"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.


Anonymous said...

If the main Republican goal in the 2008 election is to avoid injuring the A team, it seems that OKR would be zeroing in on ways to injure the A-team. McCain is the red herring.

Where do those opportunities lie?

Jon a.k.a. "Our Karl Rove" said...

Hey anon,

No way. OKR will not fall into the Hillary trap of pretending that we're not in a race just because we're up against the B-Team.

It will require a lot of effort to beat McCain, just like it took a lot of effort for Bush/Cheney to beat Kerry.

But, there is some sound advice in your question: there is an opportunity to use McCain as a wedge to continue to break up the Republican coalition. He's a great symbol of conservative disunity and disenchantment.

To this end, I will need to work on a few posts that focus on using McCain as the warm knife that will slice through the conservative butter.

Unknown said...

I think this misses something:

There is no A team.

The motley crew quality of the republican nominees was not the result of better candidates holding back--there just weren't better candidates. More established republicans have lost too much credibility through the Bush fiascoes to be viable in '08. The McCain, Huckabee, Guliani, etc. types hold the Republicans' best shot.

The Bush presidency has discredited the Republican coalition and split it back to its composite parts: economic conservatives, social conservatives, and hawks.

Who's the A team? Jeb? Rice?

Also, Kerry didn't lose in '04 anymore than Gore lost in '00.

Jon a.k.a. "Our Karl Rove" said...

Hi Louis,

You might have a point; a point that out Karl Rove's Our Karl Rove.

Yet I still do not agree. The Republican Party does have a bunch of governors (yes, Jeb included) that are being primed for future leadership roles.

Rice is not one of the A-List'ers, and I can't say that I'm a Republican insider who knows who the future A-list will be.

But you must agree that if 2004 was an A-list year, then HRC would have run. She definitely waited until 08. I think the same thinking is happening on the Republican side this year.

Otherwise, there'd be no way for them to be satisfied with McCain. He's just not predictable enough for their tastes.

Anonymous said...

HRC did not run in '04 because it was only 4 years removed from BC's tenure, and she had only spent 2 years in the Senate at that point.

I think the real issue is that there is no Republican A list. Even GWB is not an A lister like, say RR or Nixon. Perhaps Jeb is, but that is debatable considering the baggage. Who are these Republican governors? Sonny Perdue? He was a Democrat until 1998, and acts like one at times.
As far as I can tell, the only reason McCain has a chance is because of his liberal tendencies. Republicans KNOW they are out of touch with mainstream, that there policies have failed over the past 8 years, and that they another GWB is not electable! Thankfully, I think GWB has been ringing the death knell for his brand of Conservatism, and it will take 20 years for this presidency to be overcome!

Anonymous said...

Also- Karl Rove's genius was that he could get a B, make that a C lister like GWB elected twice!

cognitorex said...

I wonder who the GOP will train their voters to hate in this election. Without the we hate gays or gay marriage issue driving GOP voters to the polls Bush clearly would have lost.
Congrats to OKR.
Rational commentary is as usual lacking.
However, as much as this may seem counter intuitive, if you listen to the FOX News news guys, not so much the winger pundits, their synopsis/analysis of the Democratic issues is often devoid of the MSM gossip content and is clinical and enlightening.
They regularly comment that if the huge Democratic turnout, relative to GOP turnout, continues into the fall then this election will be a rout. They express hope that the turnout numbers reflect the interest in the HRC/Barack race, but they certainly indicate a likely thrashing in November.
Again OKR is a breath of fresh air.

Jon a.k.a. "Our Karl Rove" said...


Thanks for the insights and the kind words. I might have to check out FixedNews to see this, as Rendell put it, fair & balanced coverage.

Anonymous said...

Why the silence, OKR, on the party's valiant efforts toward self-immolation?

How are we to mover forward?

Jim said...


TKR has give Obama some "advice" at


I assume you've seen it. I see this is as fairly interesting, on several levels. Certainly some of the advice is worth taking, the rest is just TKR messsaging on Senator Obama.

Are you on vacation, or ... ?



Anonymous said...

the pubs don't have to work too hard to "train voters to hate" at the moment, wright's thriving in his role as racial polarizer. mccain gets the free pass he doesn't deserve. depressing.