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I’m not sure that the McCain campaign has a winning campaign hand to play on the economy. But consider this. Between the three debates thus far, the Obama-Biden ticket has used the phrase “middle class” 21 times**. McCain-Palin have used it twice. This according to the New York Times.

Date             Obama/Biden   McCain/Palin
September 26th 3 0
October 2nd (VP) 12 2
October 7th 6 0
Total 21 2

The National Review guys have been on this for a while, but this would be a different election (okay, maybe not that different, but a little different) if McCain were proposing to cut taxes for the middle class by more than Barack Obama. Come to think of it actually, is it too late? I can certainly think of less likely last-minute stunts than some sort of massive, Filene’s Basement tax cut.

p.s. The other term conspicuously absent from last night’s debate? “Maverick”.

** sometimes “middle-class” — with a dash — in the transcript.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.

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