While Obama has been leading McCain in recent polls, his lead has been slipping away (or perhaps not-polling is not an exact science). Obama might be able to keep or even expand his lead by picking the right VP candidate. He recently announced that he had decided, but seems to be milking the news cycle by not saying who he has selected.
Meanwhile, McCain is looking for a way to close the gap. McCain enjoys a commanding lead in one important area: voter perception of each candidate’s ability to deal with Russia. McCain’s military experience gives him a clear advantage here.
It is natural to wonder why McCain is not so well regarded when the subject changes to Iraq. This is because the Iraq war is not particularly popular and Obama has been able to tap into that. Many Americans regard the Iraq War as something that we need to get out of and McCain has made it clear that he is willing to keep America there as long as it takes. In this case, Obama’s lack of military credentials does not hurt him-he wants to end the war rather than fight it.
In the case of Russia, we are not yet embroilled in an active war and many Americans still remember the Cold War. As such, McCain’s fighting spirit is no doubt looked on as a positive asset.
In order to counter this, Obama needs to keep the focus on domestic issues (linking Bush and McCain works well here) and the Iraq War. Obama also needs to improve his appearance in regards to his ability to deal with Russia. Perhaps his VP choice will help him in this regard.
For McCain, the more active Russia becomes, the better it is for his election chances. If voters see a cool war starting up, McCain might be able to ride the Bear into the White House. If Russia eases up, then McCain will lose this advantage over Obama.