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.
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.