McCain’s Ugly Summer

Sitting as a far second in the GOP race has got to be a tough thing for McCain to cope with, a far cry from the barely disputed successor to Bush & Co. I’m sure he thought he would be. Why else back down in 2004? Why else stand by Bush so vehemently even as the the President’s ratings downward spiral to record lows?

I’m sure the Arizona senator was thinking of a relatively easy run at it this election season, getting a little nudge from the Bush folks in return for the political rape he was forced to experience back in the 2000 campaign at their hands. But as we have seen, this just ain’t the time nor the place.

With Mayor Giuliani a blur ahead in the distance and Romney constantly knocking at McCain’s heels, it’s turned into a bumpier ride than McCain ever hoped for. And with his second quarter fundraising report looking to be only slightly better than his first quarter numbers, it’s looking like the ride’s gonna get a whole lot worse.

Politico’s Mike Allen has a good rundown on the grueling summer the presidential hopeful has ahead of him, pointing out key things the campaign is doing to weather the pitfalls of a run that was originally geared towards ascension as opposed to a rough and tumble primary. The staff has slimmed down to its fighting weight (figuratively, I’m not trying to imply that people are out there running on the beach to Eye of the Tiger), and McCain is going to be spending a lot of time on the stump with thirty-five events in not as many days.

And this is all fine and dandy. Campaign mechanics have a great deal to do with a candidate’s success. But it’s not the only thing. Even I, who worship at the holy altar of pollsters and campaign strategy, realize that horse race dynamics can’t do everything.

Sometimes it’s just the candidate, and all things considered, this time around it will be John McCain that prevents John McCain from getting the GOP nomination, and not politics as usual.

For one, there seems to be a loss of energy and vitality. The John McCain we see now is to a degree a shadow of the Maverick who led the Straight Talk Express, and when he actually warned the audience at the lastest Republican debate that he was going to engage in some “straight talk” it sounded less like an inspired radical, and more like a has been tv character tiredly reiterating a catch phrase that should have long since been retired.

Besides that, it is hard for people to buy McCain as the straight talker, with minor gaffes and calculated errors haunting him throughout this early part of the campaign cycle. From the Baghdad shopping spree to the flip-flopping embrace of the Religious Right.

But nothing will do to his maverick outsider image what bowing down to the Bush administration did.

And yet, one would think there is hope. Compared to the other front runners in the race, McCain seems to have the quality of solidarity that conservative voters so very much crave. Romney, in one of the more awkward parts of the most recent debate, was caught in the open dodging a flip flop question on ads he and his son recorded in Spanish, and don’t forget that people still don’t trust him on his newly conservative stances on key social conservative issues such as abortion. Likewise, Giuliani’s had something of a flap on how to approach the abortion issue himself.

Conversely, McCain appears absolutely rigid, but therein lies the problem. He may have one a couple of votes by standing firm by his immigration bill, but what he won will in no way compare to what he lost.

He stands firm on his issues, but unfortunately they are losing ones, from Iraq to Mexico. Stylistically, he’s still trying to portray himself as one thing, but looking more like grandpa trying to do the dances all the young kids are doing and looking horrible doing it. And if he can just stop saying, “My Friend” all the time, that would be really great.

So, while his campaign, and the candidate himself, may be working themselves into the dirt this summer, don’t expect it to do a great deal of good. Sometimes it just isn’t the campaign.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook