Here are my thoughts on how McCain/Palin could (should?) run their campaign until November 4, 2008.
Firstly, stay above the fray. I love that on the night of Obama's historic speech, McCain aired a congratulatory message to Obama. This was then followed by Palin's acknowledgment of Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton tremendous precedence for women in the campaign for the PotUS office. Even in his acceptance speech, McCain acknowledged Obama's patriotism. People respect and admire politicians who can stay above the bickering and especially those who can be gracious in doing so. All these counter charges regarding lipstick, pig, and fish should be abandoned immediately. They are petty.
Secondly, stay on message. The goal here is to draw into your camp independents. The four messages should be reform, security, energy and opportunity. The reform message should focus on reforming Washington politics. Here both McCain and Palin can really hammer their credentials as proven reformers. And what needs reformation is Washington, not the USA. People are tired of politics as usual in Washington and they want a positive message of reform. This is the change they want, not just change in general, and definitely not change for change sake. Reform also should mean reform of the Republican Party. Here they can talk about "Country over Party" but they have to work to make the Republican Party more attractive. As things stand, even if elected, they will have to work with a democratic congress thus no real Republican initiatives can be taken. The Republican Party must be reformed, rebranded, and resold to the public in order to regain the trust of the American public deliver a better America, and regain control of Congress.
On the security message highlights how you understand the risks abroad with islamofascism, the cost of actions, and the consequences of weakness. Also promise to build our international standing with India, Europe, and Africa. India because India is the world's most populous democracy and will serve as counterweight to China as well as instability in Pakistan. Talk about how you will help the Eastern Europeans by working with the EU and NATO against an increasingly aggressive Russia. And Africa because this region offers opportunity to help those most in need of help. Do not cast this as "rebuilding alliances" because this suggests things are broken. Stay positive because this is a strength McCain can offer that Obama/Biden cannot match! They can only play the defensive. That neither Obama nor Biden supported the Surge suggests they will be weak internationally.
The energy message has two components. The first component is that by drilling here offshore and in Alaska, the US becomes less dependent on Middle East oil. This is also a security issue. Drilling here may not reduce the price of oil now but it will decrease the price of oil in the future and voters will understand this. The second component is that by increasing our alternative energy utilization such as solar, wind, and even nuclear, this will have positive impact on the environment. The improved access to energy will spur the economy and economic opportunities for all Americans. Energy is a top issue among voters.
The opportunity message should focus on three areas: economic opportunities, education opportunities, and personal opportunities. Economic opportunities are about tax cuts, tax break and support for small business. An education opportunity is really about school choice. And personal opportunities are for all Americans to succeed. A component of this, but not emphasized too overtly, is about feminism. Too much will make it appear that Palin was chosen primarily because she is a woman. No more illegal immigrant bashing, more about legal immigrant opportunities. The Hispanic population needs to be courted based on stressing family and dignity of work. No more gay bashing with the marriage definition either. The religious conservative are already on board, no need to pander to them. Instead when the topic is raised, talk about and stress civil union as a mean for all to get legal protection, while also preserving traditional marriage. Again, stay positive.
Thirdly stay on the attack. Do not get petty, continue to ridicule. Maintain a sense of optimism, confidence, and humor. I believe the public will respond equally positive. If the Obama/Biden respond too seriously, they have no sense of humor, or take themselves too seriously. It will be very difficult to maintain a sense of humor or grace when you are on the defensive. Ridicule Obama/Biden hollow message of change, inexperience (the 3 am topic is good), poor judgment (on the Surge, on Biden, on Ayer), pretensions, and the "One" (that he is the MSM darling, and that the darling of foreigners). It will be difficult to ridicule well, but when done well, it is a winner. And the ridicule must be humorous.
In my opinion this will allow McCain/Palin to run a positive campaign with content and humor.