Pick An Issue, Any Issue

Ruffini is worried about McCain:

Message wise, McCain seems to be paralyzed by indecision between multiple different ways to get at Obama -- is he a phony? a naif? too liberal? There has been nothing as disciplined as the Kerry flip flopper meme.

The body language I hear from the campaign is that Obama will not be defeated on issues, but on attributes, mostly stuff like the Clark kerfuffle when they can scuff the other side up with their own hypocrisy.

I'm a big fan of attributes and meta-narratives as the centerpiece of campaign strategy, but those attributes must be tied to some semblance of a winning position on the issue landscape. And especially in an election year, a candidate's advocacy for a specific issue position can change the dynamics of the issue for the better. So, in 2004, Bush's personal decisiveness contrasted with Kerry's indecisiveness in a time of war. That message was not introduced in a vacuum.

McCain must decide to engage on the issue landscape and win a key battle on it in some fashion, either by outright winning or by bringing it close enough that McCain's reputation can seal the deal. If McCain appears out of synch with the issue landscape, none of his leadership attributes will matter.