Monday, November 3, 2008

How McCain Lost This Election

After tomorrow there will be plenty of talk from political pundits and talking heads that are probably a lot smarter than me about what went wrong for John McCain and the Republican Party. Despite the latest predictions by the McCain camp that he is “surging” this election will be called by 10:00PM CST for our next President Barack Obama. So as we await the results of the most historic election in our nation’s history I would like to offer the Republicans my take on what went wrong.

This election would have been difficult to win for the Republicans in the best of circumstances, but I think there were two over-riding issues that spelled the eventual defeat of the Republicans. One could have been avoided; the other was a runaway freight train that many underestimated and still do. Many people will say it was the economy that was the McCain downfall but I don’t buy it. While the economy has helped to highlight McCain weaknesses and vulnerabilities they have only helped to increase the lead Senator Obama already had. There will be those wing-nut Republicans who will claim that McCain wasn’t tough enough on Obama as evidenced by the last second Reverend Wright commercials that have been appearing thanks to the RNC. Again this is ludicrous considering that the more McCain went negative the more his poll numbers fell.

The first issue and I think the one that could have been avoided was the McCain that came out of the primaries and the Convention was not John McCain. In order to secure his Party’s nomination John McCain had to change from the independent thinker and likable guy to the ideologue and far right-wing champion. Remember who he was running against in the primaries? The guy’s that gave him the most trouble were Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney both were tacking hard right. It was during the primaries that John McCain lost himself and became someone else, someone barely recognizable by those who knew him before and liked him. All of his previous positions were “transformed” (flip-flopped) to appeal to the ever more rabid Party base that the Republicans are becoming. There were the Bush tax-cuts, torture, and immigration to name a few. While his campaign stated that he became more enlightened the rest of America didn’t see it that way. The final anti-McCain decision was Sarah Palin. The real John McCain would have chosen Joe Lieberman as his running-mate.

John McCain coming out of the convention wasn’t running against Barack Obama; he was running against John McCain. This is not to say that either John McCain would have won the election, but at least he would have been true to himself and the American public would have sensed that. Watching this John McCain campaign was at times excruciatingly painful to those who respected him in 2000 during his Presidential run. He never looked comfortable and his campaigning often times looked laborious and agonizing for him. The miscalculation of his handlers was that he could run as a maverick at the same time he was running as a base candidate and the two could never be reconciled in the candidate’s mind nor in the publics. It was this contradictory campaigning that prevented them from presenting a coherent message and instead settling for gimmicks.

The second and I think larger issue was that the McCain campaign fell into the same trap as the Hillary Clinton campaign fell into and that was they underestimated the electorates deep desire for change from the past. This required more than just a change in faces but more importantly in the tone and tenor of the candidates. This blunder was evidenced in the failed strategy of the McCain campaign in the first two months concerning experience. The McCain camp wasted valuable time on a strategy that became moot once they selected Sarah Palin as VP nominee. For some odd reason the McCain camp felt confident in a strategy that had failed the vaulted Clinton machine, I guess they figured they could do it better but the results were the same. They never had a true understanding of the depth of the Bush debacle in the minds of voters. They ran the Bush campaign of 2000 that defeated McCain never realizing that the country had tired of this sort of slash and burn tactics.

They underestimated the degree of discontent not only from Democrats but moderate Republicans and Independents as well. This was the year for McCain to have run his campaign from 2000 and not Bush’s. The change dynamic trumped the experience, Commander-in-Chief, and scary black man arguments. Instead of incorporating the change meme the McCain campaign chose to run a base campaign in a change year. As the economic situation became more and more volatile and perilous it only went to reinforce the instability and lack of coherency from the McCain team. Because he was running a base campaign Barack Obama was able to tie John McCain to George W. Bush and once he was able to do that thanks to McCain’s help this election was over. Since he was required to change his previously held “maverick” positions to shore up his base he began to talk and act like George W. It wasn’t a hard sell to complete the transition from Bush to McCain.

Then of course there is the candidate himself, Barack Obama has always been believed to be too soft to handle the rigors of a Presidential campaign or that he was too cerebral to connect with the voting public. However, after 8 years of a guy who people felt comfortable having a beer with wrecking the country that criterion was no longer as important as it once was. People realized that maybe that guy sitting next to me on the bar stool may not be the guy I want handling the country in a crisis. The Obama team ran a masterful campaign avoiding the missteps that befell many of the other campaigns. The McCain camp had to manufacture gaffes to feign false indignation and try to rally the base, again running a base campaign.

The bottom line is that John McCain lost this election badly because he lost himself. You can’t run against yourself and win.

1 comment:

Avatar said...

I am not going to vote for McCain or Obama. I will vote for a third party candidate in hopes that my vote will help create a viable third party. Both candidates say that they are not going to raises your income taxes.

…………………INCOME TAXES………………

What about the taxes that the big evil corporations pay?
They are just passed to the consumer.


They all grow government at any cost to the taxpayer.

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