Tuesday, February 12, 2008

John McCain in Decline

From Dan Balz:
Does a Long Democratic Contest Help McCain?

Of course. The extended Democratic race affords the Republican front-runner any number of advantages, starting with the ability to get some rest. The candidates and their staffs are worn out mentally and physically after what is already the longest and most intensive nomination battle in history. As Clinton and Obama continue at a punishing pace, John McCain can relax and recharge.

Beyond that, McCain will be able to campaign solely against the Democrats, beginning a general election argument long before Clinton or Obama can. The money he raises between now and the convention can be put to that purpose as well. He can start to unify the GOP -- not a moment too soon, in his case -- and begin to build a general-election field organization.

But the Democratic race has captured the country's attention, and McCain will find it hard to get much attention as long as that battle continues. If it ends in a civil way, the Democratic base will be energized and enthusiastic. Obama and Clinton also will gain potentially valuable exposure in some upcoming general-election battlegrounds that McCain may not. Democrats may worry about a long contest damaging the party's chances in November, but some Republicans doubt this is going to be a major factor come fall.
I think this last paragraph is closer to the truth. McCain does better when he's got somebody to fight against. Right now, Clinton and Obama, despite using McCain as a boogeyman, are much too involved with their internecine struggles to take more than the occaisional policy swipe at him.

So McCain will suffer from neglect:
  1. Without clear attacks from the Democrats, he has no way to contrast his policy positions with those of his opponent(s). Without those contrasts, the conservative wing of the GOP can chip away at him, forcing him to move further and further right and damaging his general election chances more and more.

  2. The press has already begun to ignore him. Huckabee is getting more coverage than McCain is, simply because it's more fun for the audience if there's some pretense of a horse race on the GOP side. Without steady press coverage, McCain will go the way of Giuliani.

  3. McCain is tempermentally unsuited to being ignored. Without somebody to snarl at he comes off looking a trifle befuddled. Given the age isssue, that's the kiss of death for him.
McCain's only hope is to stir up some trouble. Doesn't matter if it's on the right with the GOP or on the left with the Dems. He needs somebody taking potshots at him.

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