By Roger Stone

What Would Nixon Do?
With eight days left before the 2008 election and John McCain behind, perhaps it is time to ask the question - What Would Nixon Do? After all Richard Nixon was on five national Republican tickets from 1952 to 1972. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the electoral map as well as a comprehensive understanding of the politics of the 50 states. Every Republican presidential campaign since 1968 has essentially used the Nixon playbook - that is until John McCain ran for President. Nixon understood that a presidential campaign had a natural rhythm and that criticism of your opponent should start early, and begin mildly, slowly ratcheting up the rhetoric over time so that harsh attacks in the final days did not seem shrill or desperate. A review of the closing weeks of the 1960 campaign against Kennedy would show that both candidates were calling their opponent a liar. By coddling Obama early in the campaign, McCain has essentially precluded effective attacks on his opponent in the closing weeks because such attacks will sound desperate and nasty. William Ayres should have become a household word - four months ago. Obama's association with pro-Palestinian thugs, Farrakhan and Jesse Jackson, should have been issues - four months ago. Obama's dealings with convicted felon Tony Rezko should have been an issue - four months ago. Raising them now-as Dick Morris recommends-would only be seen as guilt by association. Nixon also understood that an effective campaign had to be centered on the communication of one central idea and that all campaign thrusts and arguments have to be built around furthering that central idea. The campaign needs one narrative. There is nothing wrong with a candidate re-inventing himself before a campaign (Nixon in 1968, Clinton in 1996) but you can't re-invent yourself five times during the campaign as McCain has tried to do. Last week I got a mailing from the Florida Republican Party blasting Obama's association with Tony Rezko and the shady real-estate deal the convicted felon did for Obama. The problem is that the message was totally out of synch with McCain's Florida TV ads and the message in his Florida public appearances. What genius thought this up? A total waste of money. Any experienced campaign operative knows that your TV, radio, voter mail and public appearances need to be in coordinated unison-but no one in the McCain campaign seems to be familiar with this. Now Joe the plumber has handed McCain that central issue he needs which is the redistribution of wealth that Obama has planned for after the election. Nixon would have declined to debate the fine points of Obama's tax cut proposal simply by pointing out that Obama, Reid and Pelosi are the "Axis of Taxes" and no Obama tax cut plan would bare any resemblance to today's proposal once the Democratic Congress got a hold of it. Nixon understood political labeling. He once said his U.S. Senate opponent, Helen Gahagan Douglas, was "the pink lady" and "pink right down to her underwear." "Yes, we can" is an appearingslogan. "Country First" says little and could have been used by Obama. Nixon would have tattooed the "Axis of Taxes" on the Democrats. The Nixon playbook would make more effective use of Governor Sarah Palin. In the immediate excitement of her selection, Palin should have been made available to local media in secondary markets in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Missouri, Virginia, and Florida. Local and State reporters are less cynical than national reporters are and more grateful for an interview with a national figure. Palin has never been allowed to take her critics on-Agnew style. Her popularity with base Republicans would have allowed her to be very effective on the attack-if McCain campaign aides, like Tucker Eskew, would stop feeding her pabulum and give her some red-meat lines of attack. Nixon also understood that the public attention span was short which largely explained his ability to rehabilitate himself after his resignation of the Presidency in 1974. While it is fine for McCain and Palin to continually refer to the Arizona Senator as a "Maverick," they both make the mistake of assuming that voters are aware of those specific instances where McCain stood up to the political establishment and his own party; they are not. The campaign needed to stress McCain's opposition to the conduct of the war in Iraq, his demand for the firing of Republican Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his opposition to Bush policy on torture, and his efforts to cut wasteful Bush Administration defense spending. Neither McCain nor Palin has taken on the 'pointy headed, Ivy league Hollywood-Manhattan- Georgetown elites' who have created a caricature of Governor Palin and who are largely responsible for the Wall Street melt-down. Senator Joe Biden authored the law that makes it impossible for a middle class family to declare bankruptcy, to the benefit of the big banks. Do you think Nixon, or any capable political professional, would have missed this line of attack? There is no doubt that the financial collapse hurt McCain's campaign and boosted Obama. Yet Nixon would have made Chuck Schumer, Barney Frank and Obama Advisors, and former Fannie Mae big shots Jim Johnson and Frank Raines, wear it - blasting them for the social engineering which gave mortgages to poor people and minorities who couldn't afford them. In fact McCain should have announced that his Attorney General, Rudy Giuliani, would send the entire Fannie Mae crew to jail. Of course, Nixon would never have put a lobbyist with scant campaign experience in charge of his campaign, nor would he allow warring factions to decide who could and could not be in the campaign. Had Nixon wanted Mike Murphy in his campaign he would have had him and fired anyone who objected. The 37th President also understood that a campaign needed to build to a crescendo before Election Day, peaking the day before the vote. In 1996 Bob Dole, significantly behind Clinton, made momentous ground in the final days to post a respectable loss which did little damage to the party. The intensity of Dole's final herculean effort is forgotten but he came on strong in the final days. If Nixon was with us today his most important piece of advice would be "never give up." In politics a week is a life time. The Electorate remains volatile, voters are still not quite sold on Obama, and it isn't over 'til they count the votes.