John McCain: Not Dead Yet

Despite entering the primary contest as the presumptive frontrunner, it didn’t take long for the one time Maverick, John McCain, to quickly cede frontrunner status to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Internally, Camp McCain suffered from an overinflated and costly campaign structure, while externally, the pilot of the Straight Talk Express suffered a series of blows from blown endorsements such as his bid to catch the eye of the Religious Right, as well as policy proposals such as the defeated immigration bill that incurred the ire of a great many conservatives who weren’t too terribly keen on the whole “amnesty” idea (even if the bill didn’t actually grant amnesty).

McCain’s polling numbers dove along with his fundraising efforts, but if you thought McCain was going to just bow out of the race, boy oh boy were you wrong.

Speculation that McCain’s campaign was on life support with no hope of recovery began as early as this summer.  In fact, some pols were expecting him to be gone by September, but, as I hinted back in late June, it would be foolish to count him down and out.

Indeed, it would seem as though the Straight Talk Express just might be experiencing something of a comeback, as written at Politico.  He’s up, feeling good (at the beginning of the primary season, one thing that caused something of a stir was the discrepency between 2008 running McCain, and 2000 running McCain.  the McCain of yesteryear was having fun while this McCain looked stiff and as though he wasn’t enjoying the campaign trail), and having a good time.  And hey, look at that, he’s still appearing at debates unlike a couple of already labeled weakest links such as Tommy Thompson, and Jim Gilmore (and what happened to Alan Keyes?  Did they only dust him off and pull him out so they would have a black candidate to show at the black debate?  I’m just curious.).

This is not to say that McCain still doesn’t have a whole lot against him.  In his national standing, about the best that could be said for his polling numbers is that they have flattened out of the nose dive that had characterized a good chunk of the past few months, and in the early state where he is most competitive, South Carolina, he’s still way behind Rudy and Thompson, while he and Mitt are running neck and neck.

To his advantage, there is still plenty of time, and as his campaign enjoys something of a resurgence, he can come back and take advantage of what still looks to be voter apathy towards the current front runners.  Rudy is still pro-choice, Romney is still Mormon, and Fred… well… Fred turned out to not be exactly what people thought he would be.  In fact, if it came down to who wants it more between Fred and McCain, I would put money on McCain.

John McCain’s chances are still quite slim, but, if anything, the fact that he’s still here, still in the top tier, and still able to pull off an upset should remind everyone that it’s not over until it’s over.

7 Responses to “John McCain: Not Dead Yet”

  1. I”ve been trying to figure out why McCain hasn’t been doing better for awhile now (shameless plug: I had a pretty thorough evaluation of his health care plan this morning at PE, and that covers some of the same ground as this comment). Fact is, he usually comes across as someone who actually believes what he says (though arguably not as much as in the past during the early part of this campaign).

    Moreover, other than his close association with Campaign Finance Reform (which Republican in Good Standing President Bush signed into law, and which Republicans in Good Standing Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani also backed), he has been a generally reliable conservative, at least if that term still has any meaning- which is more than you can say about just about any other GOP candidate.

    Sure, he has had a few high profile breaks from the GOP, but of late those breaks have almost always been on issues where he frankly commands a great deal of respect even from his enemies- specifically, torture. On almost every other issue that was ever important to conservatives (prior to 9/11), McCain is a blueblood conservative: he is quite a reliable opponent of abortion rights, for instance; he is for a very interventionist foreign policy, and believes in fighting wars all-out or not at all (plus, he has a ton of credibility on the issue that no one else can match); he is one of the last true budget hawks, etc., etc. The only explanation I can think of is that the die-hard conservative base still actually believes all the nonsense Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, and Bush spewed about him after McCain pulled off the upset in NH in 2000.

    In fact, only a year or two ago, I got sucked into an argument with a religious conservative in which that person refused to believe that McCain was a firm opponent of abortion. His voting record, his career of public statements- all of it was irrelevant because of one out of context statement in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle from 1999. The problem he has, it seems, is that he has very high name recognition within the party, but extraordinarily hardened negative views from a wide swath of people that are based entirely on perception rather than reality.

  2. I skimmed the post actually, though haven’t had the time and energy to give a thorough read through.

    As for McCain, and this is coming straight off the top of my head, I think this is the problem. First, immigration all but destroyed him. He played it one way, and while the bill looked like it was going to pass originally with a little grumbling, but not much fanfare, all would have been in the clear, and it could have been a tentative feather in his cap come the General Election.

    But word about that bill spread, and the pack dogs in the right wing media savaged it and greatly contributed not only to the bill’s demise, but its linking and sinking of the McCain campaign.

    McCain, however, is made of tougher stuff than that which would be sunk by a single major mistake, and is slowly clawing his way back out of obscurity. The thing is, and I think this is going to be what keeps him out of the nomination, he’s too old. And I don’t mean in age, but also in establishment.

    Compare him to the rest of the top tier candidates; you got Rudy who has never held office higher than city mayor, you got Fred Thompson who was a short termer Senator, and you got Mitt Romney who enjoyed a little bit of time as a Governor. compare that to the many years of McCain’s senatorial career, and what you have is that the biggest difference is one of these men is a long time DC pol, while the rest have little to no time or experience in the same fashion.

    While change is an indellible political motto that will be evoked long after you and I shuffle off this mortal coil, given Bush’s horrendous approval ratings and congress’ even worse ratings, change is a hotter than normal commodity for this upcoming election, and McCain’s just not it. Even if he is, he’s too old DC wise.

    On the other side of the aisle, Biden suffers from similar woes. He consistently shows strong at the debates, has some good ideas and some bad ideas like the rest of the field, and is comfortable and impressive on stage. But no matter what he does, he can’t get traction if he covered his entire body with two sided tape. He’s too establishment.

  3. Laura says:

    McCain has been pretty pathetic to watch as he has given up on decency and statesmanship in favor of the annihilation politics practiced by the extreme right. He used to act like he cared about people, you know project empathy, but something happened when Georgie rode into town (DC). McCain’s wit and ability to reason were apparently lobotomized. You used to feel good when you disagreed with him, but he became surly and antagonistic toward people and now he’s just written off as an angry old man. He’s pretty washed up as a senator for the so-called moderates here in AZ, but he’ll likely be re-elected if he runs again (name recognition). His last few years as a senator/presidential hopeful have been a slow motion car crash to watch. Tragic.

  4. On another note- I am making a conscious effort to avoid the Ron Paul thread, in case you were all wondering where I was on that.

  5. Laura: I’ll agree with you to a point. What I will say is that I am going to agree with the Politico piece after watching the most recent debate. I wouldn’t say that McCain has returned entirely to his old form, but the John McCain I saw last was considerably more upbeat and engaging than he has been for a while. If it was from any other candidate, I would call it strange, but this seems to be par for the course when it comes to the Arizona Senator. When the chips are down, he seems to actually get better. To this degree, I think he might have done better if he started the race ten points down and about a million dollars in the hole; he might have performed better throughout.

    At least then, as you say, I would enjoy even disagreeing with him more. But yeah, for much of the race he has been yet another Republican, and the reasoning behind this is pretty simple really.

    When Bush absolutely railroaded him in South Carolina, what seemed to happen was an unspoken agreement. For McCain’s part, it was to take the political raping he received with a smile and support Bush, and on Bush’s part, he would thusly make McCain his heir for being such a good little trooper about everything. Problem became, however, that when it was John’s time to run, Bush had not only spent the entirety of his political capital, but went in the deep red.

    PE: Actually, I wasn’t wondering Pub. If you’ll notice, none of us have bothered to comment there for a while either. It is a curious phenomenon, but one that I am already growing tired of in that you make observations about a portion of Ron Paul supporters, and they seem ever so quick to prove it in the worst of ways, and yet seem obvlivious to point this out. It is becoming something of a problem for the site, but I’m not sure exactly how we’re going to approach it yet.

    There’s a funny aspect to this, and I keep coming back to this because it struck a chord with me. In one of our earlier Ron Paul Avalanches, someone accused us, more specifically me, of not covering Ron Paul like any other candidate; however, I truly enjoy covering campaign politics, and have treated Ron Paul I think fairly in the past, especially according to his standing in the field. In fact, though Ron Paul has spent most the race occupying the cellar (no offense, truly), I’ve probably offered him more praise, and definitely more column space than many of the other candidates vying for the GOP nomination.

    So, I do pride myself on fair coverage, especially in the GOP race where I have no horse running (it’s more difficult covering the Democratic race as I am an Obama supporter, and I do believe that Hillary catching the nomination would be at the very least bad). But if ever I were to find an incentive to not cover Ron Paul fairly, it would be because of what you see going on in the thread we’re all talking about.

  6. I would like to make one suggestion for you all, though (and specifically Mick)- try to avoid some of the hyperbole when discussing the bases for conservatism and libertarianism. This is actually a general problem that exists in debate these days, and something I intend to do a lengthy post about in the coming days.

    Specifically, though, I’m referring to Mick’s blanket statement that conservatism is fundamentally borne out of “greed, misinformation, and wishful thinking.” Also, his claim that libertarians in general don’t live in the real world. I have a problem with this kind of rhetoric and, frankly, it is precisely the kind of rhetoric that is most likely to elicit a crazed response from opponents. It’s one thing to mock the other side’s positions (as in your entertaining Hell Report)- you’re being humorous, and anyone with half a brain will recognize it as nothing more harmful than satire; it’s quite another thing, though, to just make ad hominem attacks about your opponents’ motivations and intelligence levels unless you have personal knowledge of such.

    By the way- this isn’t to say that I’m perfect. At some point, probably everyone has a moment of weakness and engages in ad hominems, and I’m hardly immune from this; but we should try to be aware of the reactions such arguments are likely to create. We should probably also be aware that they don’t do much to advance the quest for truth, justice, etc. since they aren’t going to persuade anyone who doesn’t already agree on some level.

    I don’t know how this fits in with the rest of my comment here, but I wanted to point out that the reason I jumped to your defense when I initially started commenting here was precisely because you were being attacked with ad hominems in a situation where you had engaged in no such ad hominems yourself.

  7. Laura says:

    Well ok, you’re pretty much right. We’ve lived in AZ for 14 years and it was usually difficult to attack McCain’s politics because he was so good at compromise. Of course his agenda was right leaning, but he’s really lost his way and can’t even adequately defend his newfound love of extremes. It’s just been pretty uncomfortable to watch him flounder even if he has a blip or two where he looks good; people don’t trust him the way they used to. Leiberman went crazy around the same time and in the same way in my opinion. It’s just kooky. On the other hand, Senator Kyl has always been a ___ ___ (fill in the blanks).

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