I think this puts it about as plainly as possible as to why Bill Ayers, as an issue for Obama, has no traction:

“His larger point, which has some truth, is that the GOP has only been able to make culture-war politics work when they’ve been able to link those themes to real issues of jobs, safety, schools, and so on. By this standard, he expects any dedicated Obama-Ayers push to founder on the shoals of its own irrelevance.”

And I think it’s related to:

“I think there’s probably a pretty interesting story to be told about how Republicans have lost the younger vote so badly…. I think at some point the wingnuts stopped having a conversation with the country and started having a conversation amongst themselves. It makes sense to them, but is gibberish to to the rest of us.”

I was thinking about these sorts of things when I watched an excerpt from McCain’s recent Albuquerque speech. His argument pretty much went like this: you want change -> you know who I am -> you don’t know who Obama is. 

See the problem here?

Actually, it’s both simpler and more complicated than that. John McCain’s campaign sucks. I don’t think that can be discounted. He has an unpopular view on Iraq, yet it’s the only issue they seem to think they have an advantage on; he’s ceded the issue of Afghanistan at a point when the war there is going badly; he couldn’t get his own party together on the bailout bill and may have torpedoed the original agreement, which he then followed by blinking when Obama wanted to debate; his campaign admits that they can’t talk about what voters claim is most important to them; his VP nominee is such a joke she’s single-handedly saved Saturday Night Live. Oh, and he always comes across as a dick–like George W. Bush without the charm.

And now he wants to completely blow up employer-funded health care and pay for it by cutting Medicare. Maybe you think that’s a good idea; maybe you think Obama’s plan is mushy and vague. But, in the midst of an economic meltdown, his timing is a bit off.

So I’m hesitant to read too much into Obama’s recent jump in the polls. Congressional races will tell us a bit more about larger shifts in the electorate. But when people try to tie poll movement to complex electoral shifts on the fly, it’s at least worth keeping in mind that the simplest explanation in most circumstances is that someone screwed something up.

There’s a reason that Obama is getting compared to both Reagan and FDR–he seems confident in the midst of crisis, while McChaos’s campaign has been growing exponentially feckless. That’s part of why the Ayers strategy is so pathetic–unlike the Swift Boat attack, there’s no organization, no tenuous historical argument. Calling it a “strategy” is an insult to effective ratfucking. It reeks of desperation, and while it might be inevitably desperate, it didn’t have to reek.

That, to me, is the biggest surprise: the Republican operatives have forgotten how to play. Maybe it’s because the failure of the current president has stopped the money train, but I really think they’re just panicking, and it shows, and it’s killing them.

Update: Josh Marshall has a thoughtful analysis. His point that the left has caught up to the right in terms of having an effective online “media” of its own is salient, I think. With all the emphasis on Kos et al it’s easy to forget that Instapundit, Powerline, and Red State used to be subtly influential in ways they aren’t now. Why? I think they’ve been partisan at the expense of their own party, but it might just be the inevitable decline of empires.