Finding hidden answers in the John McCain accendancy

Since candidate John McCain broke as the frontrunner in Florida there has been a never ending stream of conspiracy theories and negative excuses expaling how McCain pulled of such a rebound. As I crunch the numbers I see a very fascinating occurrence happening with the McCain campaign that is very positive and noteworthy. I list three areas.

The power of his message: Romney outspent McCain 8-to-1 in Florida and lost significantly. In fact, during most of the campaign McCain has been under-funded. With little money, McCain’s message was able to win both Republicans and Independents. Having a message that works on its merits is an astounding political advantage. Huckabee also enjoyed the ability to move voters with no money.

The power of his positions: As reported in the Walls Street Journal, intensive polling of Republican voters showed widespread positive and negatives for all the candidates. What stood out is that John McCain scored best on the most important issues; (1) best able to handle economy (2) best able to handle terrorism and (3) high marks on character. Republicans who did not vote for McCain still rated him high in these areas. McCain’s greatest strengths just happened to be where it mattered most. You can’t win a primary or a general election if you don’t win where it matters.

The power of Personability: During last year’s debates I noted that the two most relaxed candidates were Mike Huckabee and John McCain. Have we soon forgotten that voters still love a candidate for whom they can share a beer with? At times, Fred Thompson revealed great warmth and personability in the debates, but never consistent enough. The other candidates (who gave superb speeches last year) seemed to grow worse over time. Remember how George Bush stuttered and stumbled through his debates? Yet Bush’s projection of honesty and realness was undeniable. Barack Obama has succeeded in this area and his rise is one for the history books.

These are encouraging lessons to learn from. These lessons are positive answers amidst the wave of negative explanations. People cite media bias to explain McCain’s rise. Yet McCain suffered from a year long bad publicity wave when his key staff left and his fundraising dried up. The media kept referring to him as “Dead man walking”. People cite that McCain was buffeted by the shadowy Republican “establishment.” Some “establishment” they are if it left him woefully without money for most of the campaign season. My analysis is that something more positive and more subtle has been occurring during this election for McCain and Obama. It is worth paying attention to.


    John “Keating 5” McCain, corruption at its best!

  • Bob Clark

    McCain seems like our best bet among the three contenders currently to keep our federal income taxes in check. In contrast, Obama and his wife talk incessantly about income disparity which infers an intention to redistribute income via taxation and new federal spending programs.

    I wonder if McCain could position himself best if he could get Huckabee to be his vice presidential candidate. Huckabee is running pretty good in the south. I liked Romney best but I don’t see him as a good vice presidential choice for McCain.

    One of my worries about McCain is he might be inclined to extend the sphere of the U.S military around the globe even further. For most Americans, the U.S is over extended geopolitically and needs to find a more balanced involvement with the rest of the world. Don’t know if this is possible. Kind of like a Sapranos/Godfather problem. “They keep pulling me back in.”

  • Jason W.

    Way too early to be talking about vice presidents. The convention is not until September.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    I agree with a lot of what is written in this article. The fact is, likability is a huge factor. The second is honesty, am I getting a real answer from this person, or are they spinning? The final factor is visualizing the candidate in office, can one really picture this person in the oval office.

    Certainly with the last, McCain has no problem. With the second I think I am mostly getting a genuine answer from McCain ( although it is rarely one I agree with ). On the first, who knows, is McCain really likeable? I mean I guess, but that is really only in comparison to the other candidates, who seem no more likable really.

    One final thing a campaign needs is a turning point, this is generally beyond the candidates control. Regan had it with the “are you better off now than four years ago”. Clinton had it with “I will focus on the economy like a laser beam”. Bush 2 really had it:

    Bush’s key moment for the 200 election was in the debates. The question was, “what person has affected your life the most” several candidates answered, my father, my mother, George Washington, Albert Einstein, and then it got to Bush and he seemed sort of flabbergasted at the others answers and he simply said “Christ….Jesus Christ”. This to me was huge, because at that point it was well known Bush considered himself a recovering alcoholic/ possibly drug addict. It was clearly a profoundly honest answer, which set him up to take quite a hit on the alcoholism score the next morning, and he had plenty of time to consider that before the question came to him, but somehow an honest answer seemed more important to him. I respected that quite a bit, and for me, as well as more than a few others, that was a turning point. By the way I am not a Christian.

    McCain might have that moment as well, his strongest card is most Republicans, even if they dislike him, think that he is probably good on Iraq. I think that if McCain has such a moment, it will revolve around that issue, where all of a sudden Republicans that might have sat out the election, and Democrats wary of Clinton or Obama’s commitment to the war will realize that McCain understood Vietnam, and that if nothing else, McCain does not want another defeat that was engineered for political reasons.

  • dean

    McCain is about the only candidate the Rs had that could win in November. But Bush and Iraq will be an albatross around his neck.

    Rup…we spent what…15 years of blood and treasure in Viet Nam. 50,000 Americans killed, many more wounded and screwed up for the long term. A terrible division in our Country that has yet to heal. At the end of the day, communism died of its own weight, Viet Nam has gone capitalist, and is now a tourist destination. McCain’s world view (and apparently yours) would have had us there for what…another 10 or 20 years to what end?

    Iraq is similar in at least three key respects. First, ultimately what happens there is up to the Iraqis. Either the Kurds, Sunnis and Shias find a way to live together or they don’t. We can’t make them do anything. They are “the deciders.” Not us.

    Second, the large majority of the American people are tired of spending 12 billion dollars a month and continued casualties on an indefinite occupation of a hostile and enigmatic people. They are ready to vote for someone who has a commitment to an exit, and McCain’s careless statement that we could be there 100 years is going to to follow him throughout the campaign. He can’t deny it, and he can’t say he was “joking” about something that serious. Whether a staged and orderly withdrawel is cast as a “defeat” depends largely on how conservatives react. So far, they (and McCain) seem intent on handing al Queda a propoganda victory in order to gain a political victory at home.

    Third, Al Queda is proving itself to be not much more than a rag tag group of comitted radicals with an ideology that has no long term purchase in the Muslim world. Yes…they can vlow up the occasional train or building and kill a lot of people. They can “terrorize.” But to what end? They can’t govern anything, and if they ever get the opportunity any people under their thumb will soon rebel. That is what ultimately toppled communism. It was a flawed governing system based on a flawed ideology that failed its own people.

    So for McCain…big problem. His committment to perpetual occupation (not to mention threatening to start another war, as if 2 are not enough) is not going to sell. Its too bad, because otherwise he is not a bad man for that office, and has certainly paid his dues. In 2000 I probably would have voted for him. Not now.


      You hit it on the head in that last sentence, he stepped on the toes and offended so many moderate and conservative potential voters in 2000; his chances are not too good this time around.

      I can’t, in good conscience vote for the man. The voting for the lesser of two evils argument is no longer a valid argument.

      When polled 55% of the voters said they would not vote for Hillary ( I read it about a year ago). The only way McCain has a chance is if Hillary gets the nomination.

      * I mentioned Obama will be Howard Deaned in the end, I just read an article about his wife making a serious quotable mistake in a recent speech, it may be starting already. Remember the damage Teresa Kerry did to John Kerry’s campaign.

      • dean

        CD…it was pragmatic Iowans who ended the Howard Dean rocket ,ot the democratic establishment. Had he won the nomination he would have lost the general in a landslide, and Iowans knew this.

        I agree Obama was not initially the Democratic establishment choice, but take a look at the endorsements he has piled up before you assume the Clintons still have a lock on that establishment. If Hill loses Texas or Ohio next month, and assuming Obama wins as expected today, she is toast. And if O is the nominee, McCain is stale toast as well, unless someone turns up some serious dirt, i.e. Obama is a Muslim cult fanatic. Not.

        How can a serious, active national politician not “step on toes” CD? Bush was an ink blot that conservatives could assume whatever they wanted about. Obama is similar for we liberals. That is what makes him so compelling. As Andy Duffrain said in teh Shawshank Redemption; “Hope is a good thing Red.”


    I’m not assuming anything, it looks like Obama can get the nomination. I’m just musing on what has happened in the past to the non-establishment opponents. If it happens again it’s par for the course, if it doesn’t it an improvement.

    I agree McCain is toast if Obama runs and the GOP negative ad machine can’t find any dirt.

    As for politicians stepping on peoples toes, yes, they all do and sometimes have to. In McCains 2000 case he trivialized the very people and issues he is dependent on for votes this time around. Foolish people think of the moment 2000, clever people think of the future 2008.

    McCain lost in November 2008 , 8 years ago, as much as he will try to blame the conservatives who won’t vote for him and the moderates who jump to the Obama vote, the real person at fault is himself. This is a fact I believe is truly starting to sink into his mind right now.

    His recent attack on Obama would be a tell tale sign.

    Once again, all bets are off if Hillary gets the nomination.

    • carol

      C’dude, you always refer to McCain w/in a Keating 5 frame. I can remember Keating 5, but not much of it. Can you enlighten me?

      • carol

        I didn’t get an answer, C’Dude, so I ‘googled Keating 5. Now I remember!!!

  • Bob Clark

    Funny, two Demo presidents steered us into Vietnam. JFK sent in the advisors, and LBJ escalated U.S involvement further. Obama is said to have JFK attributes as a motivating speaker, and he once talked of sending troops into Pakistan. Let’s see. Let’s go into another country, having left Iraq in a weak state. Bottom line: Demos and Repubs are not so differently inclined when it comes to using military force. Obama could even become a hitler type figure if we let him. Don’t see this with McCain as much although don’t see a whole lot of change either.

  • John Fairplay

    McCain’s successful candidacy is a very interesting case study. Normally, it is the most conservative candidate that wins a Republican primary. McCain has benefited to some extent from the absence of a “real” conservative – that is, one who holds conservative views on issues and has for a long period of time. He has also benefited from having the most consistently conservative candidate – Fred Thompson – run the worst campaign. He has benefited from having more than one “perceived conservative” in many primaries to split conservative votes. He has benefited from having the early putative nominee make a strategic error that killed his campaign. McCain has also benefited from being perhaps the best known candidate or at least the one most familiar to voters.

    • dean

      McCain benefited by running against a flawed field, and his wide familiarity and media admirers let him survive his mismanagement of his funding. No one can say there were not lots of conservatives to choose from, though Ronmey was the Platonic ideal of inauthenticity, as one wag said. Frankly, I think it is “conservatism” that is flawed in the eyes of too much of the public at this point. Even Reagan would not win this time. Either the program or the brand needs a serious makeover.

      Buchanan was more conservative than Bush 1 or Dole. Even more than Democrats, Republicans gravitate to their establishment’s choice, not to the “most conservative.” Bush 2 was the establishment choice in 2000, not McCain.

      Sure Bob…both parties historically have started wars. But Nam was a gradual escalation that started with Ike, not Kennedy, and it had the support of both parties as a cold war project. Goldwater was not exactly a peacenik. Afghanastan had near universal support, which is understandable after 9-11. But Iraq was strictly a Bush and neocon enterprise. Yes, they intimidated some Dems like Kerry and Clinton into supporting the adventure, but I don’t see any Democrat this side of Leiberman who would have initiated that war. It was pure hubris. Nothing more.

      In any case…what’s done is done. Where do we go from here? McCain has a tough sales job ahead if he really wants to pitch a long term occupation. I suspect after the nomination he will begin backpeddaling very soon, declaring the surge a success that now allows a significant drawdown. he better keep his fingers crossed that Sader stays holds his fire in the meantime.

      CD…given the war baggage, the recession, and the conservative crackup, I expect even Hill will clean McCain’s clock if she gets the nomination.

      • Alan

        Hillary cleans McCain’s clock? Right now, Hillary is under-performing and McCain is over-performing. I think the November verdict is still unwritten.

      • CRAWDUDE

        That would be something I’d bet a microbrew on, lol:)

  • Rupert in Springfield

    With McCain, the one thing perhaps conservatives could look for is he does seem committed to Iraq. Frankly no matter what the outcome of the election, the one thing that seems sure is we will be there a long time. Any Democrat who thinks Clinton or Obama will be gunning for a pull out seems to have a short memory span. This is exactly what Nancy and Harry promised if they won congress, look what happened, they cant even get close to pushing a pull out bill through congress. Dems control congress, and probably will after the elections, with roughly the same majority. With a Democratic presidency, I doubt very much they will want to rock the boat, and perhaps run a repeat of 1994. At any rate with an Obama or Clinton win, there will also be little advantage in playing up the “we are losing” card, as there will be no political advantage to failure with Democrats in charge.

    In the end, Americans might not be all that enthusiastic about the war, but the one thing they don’t want is the kind of chaos we got in SE Asia, combined with an American defeat, after our withdrawal from Vietnam. Neither Clinton or Obama wants will want to remembered as the president who established Killing Field part two.

    As far as the nomination goes, Republicans are definitely not noted for nominating the most conservative candidate of the field. This time around is no exception. Bush 1, Bob Dole, Bush 2, Ford and Nixon all prove this true (All were fairly moderate at least as far as being pro status quo on social spending and entitlements, which is most of the budget), McCain just furthers the trend. The interesting thing will be immigration, an issue which I think McCain has heard the message from the American people loud and clear. I frankly think, being more politically minded than Bush 2, McCain will follow the trend on this one if he is elected, but I don’t have huge faith in that, just an inkling.

    McCain vs. Clinton -> McCain wins hands down, there is just simply no way Clinton can overcome her huge negatives and lets face it, blacks will be really pissed off at this point if, with the press Obama has gotten. Any usurpation of the nomination will look like Hillary pulled a fast one. Blacks will stay home, McCain wins.

    McCain vs. Obama -> Obama wins. Lets face it, the guy is likeable as hell and frankly, no matter what his policies, people like the idea of finally electing a black president who is energetic and just frankly seems always in a good mood. Visualizing him in the White House is not hard at all and I just don’t see too many people pissed off if he won. Obama would have to do some sort of major misstep, or somehow look wildly inexperienced for him to not walk away with this one.

    • dean

      After last night it sure looks like McCain vs Obama.

      • CRAWDUDE

        One thing I did notice looking at the totals is that Hillary has many more ” Super Delegates ” than Obama. It doesn’t look like either one will get the overall 2000+ they need to sow up the nomination out right. The convention could be very interesting indeed!

        I looking for Hillary to go a little more negative over the next couple of weeks.

        Huckabee needs to drop out, his star is starting to fall. If he stays in much longer he’ll start losing support.

        McCain doesn’t get my vote though!

      • CRAWDUDE

        Barack Obama
        Pledged:1,154Superdelegates:161 Total:1,315

        Hillary Clinton
        Pledged:1,011Superdelegates:234 Total:1,245

        • dean

          CD…the “pledges” of the super delegates are not worth much. They can change at any time, and most will fast abandon a sinking Titanic. Hill and Bill will probably step up the negative, but unless they can come up with something very serious, that won’t work. People like Obama, and the tendency is to rally around and defend him when he is attacked. He has now won 10 states in a row, and is poised to win most of the remaining states, including Oregon. The super delgates will not buck this wave if it continues to crest.

          Its coming down to Texas and Ohio, and the polls, and Wisconsin vote, look very bad for the Clintons. It really looks like the Edwards supporters (blue colar white guys) have gone to Obama, with or without Edwards endorsement.

          Be prepared to say hello to President Obama, barring something major. John McCain is going to look very old, tired, and absent ideas in contrast. The standard Republican “be very afraid, daddy will protect you” line won’t work this time. He has only his resume and residual good reputation to run on, which won’t be nearly enough. He is already replaying the Clinton strategy: experience, security, commander in chief, etc…I’ll predict 55-45 Obama and a big electoral majority, assuming no 3rd party run. And I’ll also predict that Hillary will be the next majority leader in the Senate. That is the deal that will get her to step back.

          Its interesting historically that some of our best, or most effective Presidents (I’ll reluctantly include Reagan here) have been relatively inexperienced in electoral politics, while some of our worst have been quite experienced (Hoover comes to mind). And we have only elected 2 sitting Senators to the office in the past 100 years. Obama, since he is so new, lacks the baggage many years in the Senate creates. McCain has so much baggage he needs an army of porters.

  • dean

    A very interesting take on Obama at the link below: