The McCain campaign also says its message about Obama's plan to "spread the wealth" is taking hold. Republicans are coming back to McCain, they say, and Obama's favorables are dropping a little. They say they are now able to drive the message about Joe the Plumber as effectively as Obama is able to push any of his messages. And they say the robo-calls, which many in the political business say are useless, are working to raise doubts about Obama.
Whether the Joe the Plumber message is punching through as much as the McCain camp says, it does have one psychological benefit: For the final stretch of the campaign, his aides know each day what they're supposed to be talking about. For a campaign that has had many messages and themes, that's encouraging in itself. "We are not just going through the motions," says an aide. "We're fighting to win." For McCain, whose heroes of film and literature are often doomed protagonists who battle on despite near-certain defeat, perhaps just being in the fight again is reason enough to be elated.