In politics first impressions matter a lot, and John McCain made a good one on the American people in 2000. It still benefits him today now that he has locked up the GOP presidential nomination.
But that impression was about his maverick style and war hero's biography--not his approach to domestic policy. And now that the economy has turned south, his challenge is to persuade Americans that turning it around is a task he's equipped to handle.
He'll begin the effort to do that next week in Pittsburgh, with a major economic speech. He took a first step this week by announcing a plan for helping some distressed mortgage holders.
It won't be easy. Because McCain is so firmly linked to national security policy--which has benefits as well as drawbacks--his economic initiatives don't carry the same presumption of expertise and philosophic grounding. But McCain has overcome the doubters throughout the campaign, and Democrats should be wary of him on this subject as well.