A McCain ad touts the Arizona senator as "the original maverick":
Washington's broken. John McCain knows it. We're worse off than we were four years ago. Only McCain has taken on Big Tobacco, drug companies, fought corruption in both parties. He'll reform Wall Street, battle Big Oil, make America prosper again. He's the original maverick.
By promising to fix Big Government while fighting Big Corporations, McCain clearly is trying to one-up, or at least match, Barack Obama's economic populism. But I fear this is the real McCain, a less squeaky version of Ross Perot. And what's up with "four years ago"? It's hard to believe that the crucial mistake, in McCain's view, was electing George W. Bush instead of John Kerry in 2004, as opposed to picking Bush instead of McCain as the Republican nominee in 2000.
Addendum: ABC's Jake Tapper notes that it's hard to argue the economy is worse now than it was four years ago, at the end of Bush's first term, yet not worse than it was eight years ago, at the end of Bill Clinton's second term:
Our unemployment rate is currently 5.7%. That's higher, worse, than it was four years ago—5.4%. But it's also worse than it was eight years ago: 4.1%.
Our inflation rate was 5.02% in June of this year.
That's worse than it was four years ago—in August 2004, the rate was 2.65%. But it's also worse than it was eight years ago. In August 2000, the inflation rate was 3.41%.
One thing that was "better" (depending on your perspective) in 2004 than it was in 2000: housing prices. Maybe that's what McCain has in mind.
[Thanks to Doug Riblet for the link.]