JOHN McCAIN -- THE WAR OPPONENTS' CHOICE?
The New York Observer's Steve Kornacki runs down John McCain's long history of fervent support for our misadventure in Iraq -- then tells us something that seems bizarre:
...But here's the punchline: McCain's resurgent campaign for the Republican nomination is, for now at least, being fueled by support from voters who say they are against the war....
In New Hampshire, 21 percent of voters in the Republican primary told exit pollsters that they "somewhat disapprove" of the war. But 49 percent of those voters cast ballots for McCain -- more than twice the total of any other candidate. Another 14 percent of the New Hampshire G.O.P. electorate said they "strongly disapprove" of the war. But McCain was their first choice as well, with 38 percent. (Ron Paul got 26.).
...The same pattern was evident in this week's Michigan primary, where McCain's nine-point loss to Mitt Romney would have been much worse had war opponents not rallied behind the Arizona Senator.
Kornacki draws just the right conclusion from this -- that you need to set aside cold logic if you want to understand it, and that the Democrats damn well need to understand it. I'm going to quote what he's written at some length because (apart from his praise of McCain) I think what he's saying is absolutely correct:
...Some voters who are against the war are certainly well aware of where McCain stands but are siding with him anyway because they think that other considerations -- whether McCain's stances on other issues or his general leadership character -- outweigh the war. The fact that ever[y] other Republican candidate also professes support for the war -- except for Paul -- makes this decision a little easier for anti-war voters.
But that alone can't account for why so many self-identified war foes are with him.... A clearer explanation can be found when you consider the degree to which mass opinion is shaped by personality and personal reputation -- and the thin to nonexistent grounding in the details of policy that most voters have.
This accounts for the pass war opponents are giving McCain. Many of them, undoubtedly, are one-time McCainiacs, independent-minded moderates and outsiders who fell in love with McCain's maverick streak (and his quick wit) in 2000 and who have rediscovered it again in 2008. They aren't aware of the significance of his decade-plus support for forced democratization, or the policy implications of the "surrender" taunts he hurls at war critics. They know him as a war hero and maverick and -- without knowing or caring much about his actual record -- intuitively trust him and his leadership.
Whatever the explanation, one thing is clear: the reasonable-sounding assumption that McCain's pro-war stance puts him off-limits to anti-war voters isn't holding up. Which means that if he ends up being the nominee, the Democrats had better have a Plan B.