This is a video from the McCain campaign called "Ayers." It's 90 seconds long, meant for web consumption, and it spent all of yesterday linked from The Drudge Report. As of 10 a.m. today, it had 418,605 views.
Remember "the McCain-Palin mob," the video from a liberal blogger that I linked yesterday? As of 10 a.m., it had 625,561 views.
Two small data points, but the takeaway is that the Ayers attack, pushed hard this week by the McCain campaign, and ampliflied by the media, is not burning up the web. Discussion of McCain's tactics is. That, not Ayers, is the McCain story of the week. (Another new media data point: While "Ayers" has stayed a topic topic in Twitter messages all week, now most Ayers tweets are mockery of McCain.)
Think about Bill Kristol's New York Times column from Sunday. Given a short phone interview with Sarah Palin, he pushed her to talk about Jeremiah Wright. "To tell you the truth, Bill, I don't know why that association isn't discussed more," she said. Bam! Zip! Pow! Etc. But if the goal was to launch a new discussion of Wright, it completely failed. As The Politico's Ben Smith wrote on Monday, "Today we have coverage of Palin talking about Wright, for instance, not of Obama and Wright."
I don't know why McCain is doing this. There was a reason that President Bush made a dig at the "angry left" in his Republican convention speech. Voters can get angry, but they don't want to think they're part of a mob. To make a really outsized analogy, historians of the 60s agree that the thuggery of cops on the Edmund Pettus bridge and video of ugly whites attacking blacks had the biggest impact on shifting mainstream white attitudes on civil rights. Obviously McCain supporters aren't attacking Obama supporters, but the unidentified man who yelled "terrorist!" when McCain asked "who is the real Barack Obama?" has gotten more ink than Palin's coaxed attack on Wright.
It's all a bit mystifying because in the Tuesday debate McCain had the makings of a successful anti-Obama attack on the economy. He warned against Fannie Freddie abuses, Obama didn't, Obama is their political project, I'll save your home and he won't. Did he cede some of this battlefield when he voted for the bailout? Sure. But this is still the battlefield that the election's being fought on. It's as if Iranian troops rolled into Iraq at the end of the 2004 election and John Kerry started attacking Bush's National Guard service. Unless the economy rebounds in three weeks, this will not be a referendum on Obama's character, and McCain's attempts to make it that will tempt this kind of backlash.
UPDATE: Another danger in what McCain's doing: Stories like this, where an ex-governor of Michigan bellyaches about the tone of the GOP campaign and un-endorses the candidate. It looked for a while like McCain would split newspaper endorsements with Obama, but he'll probably get hammered there too.