Supposedly, McCain is pulling out all of the stops in order to control the local party machinery to guarantee that Arizona falls smartly into the McCain column during the presidential primary. I have no evidence that this is or is not the case, but I do know this: if McCain is depending upon carrying Arizona to keep him in the primary, then he is unlikely to win.
McCain is the prohibitive favorite , that carries with it certain advantages and disadvantages. If you show well during the first few primaries, you will win, and handily. If, however, you do not show well initially, you will be yesterday's news. A prolonged primary battle is definitely not in McCain's interest. If you take away McCain's inevitability, he is just another senator running for president. Senators do not do well in presidential contests for a reason.
So how is McCain doing in the early primary stops?
One initial stop in New Hampshire is not so promising.
Manchester, N.H.-based American Research Group finds that McCain’s popularity among New Hampshire’s independent voters has collapsed.I believe that a lot of this is due to the surge of Obama, who is sucking up a lot of the "independent" oxygen. They can only vote in one primary, and right now they are liking the notion of supporting Obama over Clinton. Those wacky New Hampshirites.
“John McCain is tanking,” says ARG president Dick Bennett. “That’s the big thing [we’re finding]. In New Hampshire a year ago he got 49 percent among independent voters. That number’s way down, to 29 percent now.”
American Research Group, which is New Hampshire’s leading polling company and has been operating in the state since 1976, polled 1,200 likely Granite State voters in the survey.
In Iowa, McCain has ethanol issues Remember that this may have been part of the reason that McCain opted to skip the Iowa caucus almost entirely in 2000. It appears that McCain is going to contest Iowa this time around, but he has a lot of work to do.
Finally, in South Carolina, things are looking pretty positive for McCain..
Speaking of the team that McCain has assembled in the Palmetto state:
State GOP chairman Katon Dawson was impressed by McCain’s lineup.The latest out of South Carolina was a sizable blow against McCain's inevitability, however.
“That is what I would call the ‘A Team,’” Dawson said. “That is a good list. Those are people who have substantially helped build the Republican Party in South Carolina.
“I certainly congratulate Senator McCain on surrounding himself with such excellent South Carolina citizens who have been the backbone of our political success.”
Some skeptics may believe that these are just a handful of the available electoral votes, and that one could overcome a slow start and win the nomination. While this may be true generally, different rules apply to the front runner. If McCain cannot win two of the first three primaries, he will be in big trouble, especially if the contests he loses fall to a single competitor such as Guiliani or Romney.
On the flip side, if McCain can put away at least two of these primaries, the race should be over before it begins.
In either case, Arizona's votes, like in most presidential primaries should primarily be an afterthought. If McCain is spending considerable energy locking up the machinery here, he is likely falling behind in one of the three states he needs.