McCain's Flawed Strategy for Victory

>> Thursday, September 4, 2008

I Have to say that the Palin pick has worked exactly like McCain had hoped it would. It could not have gone better. This might sound crazy given all of the stuff that is coming out about Palin and the media frenzy that ensued. You have to keep in mind though what McCain intended with this pick. This means you have to understand McCain's strategy for getting elected, flawed though it may be.

McCain has given up on winning the independent voters. He must have seen some bad internal polling on this and realized that the way he was progressing he was not going to win enough Indy voters to bring home a victory. The ability to win independent voters was one of the major predispositions of the McCain Campaign. It is a hallmark of McCain's image that he wins over moderates despite his policy positions. Maybe it was the Obama speech or maybe it was polling but there was an internal decision inside the McCain campaign that hanging their hopes on beating Obama with Indy voters was a losing proposition.

The McCain campaign faced with this made a big decision, they decided to turn this into a base turnout election ala George W. Bush. The problem with this is that McCain is not Bush. After famously calling Fallwell and his ilk agents of intolerance McCain developed a schism with the evangelical right. Despite all the ring kissing and supplication they were still not very enthused about his candidacy. McCain needed something to get them behind him. To accomplish this goal he had the one big tool, the VP slot.

The VP slot is something eminently more than a simple plank in the party platform especially after Cheney has finished with it. Beyond the inherent power of the VP there remains the thought in the back of the Evangelical's minds that they could have one of their own a heart beat away from the presidency. It represents a contract between McCain and that wing of the party. You get behind me all the way, work for my election and i will give you something you crave, one of you on the ticket. This is more than the promise of a pro life presidency it is the first steps in the performance of a pro life presidency.

So McCain picks Sarah Palin because she believes in the far right positions going down the line. Beyond that she is a woman, meaning there is the possibility of picking up identity politics voters and disaffected Clinton supporters. Her gender also sets up a new escape route for any time McCain or Palin is cornered on one of the myriad number of lies or policy problems they engage in, the claim sexism. It sets up the GOP arguments for the classic victimization at the hands of the evil leftist media.

Palin's speech at the RNC was perfect in that it fired up the base in a way that had been lacking before. If that was all she did that would probably be enough to consider her a success. However she did more. She is the new darling of the right as they love nothing more than people who get onstage and denigrate their opponents. Whether those attacks are reality based or not is of no concern. She went up there and played up the small town gal to great effect, playing into the myth that those from small towns are inherently superior to city dwellers. She inspired the base to dream of her as the potential leader and to work their hearts out for the chance to get her into the White House.

Now McCain has so far succeeded in his plan. The base is right where it should be historically at 90% consolidation. He has the foot soldiers of his party now firmly in his camp, he has his base ready to go. This is where the flaw is. His base is simply not big enough to beat Obama. Not only is it not big enough Bush won in part because the Kerry GOTV operation was no where near as good as his. This is simply not the case now. Obama may well have constructed the best GOTV machine in history, time will have to judge. McCain in contrast is getting a very late start and it is doubtful whether he will end up becoming competitive in this area.

Even assuming McCain can get an equivalent GOTV machine going it wont matter, the Dems have registration leads. This is the biggest hole in revising the 2004 strategy. The political situation is different and people have been moving away from the GOP meaning that even the biggest base turn out wont help unless he can get the indy voters. Unfortunately for McCain, the selection of Palin has caused bigger losses in the non-aligned than he gained in the base. He might think that picking Palin allows him to go after these people without fear of losing his base but i doubt he wins many of them back.

McCain's flawed strategy is not so different than many other strategies in that is trying to fight the last conflict when the situation calls for something different. Instead of relenting and lurching back to the right the McCain campaign would have done better to separate from them.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

  © Blogger template Sunset by 2008

Back to TOP