McCain -- worth another look?

Despite the fact that I was a McCain supporter in 2000, I haven't written much about John McCain, largely because I long ago wrote him off after the disastrous and unconstitutional McCain Feingold bill.

(Well, there was one exception; when James Wolcott went out of his way to call McCain an "insatiable warrior," and a "seething nest of proto-fascist impulses," I warmed to him a little. To McCain, that is. I already loved James Wolcott....)

I think it should be remembered that a lot of people supported McCain's Campaign Reform atrocity (including Fred Thompson, whom I support). President Bush signed it, and the Supreme Court upheld it. Still, from this blogger's perspective it remains McCain's Sin Number One, and his name is indelibly on it. Such callused trifling with the First Amendment is very tough for me to forgive and forget.

But this election is not about me or what I think, and it is not even necessarily about what the small-l-libertarian blogosphere thinks; it's about winning. Right now, I'm supporting Fred Thompson, but I can't ignore possible future realities. The fact is, I would vote for McCain over Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or John Edwards, and so would a lot of people.

In a look at recent developments in the race by PJM's William Bradley, McCain stands out as the one Republican who might be able to beat any Democratic opponent:

The new CNN national poll shows the two Democratic frontrunners, Clinton and Obama, the current easy choice over all Republicans except John McCain. McCain is in a statistical dead heat with both Obama and Clinton.

The CNN poll has more:

The poll contained some worrying news for Romney: 62 percent of those surveyed say they will definitely not vote for the former Massachusetts governor in the general election, compared with just 13 percent who say they will definitely support him -- the worst showing of any of the major candidates.

The poll also suggests that two of his GOP primary opponents might also face an uphill climb this fall, with more than half of those polled saying they would definitely not vote for either man in November: 55 percent said they would not consider backing Giuliani, and 52 percent said the same of Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas.

Just one other candidate in the race, McCain, competes with Obama in both categories, with a favorability rating of 54 percent and an unfavorability rating of 29 percent. McCain is the only Republican included in the poll with a favorability rating of greater than 50 percent.

Here's ABC News:
McCain's victory in New Hampshire has sharply boosted views of his qualifications and abilities alike: His rating within his party as its most electable contender has tripled; as strongest leader, it's doubled; and he's scored double-digit gains in trust to handle Iraq and terrorism. He's climbed into the lead in overall vote preference for the first time in ABC News/Washington Post polls in the 2008 campaign.

Those who distrust CNN and ABC can see confirmation at Real Clear Politics, where the combined polls show McCain beating Hillary by four points, and in a statistical tie with Obama.

McCain has serious problems within the GOP. A lot of Republicans don't like him, and South Carolina is even being described as a "civil war." Romney is ahead -- only by a hair -- in Michigan, and the GOP race is wide-open.

So, just because he can win in November does not mean he'll be in a position to do that.

Whether special interests within the GOP can swallow their pride and vote for a man like McCain remains to be seen. I know there's a lot of antipathy towards him, but the same is true about Giuliani, and for different reasons, most of the bunch. I have to say, notwithstanding my reservations about McCain, I do prefer him to Romney, and I way prefer him to Huckabee.

Victor Davis Hanson -- a solid conservative if ever there was one -- took a suprisingly sympathetic look at McCain on January 3, before the current hoopla generated by New Hampshire. Acknowledging the antipathy to him by liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and the Christian right, Hanson nonetheless thinks McCain's most telling asset is the fact that he's an "Old Warhorse":

McCain has the most diverse experience of any of the candidates in either party. Sens. Obama and Hillary Clinton (D., N.Y.), may bicker over whether being first lady or growing up in Indonesia constitutes the better foreign-policy background. But no one would question McCain's far greater breadth of service: carrier aviator, combat pilot, wounded veteran, tortured while a prisoner of war for five and a half years, U.S. congressman and senator for a combined quarter-century, 2000 presidential candidate. And the list only goes on.

Third, we are still in a war on several fronts -- as we were reminded recently by the assassination, likely by al-Qaeda, of pro-American Pakistani Benazir Bhutto. Many of the other inexperienced candidates fumbled in their initial reactions to Bhutto's murder.

Obama ludicrously associated her death with the Iraq war. Huckabee, in Jimmy Carter fashion, apologized to Pakistan for the assassination -- although he did not explain why. Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson demanded that Gen. Musharraf step down -- as if we can snap our fingers and choose nuclear Pakistan's leaders.

McCain in contrast kept his cool. He candidly admitted that the tragic loss of Bhutto was a setback to American democratic objectives, while reminding us that a nuclear Islamist Pakistan is unstable and doesn't present America with any good choices. In this war, having a veteran fighter and savvy old statesman as commander-in-chief makes a lot of sense.

I don't know whether plain-speaking John McCain will win the presidency. But so far he's proved the most experienced of the candidates, and he's run the most principled and honest of the campaigns. Other candidates may be younger, better financed, and more charismatic; none has more earned America's trust.

I'm used to holding my nose when I vote, and there are important issues over which I disagree with John McCain. To a certain extent, I have to hold my nose a little bit no matter whom I vote for.

Despite my reservations, I have to say that McCain's character makes it a little easier. I'd rather vote for an old warhorse with whom I disagree than a smart talking politician with perfect hair with whom I disagree, and I think a lot of Americans would.

Another aspect of McCain that I like is his amazing persistence. I'll never forget the image of him carrying his own bags around, talking to rooms which weren't even a quarter full, when his campaign was broke. And the guy simply refused to give up. A display like that makes him either a bit of a nut, a bit of a pit bull, or a bit of a Churchill. Any of the three is fine with me.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds links the latest Rasmussen poll, which has some very interesting implications for John McCain vis-a-vis Fred Thompson:

Over the past several days, the only real movement in South Carolina's Republican Presidential Primary has been a four-point gain for Fred Thompson and a five-point decline for Mike Huckabee.

The big winner from that trade-off is John McCain.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey shows McCain at 28%, Huckabee at 19%, Mitt Romney at 17%, and Fred Thompson at 16%. Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul are tied with 5% support. Giuliani is betting his entire campaign on a strong showing in Florida, where he is now tied for the lead with three others.

What this means is that for potential McCain supporters, there is absolutely no contradiction between helping Fred Thompson right now and eventually supporting John McCain. Fred Thompson is eating into Romney and Huckabee -- which is as it should be, because Thompson is a true conservative, while Romney and Huckabee are highly questionable.

As regular readers know, I've been repeatedly urging them to go donate to Fred Thompson.

So what are you waiting for?

There are many reasons to support Fred Thompson. And, at the risk of sounding counterintuitive, you don't even have to be a Fred Thompson supporter to support Fred Thompson.

No really. I am absolutely serious.

If you're simply against Romney and/or Huckabee, you should donate to Fred Thompson. If you think might later favor McCain but aren't sure now, then you should donate to Fred Thompson. And finally, if you just want to break up the MSM logjam, you should donate to Fred Thompson.

MORE: I should add that I just did. Again.

posted by Eric on 01.14.08 at 09:30 AM


The Democrats at this very moment are starting to tear themselves apart over the issue of race.

If they don't get a fire wall up soon they are kaput. Destroyed by their own contradictions (As we former Marxists like to say. Heh).

I don't think they can hold it together for another 5 days. Kaput.

The Rs will be able to run a wooden Indian and beat them.

M. Simon   ·  January 14, 2008 12:03 PM

Unfortunately I've never liked the guy myself. Seemed a little too arrogant when he was questioned about things and then there are things like this:

CTDeLude   ·  January 14, 2008 12:38 PM

Worth another look? No.

Not even smelling. A nominee that forces so many to hold their nose while voting is just what the Demagogues ordered.

Brett   ·  January 14, 2008 4:22 PM

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