Tuesday, January 8, 2008

McCain's Resurrection from the Dead

Not so long ago the high priests of political punditry pronounced "last rites" on John McCain's presidential campaign. Out of money and in organizational disarray, the McCain campaign looked like it was dead on arrival before the primaries and caucuses began. But in a modern-day political miracle not only has he risen from the dead, but he may also become the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Why?

First, the rule of primogeniture often favors the candidate who has persevered over a longer period of time. Like Richard Nixon, who fought back from his 1960 and 1962 defeats for the presidency and California governorship, respectively, to win the presidency in 1968, McCain has fought back from his loss to George W. Bush in 2000 by speaking on behalf of Republicans and building a national organization. Just as Nixon built a reservoir of support to withstand the challenges of Mitt Romney's father and New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, McCain may be able to withstand challengers who lack his seasoned experience on the presidential campaign circuit.

Second, when McCain's campaign faltered several months ago, he made the tough decision to jettison much of his political and fund-raising organization and to focus his energy on two key states, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which he has carefully cultivated for eight years. A significant boost in the national polls from New Hampshire and a successful foray in the South Carolina primary would enable him to raise much-needed money and to get many more endorsements.

Third, the Republican establishment needs someone who can win in November (1) by unifying the Party's disparate elements of conservatism -- economic, social, political and religious, (2) by appealing to independents and Democrats, and (3) by winning the South and sunbelt South. John McCain is the only candidate for the Republican nomination who possesses significant strengths in all three of these vital areas.

Fourth, change has become the political calling card of 2008, particularly among Democrats. John McCain's Senate record speaks of change because of his policy challenges to the status quo, which is one of the reasons why independent voters feel comfortable with him, notably in New Hampshire, where the "Straight-Talk Express" regained its popularity. Because Democratic presidential aspirants, including front-runner Barack Obama, have increasingly emphasized change, Republicans will need a nominee in November who can effectively counter punch on this issue.

Fifth, but just as change is in the political air, so too is bipartisanship. Only John McCain among the would-be Republican candidates has established a long record of working with Democrats. He has regularly reached across the aisle to gain sponsors of his Senate initiatives. Voters looking for change and bipartisanship may well turn to McCain, which could help Republicans retain the White House in November. Given the desire of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others to reduce partisanship in America, John McCain's record of bipartisanship could effectively undercut the possibility of their efforts leading to the formation of a third party.

Sixth, the troop surge in Iraq and John McCain's comeback have occurred almost simultaneously. Because McCain advocated this policy long before the Bush administration decided to try it, he now basks in the sunlight of its success. And now because Democrats find themselves fumbling over how to respond to the success of what is really John McCain's policy, he would have an advantage on this critical foreign and military policy issue in the fall presidential debates, assuming the policy's continued success.

Seventh, which of the Republican candidates would have the best storyline to challenge Barack Obama, should he become the Democratic nominee? Only John McCain is a legend in his own time as a national military hero, an advocate of change and an long-time supporter of bipartisanship. In short, John McCain has a substantive record built over many years that could make him an effective candidate against the compelling candidacy of Barack Obama.

John McCain's unique strengths have intersected with political reality to cause him to rise from the dead politically. Now the question is whether they will intersect to make him the Republican presidential nominee and possibly the next President of the United States.

1 comment:

marion windemere said...

With the Reagan Symposium coming up next Saturday at Regent, I find myself comparing McCain to Reagan, who first came into office in 1980when I was in college. One of the clearest reasons for Reagan's win at that time, many of us thought, was that he took a strong, unequivocal stand against terrorism, in direct opposition to Carter's weakness on National Defense issues. When Reagan came into office, Iran immediately let all of the American Embassy hostages go - it had been 444 days. A coincidence? No one thought so at the time. McCain may be like Reagan in this aspect in particular -- as you mentioned in your blog, McCain supported the surge in Iraq even before Bush II did. McCain understood what would work militarily, when no one else did. This could mean that America's enemies would fear him as they feared Reagan -- and that would be good news. As Sly Stallone said recently, these are rough times, and we need a President who has been through it -- like John McCain. The American people may well agree with Sly on this one.