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.

1 comment:

Nate said...

Hi Jen! McCain has been a real case study on what is going in the Republican Party. I suspect that the numbers and money don't mean much of anything right now on the right as the base splintered several different ways and most candidates are only half as loony as the base wants them to be. That Guiliani gets decent numbers would lead me to believe a certain amount of pragmatism will drive the primaries, in which case McCain's staffing problems will become even more important. People don't give money to operations with revolving doors.

And of course, come September and he great Petraeus bait and switch, McCain will look even worse to independents and the ever slowly growing antiwar Republican contingent.

I have always thought that unabashed support for the war in 2006/early 2007 was terribly foolish in a Republican candidate. The war clearly is going into a phase of withdrawal or insane escalation. The current situation cannot continue. And so McCain and Guiliani, for instance, put their campaign message into the hands of the military and the insurgents, and against a rising tide of public sentiment. It will be interesting to see if that realization pierces the Republican primary bubble as an issue of pragmatics. An unabashed pro-war candidate would seem to hae very little to stand on in a general election short of some kind of miracle.