Thursday, March 01, 2007

What is McCain Doing?

Comes to the reading room news that John McCain chose the august location of Late Show With David Letterman to announce his bid for the Presidency, and that he's declined an invitation to speak at the Conservative Political Action Committee's (CPAC) 2007 meeting.

The Letterman thing -- whatever. It's not ringing with historical overtones like Sen. Obama's announcement at the Illinois Statehouse, but then again nobody was going to mistake John McCain for Abraham Lincoln. It's less Web 2.0 than Hillary's videoblogged-announcement, but I guess it's pretty silly at this point to go on a national television talk program and waffle about whether you're going to run when you've been running for the last 3 years.

McCain put his foot in the same hole that Obama twisted his ankle in a month or so ago, saying that the lives lost in Iraq have been "wasted", which is not going to endear him to the milblog crowd at all. Then again, the poll data suggests that he's angering less than 50.1% of the population with that statement, so politically it makes sense, right? He has since apologized, and his fellow Senator from Illinois had the grace to not tapdance on the statement with golf shoes on. It does show some class for Senator Obama to do that, which is part of the reason I think Hillary Clinton's politcal machine will be picking its teeth with his femur before the primaries are over. Politics is no longer the place for the Nice Guy, but I respect him not taking the boots to McCain when he's down.

The CPAC thing is a much larger blunder. First, the 5,000 attending CPAC are the yeast in the conservative political dough, and not getting face time with them is not helping your chances in the race for money and support. Second, it's pretty obvious that McCain is afraid of video of him speaking to the foam-flecked Wingnuts of the ultra-right (see, I could write for DailyKos if I used more profanity) making it out to the public. He could really use some conservative help, I mean, we vote too, rather reliably if it's someone we like. Mitt Romney will be there, so will Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich. McCain's people were trying to get a room to meet with some of the CPACers on the sly, without saying anything to them on the record, but it strikes me that this only twists the knife -- I want your support, but I don't want my picture taken with you? This kind of makes CPAC attendees out to be the John Huang of this political cycle, don't it?

I guess the calculus is that the conservatives will vote for McCain if he's the GOP nominee, because we'd really rather not vote for Hillary. That's what I want to be, a President elected by the people who voted against the other guy. Whale of a mandate there. This would be a better strategy if there weren't other candidates at the conference. I think most conservatives would love to see Rudy Giuliani be the Designated Public Speaker for George W., the guy exudes credibility and he articulates the War on Terror as well -- but if it's Date-Marry-Kill between Rudy, Newt and Mitt, I'd go for them in that order and I imagine that most people at CPAC will feel the same way by the end of the conference. Rudy is a leader, but he's pro-choice and pro-gun control, and if you want to get me to stay home or vote Libertarian those are two good positions to articulate early and often. Mitt Romney? He's a bit of a cypher at this point. Yes, he was elected in a Blue state but his late conversion to conservative viewpoints seems based more on convenience than conviction, and since he's out of office he doesn't have a chance to demonstrate his commitment in any tangible way.

The reason I'd marry Newt is that he really is that smart. He's a good speaker. He thinks about the issues, and articulates real plans to do things, not more platitudes. Yes, he's had an extramarital affair or three, yes, he's been married more often than Britney Spears (in fairness, Britney is just getting started). I know all these things, if they're a negative for Newt they're a negative for Rudy "I Divorce Thee At A Press Conference" Giuliani as well. The thing is, I don't want a Pastor, I want a President. I want a GOP candidate that can, if necessary, intelligently talk the Democratic nominee into the ground, with detail, and be right. And do it all without cue cards. The Modern Political Playbook says know your Talking Points, and refer the answer to any question back to your Talking Points. What a world it would be if the candidates were Talking, instead of Talking their Points. Of the serious contenders for the GOP nomination (Brownback? Tancredo? WHO?), Giuliani can probably do that, but I would question Romney and McCain's ability to do so.

The trick is that Newt isn't running, at least not officially. But my prediction is that he will come in either second or third at the CPAC straw poll, and a lot of people who wished Jeb Bush would enter the race will leave CPAC wishing Newt would enter the race, and he will, if asked.

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