Politico won’t quite come out and say it, but the McCain campaign is beset and a Campaign Death Watch is in order. The linked Politico mention goes to comments that his immigration bill, which just met its current demise in the Senate, was antagonizing Republican primary voters. But his problem is much bigger than his immigration bill (which as a policy matter I almost like).
In 2000, McCain’s “maverick” behavior endeared him to primary audiences. As it might be melancholy to remember, the year 2000 was an optimistic time of peace and prosperity in America. We looked both inward, asking how we might perfect our democracy and invest our ∞ dollar surplus, and outward, asking how we might best help solve international humanitarian crises. McCain’s independent, straight-talking streak reflected this. He made that reputation by pushing campaign finance reform and by rejecting ethanol subsidies in Iowa, and by keeping himself on the record and accessible to journalists.
But 2007 is not 2000, and thus the John McCain Campaign Death Watch begins. McCain’s “maverick” positions are not somewhat-charming opposition to special interest pressures, like his campaign finance reform and ethanol skepticism might have been. McCain confronts a Republican primary whose voters have been whipped into a frenzy over immigration policy, a nation opposed to escalation in Iraq, and a conservative base (and media) looking elsewhere for the Next Big Thing. Because of McCain’s sane immigration bill, his insane escalation policy, and Fred Thompson’s potential candidacy, it is time to countdown to the end of McCain’s presidential hopes.
McCain’s latest immigration bill, which would have given illegal immigrants a path to citizenship – with fines, back tax requirements, language and skills requirements, going back to the country from which the person emigrated – and created a legal guest worker program, just failed in the Senate. This might be the best news McCain has had in a while, because Republican primary voters, whipped up into an anti-Latino frenzy by Michael Savage and an anti-illegal-immigration frenzy by Lou Dobbs, oppose any policy that gives illegal immigrants any path to citizenship. This appears to be a threshhold political issue for many Republican primary voters, and McCain is (like Sen. Kennedy would be if he were running for the Republican nomination) on the wrong side.
And on the most important matter in American politics today, the war in Iraq, President Bush’s escalation is fairly called the McCain Doctrine. McCain is the primary politician signed on to the AEI/Frederick Kagan escalation argument, and has been arguing for troop level increases every time a policy question about Iraq has been asked of him. But this policy is both politically bankrupt and foolish. Romney and Giuliani, for instance, have been better at emphasizing their differences with Bush on Iraq. But McCain is both political father and heir to Bush’s escalation.
And a Fred Thompson campaign would weaken McCain, says the Washington Post today. (Or help McCain in Iowa, says the Des Moines Register.) The Post catalogues a number of big time fundraisers who formerly supported McCain but are now saving their wallets for Thompson’s entry. And in the way The Post wrote the article – talking about Thompson as both viable ” — and fresh — “, you can see that John McCain is no longer the media’s Saint John.
Hated by his party on immigration and campaign finance, wrong on the war in Iraq, abandoned for Thompson, dull and tedious to the media. All of which makes you wonder what McCain is thinking. Should be thinking concession speeches.
- John McCain, staying classy by zuzu October 19, 2007
- Jews are all going to Hell and Muhammad was a terrorist, but John McCain really needs your votes! by Jill April 3, 2006
- What are bitches for? Making men money, of course. by Cara November 16, 2007
- Voter suppression has already begun by Jack October 21, 2008
- Liar liar in a fiery, smolding pair of pants by jamelle September 10, 2008