President Bush once taught a top John McCain adviser how to sell a candidate: by telling a story. The problem for Steve Schmidt, now McCain's main strategist, was finding the right tale to sell "a stubborn patriot" to voters, Robert Draper writes in the New York Times. While Obama has stuck to his "change" narrative, McCain kept switching his, and "the 'true character' of a once-crisply-defined political figure has become increasingly murky."
Schmidt dragged McCain through six narratives in all—from pro-war fighter to bipartisan deal-maker to anti-celebrity—and appeared to strike gold with Sarah Palin. McCain's camp was thrilled, but it had to switch storylines again when she stumbled on the issues. Now McCain is mired in a "hybrid" story combining Joe the Plumber and attack ads. “Hopefully," said one adviser, "that’ll change the narrative."