Beliefnet
Steven Waldman

The Democrats are running this new ad based on a New York Times article describing McCain’s close relationship with the gambling industry. The Democrats are using this as a metaphor — as in don’t gamble with the country’s economy — and a way of highlighting his ties to lobbyists.But color me cynical for having another thought: did Obama mention this in order to spread the idea that McCain likes to literally gamble. In many states, grassroots Christian groups have worked against slots and lotteries. The religious conservatives, never enthralled with McCain, can’t be thrilled about this:

“Senator John McCain was on a roll. In a room reserved for high-stakes gamblers at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, he tossed $100 chips around a hot craps table. When the marathon session ended around 2:30 a.m., the Arizona senator and his entourage emerged with thousands of dollars in winnings….”For much of his adult life, Mr. McCain has gambled as often as once a month, friends and associates said, traveling to Las Vegas for weekend betting marathons. Former senior campaign officials said they worried about Mr. McCain’s patronage of casinos, given the power he wields over the industry. The officials, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity….”The former official said he would tell Mr. McCain: ‘Do we really have to go to a casino? I don’t think it’s a good idea. The base doesn’t like it. It doesn’t look good. And good things don’t happen in casinos at midnight.'”‘You worry too much,’ Mr. McCain would respond, the official said.”

On the other hand, if Obama hits McCain too hard on gambling, he may come off as a prim elitist who’s too busy munching arugula to line up for Powerball. Gambling may be unpopular with the church crowd, but does well with the blue collar voters he’s feverishly courting. Tellingly, Obama even “confessed” that he plays poker occasionally. You scamp!For now, he’ll try to get the story circulating without denouncing gambling per se.