"Our Karl Rove is the blog you should be glad that Democratic strategists don't seem to listen to"
-- what they're saying on Republican blogs

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

John McCain: Lucky, or Set Up for Failure?


In a recent Time article, it is suggested that John McCain may be the luckiest guy on earth. I think Time might be right based on the 2008 presidential campaign thus far. But John McCain is going to need a bit more than luck if he plans on becoming President of the United States.

Surely, the Republican Party would really like for McCain to win the Presidency, but that's not really what they're expecting. They expect to lose. This is why John McCain is in the race in the first place, is why he almost went completely broke in 2007, and is why the money has not been pouring in since Romney left the race weeks ago.

You see, John McCain is their nominee in 2008 for the same reasons Kerry was the Democratic nominee in 2004 -- it's a throwaway election for the Republicans. Now, before you react to this, understand that this should be taken in context. It's not like the Democrats didn't try really hard to get Kerry to win in 2004. But the very premise and quality of the Democratic candidates in 2004 spoke of a Hail Mary pass to the nation: "Here's the pick-up team... let's see if we can't pull an upset!"

Now compare the Democrats' 2004 slate with the Republican 2008 slate. There is a similar dynamic at play. Look carefully at the Republican contestants: A pro-choice Mormon, a southern minister-cum-governor who says the darnedest things, a liberal Mayor, a sleepy actor, and a great grandfather who apologized to Krusty the Clown of The Simpsons when he called Rush Limbaugh a clown.

This is clearly the B-team, and assuredly so since all the internal polls told the RNC back in 2006 that there was no point of injuring the A-team in the current political environment.

None of this means that McCain is guaranteed to lose, of course. Kerry did almost win in 2004. But it does give Democrats a leg up in almost all aspects of this race:

  • The grand conservative coalition will not be united, even though they will claim they are
  • The good money will not come in unless McCain unexpectedly shows an ability to lead the party
  • McCain will spend a lot of energy navigating political land mines the entire race as he bobs and weaves between the competing demands of his electoral and political bases
  • The zeal that has powered the conservative movement since 1975 will be diminished
But, keep a watch out: Republicans will have no problem investing in negative attacks on Democrats, because those attacks are a good investment no matter how good or bad their candidate is.

Yes, I know it's tiresome that the Democratic candidates are set to continue battling it out across the nation. But, on balance, this is a good thing. Sure, there will be negative attacks, dress-downs, and money spent fighting amongst themselves. But, more importantly, these candidates will be practicing for the final fight, getting fit and prepped for the big event. In addition, each state that gets a real Democratic primary race will be more invested in that candidate overall. The brand impact and interaction of the two Democratic candidates will be deployed to most every important state in the general election.

The media will continue to get hung up on the mudslinging and the apparent waste of energy in the Democratic primary. But I see it as a great promotional opportunity for the candidates, and the party: the candidates' names, positions and platforms will continue to get tremendous news coverage, and the party will be seen as a dynamic, relevant, and democratically engaged organization.

Compare this to McCain, who, outside of New Hampshire and South Carolina, faintly campaigned for the nomination. And the Republican Party, by comparison, looks more like a coronation party that doesn't care all that much about what American voters really want.

In America, a country that has made it its business to further spread democracy around the world, it would seem like the political party energetically engaged in democracy would be seen as the preferable party at a deep-seated, cultural level.

The Democratic Party continues to demonstrate that it is the party of true American Values.