Friday, June 08, 2007


No, I'm not being sarcastic. First Rudy Giuliani decides to skip the Ames straw poll in Iowa, which, combined with McCain's departure, ruins Mitt Romney's chances to generate excitement from a victory there, and now the immigration bill McCain has been supporting is apparently dead.

That's good for McCain?

Sure it is. Unless the bill is revived later in the year (Harry Reid is saying he might revive it), it now gets forgotten as we head into the primary and caucus voting. It's more or less taken off the table as a way of attacking McCain.

We saw this in New York the last time we were heading into a mayor's race. Mike Bloomberg was fairly popular -- but New Yorkers really didn't like his pet project, a huge football/Olympic stadium in Manhattan. We thought it would create a traffic nightmare and a terrorist target, and then be used no more than fifteen days a year; it was development in the one borough that never lacks for development. Eventually Bloomberg gave up, proposing a stadium in Queens -- and his approval rating shot up to its highest level in three years, an increase the Quinnipiac poll attributed directly to his loss in the stadium fight. For a lot of voters, it was one thing that really bugged them about Bloomberg -- and now it was gone.

So, if the immigration bill is dead, yeah, it could be a real plus for McCain.


Oh, a warning: It's also going to be a plus for Bush. His poll numbers are going to go up -- slightly -- if this fight is really over.

The uptick will consist exclusively of right-wingers returning to the fold -- but the David Broders of the world are going to grasp at anything that's going on at the same time and ascribe the uptick to that. Two days without the death of any U.S. troops? Another Al-Qaeda #3 dead or captured? Must be the reason.

Don't fall for it.


UPDATE: Yeah, yeah, I know -- The Washington Post says it's a terrible moment for McCain:

John Dowd represented Sen. John McCain in his darkest hour, the "Keating Five" scandal. He supported McCain the first time he ran for president in 2000 and signed up to be a major fundraiser for him in this year's presidential race. But when former senator Fred D. Thompson began thinking about running, the Washington lawyer changed his mind.

For McCain (Ariz.), who started off as the favorite to win the Republican nomination but now trails former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in most polls, Dowd's move signals yet another threat to his struggling campaign....

I'm not in the habit of quoting Captain Ed, but I think what he says makes sense:

Losing Dowd has to hurt, but this seems a bit overwrought. The Post can only point to Dowd for high-level defections from McCain to Thompson, but Fred has attracted others from competing campaigns, too. For instance, Mitt Romney lost Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) ten days ago. Giuliani lost Curt Kiser in Florida to Fred in the key fundraising state, which Fred's campaign has explicitly targeted.

Organization-building will continue through most of this year, and the composition of each will change during the campaign. Backers will come and go depending on the dynamics of the race, including when candidates enter and leave it. Having Dowd leave doesn't help, certainly, but McCain has held onto FedEx chair Frederick Smith in Tennessee. It's just too early to assume that the lineup has been fixed in stone....

Paul Krugman warns us in his excellent column today that the press is falling into its worst habits in covering this campaign, obsessing over the horse-race aspects and over how candidates "came across" in this or that moment. Well, there's one other matter that gets disproportionate attention: money. Not money as in "Who owes what big contributor?" but money as in "Who's the manliest fund-raiser?"

Much of the election coverage we read implies that there's an absolute correlation between money and popularity; tell that to President Steve Forbes and Senator Michael Huffington. Money obviously matters, but the richest candidate doesn't always win. Unfortunately, rich candidates get an additional leg up when the media confuses wealth with voter enthusiasm. (That's what Mitt Romney is counting on right now.) And obsessing over money is just another way of avoiding talking about real issues.

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