Where to John?

Jon Chait has a post up examining what McCain could do going forward:

Back in July, when Steve Schmidt took over the McCain campaign, I predicted that if he continued to trail, another shakeup would happen before the election, and McCain would “try to recreate the magic of the 2000 campaign.” They laughed at me, said I was crazy. McCain did take some momentum in late summer and early fall, but now he’s well behind. In a bloggingheads segment last week, Ramesh Ponnuru asked me for my advice. I said that McCain should apologize for the nasty campaign, fire Schmidt, and run a media-accessible, 2000-style campaign. Ramesh replied, “Hmm, well, not gonne happen.”

Who’s laughing now, Ramesh? Bill Kristol today urges McCain to (essentially) fire his campaign staff and run a media-friendly, issue-oriented campaign. Kristol advises McCain to “volunteer a mild mea culpa about the extent to which the presidential race has degenerated into a shouting match” at Wednesday’s debate. It’s not clear if Kristol’s advice is being followed, but McCain is retooling his message dramatically in a way that may or may not comport with Kristol’s advice. (And my advice, though I suspect the McCain campaign takes Kristol’s advice more seriously than mine.

If we’re going to play this game, I think the first thing McCain needs to do is decide whether he’s running for re-election to the Senate in 2010. If he isn’t, then he really has no short term implications to worry about, but if he is, he’s going to need to put significant work into rebuilding his image with the elite media. John McCain’s strength has never been with the party, the movement, or even with voters, it’s always been his relationship with the media and his never ending ability to show up at all the right moments on the talk show circuit. In exchange, the media crafted a narrative around him that basically made him the most popular politician in the country, something that’s gone out the window these days.

So here’s my advice to McCain; accept that you’re most likely going to lose the election. Believe me, I know that’s never an easy thing, and it’s not totally outside the realm of possibility that events could change in the net 3 weeks, but as it stand you just picked a bad hand to play. The sitting President is both a member of your party and the most unpopular in history, the economy, not your pet issue to be sure, is dominating the news in a fashion that really makes people want to elect Democrats, and you’ve stacked your campaign with amateurs who have dug a hole you’re not likely to get out of. So here’s my 3 step program to helping you regain your, frankly undeserved, reputation with Cokie Roberts:

1. Fire Steve Schmitt, and most everyone else at the top. Rick Davis should have been tossed weeks ago, Nicole Wallace and Tucker Bounds have been made into punchlines by your message department, and Schmitt always was a bit of an amateur who never really even learned the art of Rovian politics, much like a baseball hitter trying to emulate Ken Griffey Jr’s swing but doing it all with his shoulders. Toss everyone out, and do whatever you have to do to get John Weaver and, maybe, Mike Murphy to come back and get to work restoring your image.

2. Talk to the press. A lot.

3. Dump Sarah Palin. Using the findings in the Troopergate report, you should stand up and demand that Sarah Palin withdraw from the position of nominee for Vice President, and cancel all of her campaign appearances in the meantime. Do it to show you’re dead serious about ethics reform and higher standards or something. Yeah, you’re going to endure a lot of “well wy did you pick her in the first place”s, but we’re under the assumption that you’re going to lose anyway, remember?

And as an added plus, you’d be The Maverick again overnight.