The Economic Thought of John McCain, Cont.

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James Fallows says he hasn't seen all the Republicans debate before last night and that Mitt Romney kicked ass:

McCain, Giuliani, and Huckabee all notably ill at ease when asked to say anything about the economy. (Huckabee: building two new lanes on I-95, Maine to Florida, as an energy saving measure???) When Romney asked Giuliani a specific question about how to deal with China, the answer reminded me of the way I would sound if asked to fill 90 seconds discussing my favorite fashion designers. McCain attempting to describe his economy policy by listing his advisors. (Jack Kemp?) The more the economy matters as The general election issue, the less this will cut it -- and the more Romney can use at least the veneer of his being able to discuss the issue.

Jack Kemp? It's fascinating that McCain is not only relying on this "some of my best friends have opinions about economic policy" but that he doesn't seem to have any idea who these people are or what it is they think. After all, former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin is also a senior economic policy advisor for McCain. Holtz-Eakin is a well-respected guy with mainstream cred. He's a traditional conservative and a big deficit hawk. Kemp is the complete reverse, the original legislative leader of the supply-side faction that came to dominate the GOP with its "less taxes, more tax revenue but in principle we should cut spending anyway for some reason" dogma.

When Mike Huckabee revealed his ignorance of foreign policy by proclaiming himself a Tom Friedman meets Frank Gaffney kind of guy on national security issues, he took big, big hits in the press. Will McCain suffer for similar flailing as he tries to establish an identity on economics? Somehow I doubt it, but like Fallows I think an inability to get a grip on this stuff is bound to catch up with him sooner or later.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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