If this is the “October surprise” a month early, Obama’s right where he wants to be.

Now that we’re talking about real issues, the McCain campaign doesn’t know what to do — and it shows.  Marc Ambinder puts forward a great post that examines the clumsiness of the McCain camp this week.  We had a McCain spokesman declare that McCain invented the Blackberry; we had McCain economic advisor Carly Fiorina state that McCain wouldn’t cut it as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company; we had McCain himself declare that the economy was strong (no doubt relying on an advisor who he thought actually knew something about the economy); we continue to have Troopergate and other political embarrassments of Sarah Palin’s examined day by day.  And this is all ignoring the amazing (and what I’d call destructive for the McCain camp) performance by Tina Fey as Sarah Palin in the opening Saturday Night Live sketch.

The Obama campaign is now given permission to flaunt some explanations of why they are the better choice for voters wanting change.  They can ask, “Do you want competent change or incompetent reform?”  With a new fiery approach, and a great ad by Obama, in which he sits and talks directly to the voters for two minutes, the campaign is starting to recapture some momentum, no doubt helped by the McCain camp’s bungling.  The Obama campaign is extremely lucky that the issue that has come up is the economy.  As Ambinder notes, McCain could make mistakes all day on topics of national security and get away with most of them, but economic discussions are very dangerous:

This summer, when John McCain called Barack Obama a celebrity, he was confirming, in real time, an image that wasn’t entirely fictitious.  When Obama’s campaign claims that, on the economy, McCain is simply out of touch, weeks like this reconfirm, in real time, that notion for voters. McCain can make these type of mistakes on national security and he’ll get a pass for them, much to the consternation of Democrats. On the economy, errors, mistakes, gaffes — they’re deadly.

This is not saying that Obama can just talk the way he is and be comfortable either.  We’ve noticed the whole year that the candidate who becomes lazy usually pays for it — even going back to the Democratic primary.  What Obama needs to do is talk about his vision.  And when I say vision, I don’t mean the flowery language of where he wants to take the country — although I do like that.  I mean a discussion involving a trip to 2010.  A rhetorical vacation to a few years from now, during which he says exactly what he’s going to do, in quantifiable measures, and how he’s going to do it.  In other words, “If you vote for me, this is the return you’ll get in two years.”  A direct appeal like that, in addition to the tenacity exhibited from his campaign over the past week, could lead to an Obama surge as we move toward the debates.