9 June 2008

Should John McCain Be Worried?

McCain has now been the unchallenged Republican nominee since February. That is four months with a clear run to fundraise, build networks and define himself and his message.

He set out on a world tour offering to narrate his (impressive) life story to the world and offer a concise concept of what motivates him to fight for the presidency.

With his primary opposition entangled with sermons and snipers, racial politics and Vice Presidential manoeuvring we could have expected Senator McCain to ride above the grubby day to day bickering his opponents were engaged and position himself as a grown up politician for difficult times.

That has not been the case.

In spite of this four month head start over Senator Obama, the enduring image that the public has been left with flawed and campaign and a flawed candidate.
His statesmanlike tour of Europe and the Middle East undermined his claim that he the trusty pair of foreign policy hands who can is best able to make sound judgements.

His unequivocal statement that Iran is arming and funding Al-Qaeda in Iraq left his good friend and ally, Senator Joseph Lieberman, to tactfully whisper in his ear that "Actually Senator, no they're not…" only for McCain to hastily correct himself, asserting that he meant Iran was arming more general extremist movements.

This gaffe comes as the American people are have only recently became reacquainted to the notion having integrity in foreign policy and only succeed in reinforcing worries about the Senators age and the implications it could have on his ability to retain minute details and make decisive decisions on issues of national security.

Then there was his now infamous speech on Wednesday night that received almost unanimous scorn. He was boring. He was tedious. He mumbled. He was cranky. And that green screen behind him was a disaster. Unfortunately for McCain, these were some of the more generous reviews. And this on the same night that Barack Obama offered historic and soaring rhetoric from the same hall where John McCain will address the Republican National Convention in September.

In any spare time he has had, he has been forced to purge his campaign of all staff who have links to lobbyists and robustly defend himself against New York Times allegation she had had inappropriate relations with a female lobbyist during his 2000 Presidential run.

For sure his ‘clear run’ in the media has been overshadowed to a large extent by the historic Clinton/Obama battle which has saturated the media.

He is also running against an unpopular Republican President and a tarnished party brand. In fact his personal approval ratings remain between 10-13% above those of his party – like trying to run with a lead weight tied round your ankles.

Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager also argues there are many reasons to be optimistic. Last week he posted a PowerPoint study asserting that McCain currently hold slight leads in Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri and Nevada, and that Ohio is "a dead heat" and that Pennsylvania could go Republican. "This is a very good position for our campaign to be in," Davis contends

Additionally there is, of course, a marathon five months until ballots will be cast. If a week is a long time in politics, then five months is a rouge Reverend (or two…), a swift boat and any combination of unpredictable events that could destroy a campaign.

But many are already suggesting McCain must up his game, and soon.

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