular president. But after a total of roughly $1 billion spent by the two candidates over 21 months, the campaign came down to the unexpected. Mark Salter, a longtime confidant of Sen. McCain, said, "The markets' collapse would have hurt no matter what we did, unless [Sen. McCain] had come out against the bailout" plan proposed by the Treasury, which many voters opposed as a rescue for Wall Street. "But he believed that would have been irresponsible and hurt the country." Heading into the general-election campaign in June, Sen. McCain had been in a good place. He had won the Republican nomination early enough to be rested and ready after the bitterly fought Obama-Clinton contest. But in a strategy session of five McCain advisers -- campaign manager Rick Davis, pollster Bill McInturff, strategist Steve Schmidt, ad-maker Fred Davis and strategist Greg Strimple -- the back and forth revealed a fundamental problem. Fred Davis posed a question designed to give the campaign a central focus: "Why should we elect John McCain?" Tellingly, after several hours of debate, the five couldn't reach a consensus. "Without an overriding rationale, our campaign necessarily turned tactical rather than strategic," one adviser recalls. "We focused more on why Obama should not be president, but much less on why McCain should be." By contrast, the Obama team hewed tightly to its original "framing theory," says David Axelrod, its chief strategist, who had worked with the Illinois Democratic senator for years. "From the start, we defined this election as about change versus more of the same." At their Chicago headquarters, Mr. Axelrod and campaign manager David Plouffe set out "seven pillars" the campaign must do well: the vice-presidential choice, the convention, a European trip to meet with heads of state and the four debates. As an afterthought, he added, "Of course, we'll have to handle the unexpected." Sen. McCain soon did the unexpected, picking Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. The Obama campaign watched her rousing performance at the Republican convention and focus groups assembled to test the voter reaction. Obama advisers couldn't believe what they were hearing. "Sarah Palin is one of us" was an oft-heard refrain. "She can help John McCain shake up Washington" was another common theme. Article cont. My high school history teacher taught us the Five P's - Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. John McCain's Campaign had no plan from the begining. He was a broken record talking about being a Vietnam Vet and POW. These things are honorable and I am grateful as a citizen that he fought for our country. But they do not make him qualified to be President. When his own campaign people couldn't think of a single reason the American people should elect him they started inventing lies and trying to dig up dirt on Senator Obama. They were grabbing at straws and that was the death knell for their campaign. Many people myself included were turned off by this negativity.