What about McCain, indeed

I met with a guy from CNN a couple of days ago who says he keeps hearing experienced observers say that it’s ridiculous that John McCain hardly gets mentioned these days in favor of a certain latecomer, and others who are polling well now but will never stand up to scrutiny by the S.C. GOP electorate.

Exactly. I often make the mistake of expecting politics to be too logical, but if there is any logic at all in the GOP primary in this state, John McCain will be the winner. He has the organization, he still raises more money (or did as of the last deadline), and with the exception of immigration (which for whatever reason drives some self-described "conservatives" bonkers), he’s the best on the issues that matter to that base.

And plenty of people see that.

But everyone seems to have agreed to push him to a back burner for now. Note this post over on Anthony Palmer’s 7-10 blog. He runs down the list of Republicans, saving McCain almost as an afterthought, then he says:

What about John McCain?
John McCain does not really
occupy the same niche that Huckabee, Romney, and Thompson are trying to
fill. McCain is generally a conservative, but he is positioning himself
as something of an elder statesman. Fred Thompson is the outsider, Mitt
Romney is the executive, and Mike Huckabee is often considered more as
being a strong pick for the VP slot than at the top of the ticket.
Think of John McCain as the grownup in the room. He has the experience,
he has the record, and he knows Washington. Conservatives have been
really hard on him because of his views on illegal immigration.
However, if conservatives remain restless and dissatisfied with their
current choices, they may think of McCain as the battle-tested warhorse
candidate. And his military and national security credentials would
allow him to neutralize Rudy Giuliani as well. McCain doesn’t really
need to engage the other candidates as much as they need to engage each
other. Pundits have written McCain off as a result of his sagging poll
numbers and fundraising problems, but I would not count him out just
yet because he has the most extensive record of all the GOP candidates
and cannot be attacked as inexperienced or not sufficiently
conservative. I like to think of McCain as the Joe Biden of the

That’s right — he IS the grownup in the room — and the only one. And as to why Joe Biden isn’t getting any respect — well, that’s a topic for another day.

But what I think is happening is this: What we laughingly call "reality" is shaped by what is said on national TV news. What is said on the 24/7 news channels may bear little resemblance to what is happening on the ground when it is reported, but people believe it, and it then supplants the pre-existing truth.

There is no other possible explanation for Giuliani polling better in S.C. than the fact that he’s been polling well nationally.

This is something that drives me as crazy as the right-wingers get over Mexicans: There is no logical reason for conducting, or reporting, NATIONAL polls on candidate preferences when (HELLO!) they are not nominated nationally! But then, this irrelevant information gets reported as though it means something, and the folks in the early states who ought to know better jump aboard this imaginary bandwagon, and by so doing TRANSFORM the nonsense into reality.

This is also the explanation of why Clinton and Obama came into South Carolina as the front-runners, when a far more experienced and qualified senator such as Joe Biden (OK, I didn’t save it for another day) has been working his butt off here for YEARS, and has been well-received. This happens because the NATIONAL media covering this NON-national story (it’s only national AFTER the primaries have sorted things out) have the memory and imagination of goldfish, and can only think of a couple of politicians at a time.

And yet they say it, and it becomes so. We have arrived at a very dangerous pass in the evolution of our political system, folks.

15 thoughts on “What about McCain, indeed

  1. Doug Ross

    Biden: Isn’t taken seriously because he’s both boring AND sort of a blowhard who likes to hear himself speak. Deadly combination.
    McCain: I’ll donate money to his campaign the day after he repudiates George Bush and names at least one name of someone in South Carolina he feels was responsible for defaming him and (more importantly) his family in 2000. It will happen again if he doesn’t come out fighting. The political hacks who helped Bush in 2000 will sell their souls again to whichever Republican candidate forks over the money.
    As for immigration, the point McCain and Graham can’t seem to get is that it’s not a conservative issue to allow people who entered the country ILLEGALLY to remain.
    Enforce the laws – the ones they swear to in their oath of office:
    “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”
    When they change the Constitution to allow illegal aliens to have the same rights as American citizens, then we can talk about an amnesty program.

  2. Tim Cameron

    I think we will all have a better idea of what McCain chances are when he files his Oct. 1 finance report with the FEC.
    I’m not saying money is everything, but in presidential politics it’s a lot.
    Who knows…he could have a really great quarter, but that would be a surprise to me.

  3. Brad Warthen

    I expect his fund-raising to be down, because the people who give money are not immune to being told, over and over, that a guy doesn’t have a chance — even when there are no objective reasons why that should be so.
    At the height of the McCain-is-dead hollering, he came in with the highest money-raising totals in the state. Yes, that described what happened BEFORE his campaign was pronounced dead — which underlines its significance. During the period that his campaign was supposedly falling apart, the money was flowing in.
    Now — without a single thing having changed about John McCain as a candidate — he will probably come in with a bad fundraising quarter just as he’s starting to climb back up toward his former position in polls and in the estimation of pundits.
    It’s crazy.

  4. Brad Warthen

    And Doug, you’ve said this before, but I don’t understand your thinking. I don’t want to see McCain go around whining about what happened to him in the past, and I believe he’s too big a guy to do it. I want him to spend his energies telling people — including those who turned against him back then — why they should vote for him now.
    If Michael Corleone were running for president, I’d expect him to exact revenge. I wouldn’t want McCain to try that.

  5. Tim Cameron

    You have a good point, and McCain has had good month in the press so far. He will probably have and even better second half of the month in the press. But right as he builds all of this momentum, the Q3 reports will come out. If he doesn’t have a good quarter the “McCain is dead” talk will start up again.
    Regardless I don’t see him dropping out. It isn’t in his character to do so.

  6. Doug T

    Biden a blow hard? He’s the only candidate who gives specifics. Every thing comes down to a 30 second sound bite from the other candidates, but Biden knows the details….like a solution in Iraq. How about these details: 70 pct of our casualties in Iraq are from IEDs. The MRAPs Joe has shepparded thru Congress can cut those deaths by 66 pct. You’re right, boring details can be deadly.
    Joe’s the man.

  7. Doug Ross

    >And Doug, you’ve said this before, but I
    >don’t understand your thinking.
    A man who won’t fight to defend his family will never get my vote. There is a point where showing people just how much you can take isn’t impressive. Prisoner of war, great. Calling your daughter an illegitimate product of trysts with black prostitutes demands a response. Name names, Senator. Demand that George Bush come to South Carolina and repudiate all that behavior from 2000.
    Same with Rudy – who doesn’t speak to his children – he chose wife #3 over his kids.
    That’s a serious character flaw in my book.

  8. bud

    Doug, your point about McCain’s failure to defend his family honor bothers me also. I liked McCain very much in 2000 but when he shamelessly latched on to the man who was responsible for the indignities of the 2000 campaign that caused me to rethink my admiration. His atrocious support for the Iraq occupation was the last straw. McCain is not I man I could trust as president.

  9. Leslie

    I am so glad to see somebody gets that Biden is the most qualified democrat in the race. If the media is so “liberal”, and they want the Dems to take back the white house, I am baffled about why they are almost single handedly limiting the possible democratic nominees to Clinton and Obama. A majority of this country’s voters who actually go to the polls will not vote for Obama in 2008. Maybe they’ll be ready to do so at a later time, but they won’t do it in ’08, period, end of story, stop building him up. Clinton has a better shot than Obama but still her negatives cross all party lines, and enough people can’t stand her to such an extreme that they may come to the polls simply to vote against her. 2008 is the best chance the Dems have had to get in the white house in two election cycles. Why squander such an opportunity by crowing Obama and Clinton as the only possible nominees when neither of them can likely win the election? It just doesn’t make any sense.

  10. Brad Warthen

    Leslie, it looks like you have the same malady I do. I keep expecting politics to make sense, and for voters to act rationally, but I am almost always disappointed — particularly in primaries, because parties distill irrationality into a more potent brew.
    Parties almost never nominate the best candidate, even for their own interests — and certainly not in the country’s.

  11. Doug Ross

    To expland on Brad’s answer:
    Yes, Joe Biden and John McCain.
    Two candidates who cannot win – not in South Carolina nor in a national election. Two career politicians who will somehow transform the political system despite being embedded in it for decades.
    Endorsing anyone but Hillary or Obama for the Democratic primary is a waste of newsprint.

  12. Doug T

    Hillary or Obama transform the political system? hahaha
    As has been posted prior, Biden and McCain are the only grown ups in the race.
    Take a look at Biden’s health care plan. It shows how to work within the system…a system that will always be there as long as there are legislators with egos and pockets for lobbyists’ cash.
    The last president who tried to act as an outsider? Jimmy Carter? A great American, but 1976-1980 was so bad I voted Republican in 1980 for the first and only time in my life.
    Doug T.


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