The defectors are Republicans

The national polls are improving, but some of the swing-state polls look awful and we’re fighting in our own backyard.

The interesting thing about the swing states is that much of the margin seems to consist of McCain voters who have gone independent or crossed over, rather than straight Obama gains from the independent pile.

This tells us that Obama’s not outperforming McCain on the economy. Rather, McCain’s underperforming the expectations of his own party. The Republican base is really angry about the bailout, and they’re punishing McCain as a result.

The good news is that most of these votes can probably be won back, once the defectors realize that Obama is by far the worse alternative. McCain and Palin have started to help them realize that by hitting Obama on Fannie and Freddie.

But the task tonight and in the days that follow will be to develop a clear vision of the free market. We’ve heard from Palin about the appropriate role of government–on our side, not in our way. Now McCain needs to define the market.

The market is not a jungle, a race to the bottom, a dog-eat-dog world. It is what happens–in any society–when human beings come together to exercise their natural impulse to improve their lives and fulfill their dreams.

Some nations have tried to eliminate markets; others try to control them, ostensibly for the public good (and often for the corrupt gain of a few). But nations that succeed do so by freeing their market–i.e. their people.

Believing in the freedom of markets is what being “a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution” meant. A generation has enjoyed prosperity–and relative peace–because of the power of the American free market.

As Milton and Rose Friedman were fond of saying, a nation that puts equality ahead of freedom will end up with neither. Conversely, a nation that puts freedom first will have greater opportunities to achieve a better life for all.

That is what Senator McCain needs to say. Corruption-busting is half the answer. He needs another message, going forward. He has needed one for quite some time. It is not too late to bring back the defectors, and win this election.