Last night, as I listened to Carly Fiorina, fomer CEO of Hewlett Packard and John McCain’s campaign chair, I had a discouraging sense of deja vu. With sonorous predictability, she listed McCain’s non-solutions to what ails America’s economy.

What I heard from Fiorina has been said at every Republican conventions since I started voting in 1972,

The solutions they offer are the same tired ideologies of the individual, the free market economy, a government that governs least. As a political party the GOP is bankrupt of new economic ideas.

It’s the same old, same old. That just won’t do.

No, I am not anti-individual, anti-free market, pro government.

But what I do understand as a student of political and economic history, is that sometimes an external force is needed to correct a negative economic trend. I understand that sometimes people who have been beaten down by an economy that has stripped them of their jobs, decreased their buying power, and shattered their faith in the American dream, need more than lectures about the virtues of a free market.  They need someone who can revitalize their hopes and keep them from sinking financially while the fundamentals of the national economy are restored.

The Republicans have never understood that and still don’t. No one doubts McCain’s vastly superior credentials and experience when it comes to foreign policy. Yes, the American people want to be safe. But they also want to be able to pay their mortgages, afford health care, send their kids to college, and not feel they are swimming backwards financially.

Every poll shows that the top concern of most Americans in this election is the economy. And the GOP is trying to ignore it because they don’t kow how to fix it. That’s not how they will take this election from Obama, who does get it.

Someone in the McCain campaign needs to draw up one of those signs screaming what the rest of us already  know: “IT”S STILL THE ECONOMY, STUPID!” and put it where McCain, Palin, Fiorina, et al can see it. Next, and perhaps the tougher task, is to get them to actually come up with economic solutions that inspire, not insult, American voters.

This is like asking the proverbial tiger — in this case McCain — to change his stripes. What are the chances of that happening?