John McCain's reversal of his pledge not to attend tonight's debate unless there was an agreement on a Wall Street bailout illustrates the dangers of chasing news cycles.
McCain's decision to suspend campaigning must have seemed like a good idea at the time--his poll numbers were falling and his campaign was getting hammered by the press for its lobbying ties.
The move was guaranteed to dominate the headlines, change the discussion and in so doing "win the day."
And it did.
But then the next news cycle began, and Senator McCain was boxed in by his pledge.
He attended a summit that he had called for and had nothing of substance to add or say. Worse, the collapse of a tentative deal among lawmakers on a bailout has been attributed to his presence there.
Now, forced to choose between ducking the debate or breaking his promise not to attend absent a deal, he has decided to go back on his word.
This is a campaign flying by the seat of its pants, chasing news cycles without a real plan once it has caught them.
The Obama campaign gets up every day and asks themselves how they can make the case for change vs more of the same, just as they did yesterday, and they will do tomorrow.
The McCain campaign wakes up and figures out how to try to win the day.
Its the difference between strategy and tactics, between a message and a war room, and it is among the reasons why Barack Obama, and not John McCain, is the clear favorite to be our next President.
Howard Wolfson also blogs at GothamAcme.com