Tuesday, July 03, 2007

McCain's Malaise

Politico this morning is running an article on McCain that the mainstream media has been reporting on since yesterday. McCain's fundraising was lower than expectations (only $11 million), and he is cleaning house and firing dozens of staff.

I have found the McCain campaign fascinating to watch this election cycle, in part for the fun of comparing this campaign to his bid in 2000. As I've written elsewhere, McCain has not been able to really carry his "straight talker" and "maverick" image forward this campaign, in part because of the overstatement of security in Iraq from the spring.

Like his campaign in 2000 he is struggling to capture the traditional Republican base. His stands on some key issues, immigration being the new one, put him at odds with his party base. He won New Hampshire in 2000 because New Hampshire allows registered independents to vote in primaries, and independents turned out for McCain in droves. But, he lost in South Carolina, at least in part because that state does not allow independents to vote in primaries.

He faces the problem of not appealing to the base this election cycle, and his stand on Iraq has put him at odds with independents who poll with Democrats on their negative opinions on the war.

Having said all of that, I am struck by how much the money game has changed this election cycle. In 2004 when Howard Dean raised $10 million in the second (or third, my memory is fuzzy now), it was heralded as a huge fundraising success. Now, a measly $11 million only gets a candidate scorn.

This is not to say that McCain has no problems. He does. A shake up of his staff, only $2 million in the bank, and low fundraising numbers compared to Obama who blew the record at $32 million signal that McCain has a rough road ahead.

Politico and other sources are ringing the death knell for McCain, but my prediction is that he'll stick it out. We're still 6 months away from the first ballot casting, and much can change during that time. McCain likely found it difficult to fundraise in the middle of the divisive debate on immigration, and now that such legislation is dead, he may find some pockets open up. Plus, his campaign is now seriously considering taking federal matching funds, which would give the campaign an additional infusion of cash.

Time will tell, though, whether Maverick McCain can communicate a consistent image and appease the party base.