The ’07 Seven Candidates of Summer Series
(Preface: Originally, my plan was to tackle Barack Obama today, in an effort to rotate Democrats and Republicans throughout the summer, but recent developments make an analysis of the John McCain candidacy imperative... while it still exists.)
Okay, perhaps the preface was a bit over the top. John McCain's candidacy is not within a week of death, but let's be honest, it's on life support, and there are many who think the plug should be pulled.
McCain's Hell Week '07 began on Monday morning when it was learned that second-tier-at-best candidate Ron Paul had more cash on hand than the senior Senator from Arizona. This was followed by Monday afternoon and Tuesday's overreactions of what this meant, but the overreactions themselves had ramifications, dragging down the McCain campaign further. (Nothing hurts a candidate like pessimism. Except maybe bullets.)
Then of course came yesterday's news that two of McCain's top advisors, and soon lesser advisors, were acrimoniously departing the sinking ship.
This week, I have received no less than a half dozen emails asking me my thoughts on these developments. After all, I predicted John McCain as the eventual Republican nominee. So here's the question that must be asked: What the hell has happened to the John McCain campaign?
Well, where to begin? The top five reasons the McCain candidacy is underperforming:
1. There is never any good news out of Iraq to which he can attach himself. This kills him in a general election.
No news here. He's been President Bush's greatest ally in the war in Iraq, with the possible exception of Dick Cheney and Laura Bush. And while this stance was never popular, it has never been MORE unpopular than it is now. The Iraq War grows more unpopular by the month. Even key Republicans (see: Luger, Dick) are deserting the President. At one point, unequivocal support of the war in Iraq was not political suicide. Now, it just might be.
2. His stance on immigration greatly alienated the Republican base. This kills him in a primary election.
John McCain's immigration stance is an example of him legislating his beliefs instead of what is popular with his party, similar to the famous McCain-Feingold bill. Note to McCain: Teaming up with Russ Feingold or, in the case of the Immigration Bill, Ted Kennedy, on any bipartisan bill will not be looked on kindly by the Republican Party.
3. His strategy of being openly honest and straight-forward, hoping his dedication to unpopular issues because he believed in them would resonate with the voters.
Numbers one and two play a role here. His principled positions on issues he cares about are admirable only in the regard that they are, in fact, principled. He passionately believes in them, and hoped that eventually this facet of his character, seemingly incongruous with his fellow politicians, would set him apart from the pack. Of course, the problem is, voters disagree with these key issues, and because they know he means what he says, they cannot vote for him. Do'h!
4. Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney.
These two men have run terrific campaigns. Rudy Giuliani is on top of most polls despite being out of step with social conservatives. Frankly, it's been a brilliant campaign to date, though this blogger still questions his potential to win the nomination when Republican voters further educate themselves on the issues, especially in Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina. Mitt Romney has taken single-digit polling numbers last year and turned them into strong favorable numbers, and many call him the odds on favorite to win the Republican nomination. In comparison, McCain has ran a very weak campaign. Last year, he was polling ahead of both of these other frontrunners. It was McCain's nomination to lose and he lost it. Can he get it back?
5. A combination of the above has led to an enormous shortfall in fundraising.
No one wants to throw money onto a sinking ship. This perpetuates the mediocrity of the campaign. Without proper funds, John McCain will have a very difficult time pulling himself out of this rut. Indeed, one of the reasons McCain parted ways with two of his top advisors was because McCain expected to have and be raising a LOT more money at this stage of the campaign.
Undeniably, the John McCain campaign is underperforming, and without a John Kerry-like resurgence, he might not make it to Iowa.