The Turning Point

When did Obama beat McCain? Well, from the start, his campaign was better managed. When McCain’s top advisers sat down to ask why America should elect him, they couldn’t reach a consensus. "Without an overriding rationale, our campaign necessarily turned tactical rather than strategic," a McCain adviser tells The Wall Street Journal. So they focused on disqualifying Obama. Obama’s campaign, meanwhile, hewed tightly to its “change versus more of the same” frame. The real turning point came, however, during the bailout debate, when the two were tied in the polls and McCain decided to suspend his campaign. "We completely blew it," one McCain adviser tells The Journal. "The execution of a potentially great move couldn't have been worse." McCain failed to broker a bailout deal, and while he struggled to recover, Obama built a huge polling lead, ground operation, and financial advantage.