Monday, March 26, 2007



by Mike Hellon

I listen with interest as the national political pundits ruminate about John McCain’s “problems” – problems with the base, problems with the war, problems with the conservatives, problems with his “numbers.” What I perceive to be at work here is the back side of the traditional cycle with the political media. They discover a new “star” (John McCain in 1999, Barack Obama in 2006); then when these new stars reach sufficiently high political heights, the media relish in their haste to bring them down.

I believe this to be the substance of the “McCain-is-in-trouble” talk; because when we look past the numbers being reported, he is actually doing quite well, especially when you correct for the voters who will actually vote in a Republican primary and when you look at the numbers on a state-by-state basis.

He is doing very well in Iowa, for example, where he didn’t even campaign four years ago. With his history of opposition to ethanol subsidies, I asked McCain a couple of months ago why he even intended to go to Iowa. His response was that it’s an important state, which can’t be ignored. Typical of McCain, he has not only been to Iowa, but has been drawing huge crowds, has built a good political organization and has a very good chance of carrying it.

Because it is a strong anti-war state, New Hampshire has admittedly become a bit of a problem of late, which the national pundits will quickly share with you. McCain’s numbers have fallen, due mostly to his support of the President’s policies in Iraq. As the senator recently remarked, though, “I’d rather lose an election than lose a war.” He believes strongly that while we can argue about whether we should ever have gone into Iraq in the first place, we are where we are and failure is not an option. He has a very strong political organization in New Hampshire (his national political director hails from there), is immensely popular personally, and he has recently drawn huge positive crowds to his appearances. More to the point, there are encouraging signs that the numbers are getting better again.

In fact, if one were to track the shifts in national polling over time, the well-reported Rudy Giuliani lead over McCain has been cut in half in recent weeks. Mayor Giuliani is still on the up side of the media star-making curve and still has to deal with them when they decide to turn on him, as they inevitably will. In the meantime, the McCain political organization continues to expand at a rate that Giuliani will never be able to duplicate.

This last point is important, because third only to money and name ID, political organization will be a determining factor this cycle. As you read recently in this blog, some twenty states (including California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida and Texas) will likely have their primaries or caucuses by the end of the first week of February 2008 (most of them on February 5th). It will be virtually impossible for anyone to mount a full-scale state-by-state primary campaign in every state. If money and name ID are approximately equal, organization will carry the day.

The first three contests leading into the February 5th national primary (a bit of hyperbole there) are Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. We have already discussed Iowa and New Hampshire. In South Carolina, which is very supportive of President Bush’s policies in Iraq, McCain is extremely strong. He is likely to carry South Carolina, which immediately precedes the February 5th primaries. What all of this means is that there is a very real chance that John McCain will win at least two and perhaps all three of the first contests leading into February 5th, including the one immediately preceding. With that kind of momentum, he will be very difficult to stop.

When I speak with people about John McCain and the McCain campaign, a long list of annoyances develops. There is Iraq. There is his co-sponsorship of a bill with Ted (gag) Kennedy. There’s his age. Some people are angry that he hasn’t supported the President enough. Others complain that he is catering too much to the far right. Whatever the particular issue, I always respond with one question – “If not McCain, then who.”

This Presidential cycle is not a referendum on John McCain, Yes or No. Every candidate has one flaw or another. Without exception, though, when I engage people (at least Republican people) in the discussion of if not McCain then who, he immediately looks better. There is a recognition in our Party that whatever else you feel about John McCain, we need someone who can win -- Hillary Clinton is no option. As much as anything else, this convinces me that John McCain will emerge as the Republican nominee. And if he gets the nomination, I firmly believe he will be the next President of the United States.

I have every confidence he will be an outstanding one.


Anonymous said...

The latest Rasmussen report has McCain leading Hillary 48% to 41%.

Although he might not be raking in the dough like Hillary is, it does not mean he can't beat her.

Anonymous said...

Right on SC, but wrong VP candidate. I'd look for McCain/Thompson (or Thompson/McCain). They are friends, and Thompson would fill in some of the gaps in McCain's conservative credentials.

Anonymous said...

Right on, Mike.
Yes, there are questions but I still have faith in John McCain's common sense approach to most issues. He is a fine American whose loyalty to this Country should never be questioned.

Bruce P. Murchison said...

While I have significant differences with McCain on some issues, he seems to be a man of integrity. He does what he believes is right, regardless of the political fallout. That takes courage. Considering his conservative voting record on social issues, he should be able to swing most of the conservatives (when compared to Giuliani) to his corner. Unless someone like Newt Gingrich or Fred Thompson jumps in, it looks like McCain will pass Giuliani and take the nomination. Despite our differences, I believe he would make a fine President. As far as a VP, McCain would likely choose someone from a swing state to be safe (although I don't think the election will be that close).Unless someone like Newt Gingrich or Fred Thompson jumps in, it looks like McCain will pass Guiliani and take the nomination. Despite our differences, I believe he would make a fine President. As far as a VP, McCain would likely choose someone from a swing state to be safe(although I don't think the election will be that close).

Tony GOPrano said...

An excellent post Mike! 2 different polls today show #1 that Sen. McCain is closing in on Rudy Guiliani (USA Today Poll) McCain behind by 9 (he was 14 down) & the Harris Poll showing that 50% of all adults will NOT vote for Hillary Clinton. Thompson & McCain would make an unbeatable team. Time will tell just what is going to happen.

x4mr said...


Well, before I spoil a party or pick a fight, just want to say, and this is not blowing smoke, I think Mike should have gotten the GOP nod against Giffords last fall, and I am still baffled about what happened there. Won't try to speculate who would have prevailed, but it would have made for a much more interesting and certainly tighter race. That whole election was just plain weird. Ousting Toni and selecting Jorgenson over Carol?

Dumb. Huffman? Graf? Uhhhh.

My radar on McCain is far more negative than anything posted thus far. My radar screen shows a man who spoke quite eloquently about extremist positions, mentioning Falwell by name, only to snuggle up to the man later on. Lots of folks see McCain as a "do whatever it takes to get elected" sell out.

Am I wrong? I have not read Kuo's Tempting Faith but I have heard considerable conversation that McCain is seen as pandering and not authentically supportive of "true Christian" values, whatever that is. I have read a fair amount from this population voicing the view that he cannot be trusted, just like Bush.

From another angle, there is still resentment regarding what Bush did to McCain in 2000, and that McCain would later hug and support Bush after this smear is seen very unfavorably.

On the blue side I have already posted my view that Hillary's nomination is highly problematic given seething negatives by a significant number of folks. She is an assassination waiting to happen if she gets the nod and is not careful, as is Obama.

Another factor regarding McCain is growing concern about his age and his health.

Anonymous said...

First, one must be aware that Mike Hellon is on John McCain’s Campaign staff. Mike probably should have disclosed that in a footnote in his article.

Now, I doubt there is anyone out there that does not believe McCain has problems, particularly with conservatives, and in primary elections, conservatives vote, independents stay home. I actually think it was Mike Hellon himself that pointed this out.

In the past five years John McCain has severely hurt the Republican Party and the party faithful know it. McCain-Feingold severely hurt the GOP fundraising machine and paved the way for far left groups like and idiots like George Soros to dump unlimited resources into efforts to malign Republicans and help Democrats.

M-F prevented well established GOP PACs from helping Republicans to the extent they have in the past and put the GOP behind the curve as they scrambled to set up 527s of their own.

Money is the mother’s milk of politics and the only tool the GOP has to counter the clearly bias national media. There is clear consensus among Republican strategists and fundraisers that M-F weakened the GOP.

Then there was the “Nuclear Option” and the “Gang of 14,” where McCain undermined GOP Senate leadership and the President just so he could grab the spot light, handing the Dem minority a victory and forcing the President to abandon the appointments of several conservative Federal Judges and replace them with moderates.

Then there’s the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act” where McCain once again undermined the GOP by teaming up with ultra-lefty Ted Kennedy to essentially reward criminals by granting them amnesty. Undercutting Strong Border Security legislation passed in the House McCain siphoned off a handful of GOP Senators and gave political cover to Democrat Senators facing re-election by supporting the Democrat filibuster and preventing a floor vote that would have put them on the record just before the election.

This led to the label of “The Do-Nothing Congress” and created a rift in the party between the “cheap labor” business side and the “seal the border” grass roots.

Then there’s the points x4mr makes about his age and run in with cancer.

McCain will need to answer and atone for those “strayed of the reservation” moments in the months leading up to the primary. There is no doubt his opponents will pound on them. McCain’s only hope is that Rudy’s baggage will be worse and conservatives will be leery of voting for a gun-banning, double divorcee, ex-mayor. McCain must also hope Gingrich and Thompson don’t throw their hat into the ring and give conservatives a clear choice in a primary filled with wishy-washy milk toast Republicans.

Anonymous said...

To answer Mr. Hellon's question of whether McCain is "really" in trouble, I think...yes.

The new fundraising figures is a big blow given that he has more ties politically, should be the front-runner, and has Bush's fundraising machine behind him. The machine seems not to be working...and it may have to do with the fact that so many are soured on Bush...and so many are soured on McCain's support of the surge.