Archive for May 18th, 2008

Welcome To The 2008 Campaign Metanarrative

I think the #1 story – and deciding factor – of the 2008 campaign is going to be the efforts of McCain and downticket Republican candidates to distance themselves from the unpopular awfulness of the Bush/Cheney administration and position themselves as Reasonable Pragmatic Moderates.

Dick Morris thinks it’s doable, at least for Straight-Talking Maverick McCain:

McCain needs to not run as a traditional Republican, which is easy, since he’s not one. After all, how did an anti-torture, anti-tobacco, pro-campaign finance reform, anti-pork, pro-alternative-energy Republican ever emerge from the primaries alive?

I wasn’t aware that one did.

…McCain can win by running to the center.

His base will be there for him; indeed, it will turn out in massive numbers. Wright has become the honorary chairman of McCain’s get-out-the-vote efforts. It would be nice to think that race isn’t a factor in American politics anymore, but it is. The growing fear of Obama, who remains something of an unknown, will drag every last white Republican male off the golf course to vote for McCain, and he will need no further laying-on of hands from either evangelical Christians or fiscal conservatives.

So McCain doesn’t have to spend a lot of time wooing his base. What he does need to do is reduce the size of the synapse over which independents and fearful Democrats need to pass in order to back his candidacy. If the synapse is wide, they will stay with Obama. But if they perceive McCain as an acceptable alternative, there is every chance that they will cross over to back him in November.


Earlier in the race, Iraq might have been a deal-breaker. But a kinder, gentler war has emerged. U.S. combat deaths are way down, and the de facto U.S. alliance with Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province against al-Qaeda in Iraq seems to have dramatically improved the security situation. Still, most Americans don’t like the war, and McCain must deal with their opposition if he wants to win.


….Unlikely as it sounds, the soon-to-be former president needs to get out of the White House, reenter the political arena (much as it will pain him) and go around the country telling us two things: First, we are winning in Iraq; second, the economy is not as bad as most people think….

Right, because Dubya hasn’t been doing that at all for the past four years.

Bush can help McCain, but that doesn’t mean that McCain should support Bush. As Bush makes the case for himself, McCain must put distance between them. A lot of distance. Once, McCain ran against Bush. But since then, he has basked in the glow of Bush’s warm welcome back to the mainstream of the party. Now McCain needs to free himself of Bush’s spell, go out again into the cold and show the country the difference between his agenda and Bush’s.

Meanwhile, McCain should highlight his credentials as a reformer and a maverick to attract Democrats and independents who worry about Obama. Forget about the base. It will be there. Obama’s liberalism, his pro-tax agenda and his proposed weakening of the USA Patriot Act — as well as fears that he would appoint to office people such as Rev. Wright and William Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground — will all assure the full mobilization of the right. Immigration reform and McCain’s other acts of apostasy will be forgiven for the sake of beating Obama. So McCain needs to go after the swing voters:

[Laundry list of things that McCain will mostly never do, but might conceivably pretend to have intentions of doing]


Meanwhile, the right wing will carry the attack against Obama. McCain is not a mudslinging politician by nature, but he doesn’t need to be. The collected quotes of Rev. Wright will be a bestseller this summer. Obama once had to prove to us that he was not a Muslim; now he must convince us that he never really went to church much….

Wow, Dick really has put all his eggs into the racism/Reverend Wright basket, hasn’t he?  And he obviously wants us to believe that McCain really is as honorable and independent as he pretends to be.

Frank Rich doesn’t think it’ll work:

The G.O.P.’s best hope would be for both the president and Dick Cheney to lock themselves in a closet until the morning after Election Day.

Republicans finally recognized the gravity of their situation three days after Jenna Bush took her vows in Crawford. As Hillary Clinton romped in West Virginia, voters in Mississippi elected a Democrat [by eight points] in a Congressional district that went for Bush-Cheney by 25 percentage points just four years ago. It’s the third “safe” Republican House seat to fall in a special election since March.


The vice president’s visit was last Monday, the centerpiece of a get-out-the-vote rally in DeSoto County, a G.O.P. stronghold. “We’ll put our shoulders to the wheel for John McCain,” the vice president promised as he bestowed his benediction on Mr. Davis. Well, he got out the vote all right. In the election results the next day, the Childers total in DeSoto County increased 142 percent, while the Davis count went up only 47 percent.


The McCain campaign is hoping that… showy, if tardy, departures from Bush-Cheney doctrine will constitute a galaxy of Sister Souljah moments, each with headlines reading “McCain Breaks With Bush on…” and the usual knee-jerk press references to Mr. McCain as a “maverick.” Enough of these, you see, and those much-needed independent voters might be flimflammed into believing that the G.O.P. candidate bears no responsibility for the administration’s toxically unpopular policies.


But are independents suckers? They’d have to be to fall for the pitch that Mr. McCain is an apostate in his own party in 2008. He has been an outspoken Bush defender since helping him sell the Iraq war in 2002 and barnstorming for him in 2004. Despite Mr. McCain’s campaign claims to the contrary, he never publicly called for the firing of Donald Rumsfeld. He is still one of the president’s most stalwart supporters in Congress, even signing on to the president’s wildly unpopular veto of an expansion of children’s health insurance.


Hard as it is for Mr. McCain to run from the Bush policies he supports, it will be far harder to escape from Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney themselves. When Mr. McCain accepted Mr. Bush’s endorsement at the White House in March, he referred three times to the president’s “busy schedule,” as if wishing aloud that the lame-duck incumbent would have no time to appear at, say, get-out-the-vote rallies. Alas, Mr. Bush and company are not going gently into retirement.

Just look at Mr. Rove. Some Democrats are outraged that he is now employed as a pundit by Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal as well as Fox News. Instead of complaining, they should be thrilled that Mr. Rove keeps inviting Republican complacency by constantly locating silver linings in the party’s bad news. His ubiquitous TV presence as a thinly veiled McCain surrogate has the added virtue of wrapping the Republican ticket in a daily and suffocating Bush bearhug, since Mr. Rove is far more synonymous with his former boss than Mr. Obama is with his former pastor.

And what of the loyal base that Dick Morris doesn’t think the Republicans have to worry about?  Check out the comments on this NRCC blog post where Tom Cole hypes the rollout of a kinder, gentler Republican Party.  They uniformly bemoan the sellout big-government liberalism and vow to stop contributing and stay home on Election Day.

So this is the dilemma that McCain and the Republicans face: How do they thread the needle between pretending that they have absolutely nothing in common with Dubya, nope, never heard of him, and pissing off the die-hard conservative base that is completely unaccustomed to not being pandered to? Even with the corporate media’s unstinting assistance, I don’t think it can be done – not if American voters still have functioning memories.

I’m looking forward to watching the Republicans alienate both the independents and the base for a truly epic implosion.  And if Bob Barr really does end up running to siphon off the crazy base vote, McCain will have absolutely zero chance.

(h/t dakine, Mike Stark, & Julia)

2 comments May 18th, 2008 at 02:13pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Blogosphere,Bush,Cheney,Democrats,Economy,Elections,Iraq,McCain,Media,Obama,Politics,Polls,Republicans,War

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