Saturday, May 28, 2005

Some reasons why Senator McCain will lose in 2008

Given all of the attention and praise being lavished upon Senator McCain this week, including a major profile piece in "The New Yorker", I think its time for me to go on the record with a few thoughts about the Senator's presidential chances. My impression is that he is destined to lose a presidential bid in 2008, either in the primaries or in the general election. These thoughts might illustrate why his presidential campaign is going to have some serious problems to overcome.
  • The obvious problem for McCain in 2008 is The Deal. Whether or not McCain's deal with the Democrats is a good or a bad thing to happen to the Republican Party, there are still a lot of Republicans out there who believe that McCain stabbed his party in the back. There is still another complication from the Deal for McCain: the Republicans only need to replace two of the seven Republican Senators to be able to regain use of the nuclear option. If McCain runs for president and appears likely to be replaced by a anti-filibuster Republican, the Democrats could attack McCain for betraying them.

  • Another problem for McCain is that he is something of a political chameleon. McCain's media presence tends to emphasize his small-government ideology, but he is not above backing big-government solutions when they make him look good on TV; remember that McCain was a champion of the settlement with Big Tobacco during the Clinton administration, for example. Even liberal rhetoric (i.e. the system is broken, anything would be an improvement, we must have reform NOW or the special interests win, etc.) comes naturally to McCain when his precious campaign-finance reforms are under debate

  • By the way, will Republicans really want the leading champion of campaign-finance reform running for president against a party that couldn't wait until the ink was dry on the previously enacted reforms before searching for loopholes?

  • For those of you who believe that Senator Clinton will be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008, McCain's campaigning style has already proven itself to be easily beatable by her. If you were watching Rick Lazio's 2000 Senatorial campaign in detail, you would know that he adopted McCain's signature tactics against rival candidate Hillary Clinton. When Lazio's "mainstream express" and campaign-finance reforms completely backfired, his adviser on loan from the McCain campaign convinced Lazio to adopt a strategy of ridiculous, unprovable smears such as the contention that Hillary Clinton was responsible for the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. The end result of Lazio's McCainism was an easy victory for Clinton and a humiliating end to his political career.

  • On the topic of the 2000 elections, recall that it was only the open structure of many of the Republican primaries that kept McCain's insurgent campaign going as long as it did. Given a reasonably conservative, reasonably loyal Republican alternative in 2008, the Republican base might repeat their mass defection from McCain in the 2008 primaries.

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