Dissent In The Ranks

An exclusive McCain interview in the Washington Times is most definitely news worthy if for no other reason than because McCain has adopted an almost Democratic tone in speaking of the current President from his own party.

In the lone Vice Presidential debate, Palin took Biden and Obama to task for campaigning against the past eight years, going so far as to dropping the Reagan-esque line, “There you go again.”  It is interesting in this context that now McCain himself appears to have made attacking Bush a part of his campaign strategy.

In truth, this is probably something McCain should have done months ago.  In yet another example of Barack Obama succeeding where Democrats in the past have failed, it was the Obama team that managed to define McCain as Bush-like while the McCain campaign has yet to find a way to negatively define Obama.

The only problem is that with only twelve days left before election day, one has to wonder if this isn’t a case of too little too late.  Building and maintaining narratives have remained a problem for the McCain campaign throughout this entire election season, and as a result shaking the Bush-like narrative is only one small piece of the puzzle.  Even if McCain succeeds in stepping out of the shadow of his would be predecessor, he still has to find a way of shedding the “erratic” label, and discover a way to paint his opponent in a way that resonates significantly with the electorate.

But there’s another problem that finding religion on Bush brings up; Bush is no longer the biggest drag on the McCain ticket.  That would be Sarah Palin as indicated in a recent NBC/WSJ poll.  Contrary to McCain campaign staffers and McCain himself going on air and trying to convince people that Palin remains an asset to the ticket, many polls indicate clearly that her value as a politically wise selection has plummeted.

There’s another problem with McCain’s decision to run against this president, and to a lesser degree his own party:

***EXCLUSIVE: The Republican establishment is beginning to express long-suppressed exasperation with the McCain pirate ship. In an early-morning phone call to Playbook, one of the most senior Republican strategists in the land warns the McCain campaign after reading the WashTimes interview: “Lashing out at past Republican Congresses instead of Pelosi and Reid, and echoing your opponent’s attacks on you instead of attacking your opponent, and spending 150,000 hard dollars on designer clothes when congressional Republicans are struggling for money, and when your senior campaign staff are blaming each other for the loss in The New York Times [Magazine] 10 days before the election, you’re not doing much to energize your supporters. The fact is, when you’re the party standard-bearer, you have an obligation to fight to the finish. I think they can still win. But if they don’t think that, they need to look at how Bob Dole finished out his campaign in 1996 and not try to take down as many Republicans with them as they can. Instead of campaigning in Electoral College states, Dole was campaigning in places he knew he didn’t have a chance to beat Clinton, but where he could energize key House and Senate races. I think you’ll find these sentiments shared by MANY of my fellow Republican strategists.”

One could hardly fault a Republican that wants to run away from the GOP this year, but just because it may be tempting to run away from the party doesn’t necessarily mean doing so is a good idea.  The pickle that McCain is in right now is that he is resource limited in a race against a candidate who has a strong edge on the electoral map, and seemingly limitless resources and freedom to use those resources.

This is a time in which McCain needs all the help he can get.  Now, before this interview I’ve been hearing whispers that many think the GOP needs to abandon the presidential race and start focusing on congressional races.  If McCain wants a shot at the presidency the last thing he can afford is for that to happen.  But if he’s going to turn his back on the GOP, the only thing he could end up accomplishing is giving them a reason to turn their backs on him.

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