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Opportunity Cost

I think we have to give the Republicans a certain amount of credit for the creativity inherent in their “celebrity” attack on Barack Obama. As Carri Budoff Brown notes at The Politico, this is just about the first time a criticism of Barack Obama’s personality has penetrated from the Beltway and onto the late night talk shows.

The problem is, isn’t this a bit like that classic job interview situation where you ask what a candidate what his greatest weakness is and he gives you a completely facetious answer? You know what I’m talking about: “My greatest weakness? Sometimes I work too hard! Sometimes I care too much!”

Obama’s popular? (Over)confident? Voters may get the message — but is McCain really going to get their votes because of it?

I realize that the McCain campaign is going for something a little deeper here** — trying to portray Obama as an empty suit. But that was one of the singular least successful lines of argument for Hillary Clinton in the primaries — she employed it most aggressively in the run-up to the Wisconsin primary, trying to key off the Deval Patrick / plagiarism controversy, and wound up getting blown out.

Because McCain has higher favorables than Hillary Clinton, he probably has more leeway for attack politics. But is this really the best use of his attack chips?

** I emphatically do not buy that the ad has racial undertones.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.