ARE WE BACK TO DRAPE-MEASURING AGAIN?
Hey, I'm just tickled pink that Mark McKinnon, John McCain's chief media strategist, said in an interview that he won't stay with the McCain campaign if Barack Obama is the nominee -- he likes Obama and says he doesn't want to run negative ads against him, though I'm not sure how to square that with the fact that McCain is running an ad right now describing McCain as "the American president Americans have been waiting for" (as opposed, presumably, to that Muslim furriner Hussein Osama).
But then I go to The New Republic and read Noam Scheiber's response to the interview, and I just want to slap some sense into Scheiber. He writes:
It occurred to me while reading this Linda Douglass interview with McCain strategist Mark McKinnon how much McCain's fortunes are tied to momentum. I know this metaphor's pretty cliched, but his campaign really is like riding a bicycle: It's fine as long as it keeps moving along, but the second it stalls out, the whole thing could topple.
My thinking is that conservatives are generally going to keep their mouths shut as long as McCain has a decent shot at winning, because they know the GOP has no business even being in the game. But the second it looks like his chances are dimming, I suspect all the conservative skeptics are going to pipe up and basically finish him off....
Scheiber's responding to a different part of the McKinnon interview -- a part in which McKinnon talks about McCain's concerns regarding global warming. Scheiber says: "a year ago it would have been very tough to imagine McCain as the nominee calling Bush out on global warming and not suffering serious conservative blowback as a result."
Why blowback? Does Scheiber think Republicans wouldn't circle the wagons and back their own nominee? Since when do Republicans do that kind of self-sabotage?
I have a big problem with Scheiber's notion that Republicans "know the GOP has no business even being in the game." I have an even bigger problem with his notion that Republicans think McCain's candidacy is a house of cards that's inevitably going to come crashing down.
First of all, despite the public's current disgust with the GOP, it was always clear that the GOP was going to run someone who could be sold to gullible swing voters as not really a Republican. Giuliani was a social moderate from the Northeast. Mitt Romney was an ex-social moderate from the Northeast. Fred Thompson was a Hollywood guy and a friend of, er, John McCain. Even the late-arriving top-tier candidate, Mike Huckabee, had a moderate streak. And the fifth A-lister was McCain. And why shouldn't they get away with this? They ran Bush as a centrist in 2000, for heaven's sake, and beat peace and prosperity (albeit on a technicality).
Second, the Republicans thought they were going to run against Hillary Clinton, or maybe John Edwards -- two candidates against whom they could turn to off-the-shelf character-assassination plans. Barack Obama's unexpected rise just made them work harder, but his name and race and pastor made their lives easier. They might not beat him, but they know they can rough him up, and they've known that all along. (They can pretty much rough anybody up.)
Third, they always knew they could describe any Democratic nominee as a tax-and-spend Brie-eating hippie America-hater. That always works. And the press always goes along.
Why does Scheiber think the Republicans are waiting for McCain's campaign to collapse? These guys don't quit. Even if Bush's approval rating were at zero, they'd find a way to make this competitive.