I’m seeing more and more of these stories pop up, and I can’t help but think there’s a reason. If the GOP knows how to do anything, it’s seed the media with messaging aimed directly at a candidate saying “Hey, wake up!!!”, and these latest articles about McCain seem to be exactly that.
While the practice of second-guessing presidential campaign decisions is a quadrennial routine, interviews with 16 Republican strategists and state party chairmen â€” few of whom would agree to talk on the record â€” reveal a striking level of discord and mounting criticism about the McCain operation.
â€œItâ€™s not just message or not having just one single meta-theme to compete with Obama,â€ said a veteran Republican strategist with close ties to McCainâ€™s top advisers. â€œItâ€™s not just fundraising, which is mediocre. And itâ€™s not even just organization, which is [just] starting or nonexistent in many states.â€
â€œMcCainâ€™s campaign seems not to have a game plan. I donâ€™t see a consistent message,â€ said Ed Rollins, a veteran of Republican presidential campaigns. â€œAs someone who has run campaigns, this campaign is not running smoothly. But none of this matters if they get their act together.â€
This is true. There is plenty of time to “right” this ship, but that may be the problem. McCain has already steered his campaign farther right, and it’s hurting his maverick brand. Just yesterday Gallup put out a study where 68% of those polled were either “Very” or “Somewhat” worried that McCain was just going to continue the highly unpopular policies of the Bush administration.
And then there’s the reality that a relatively unexperienced senator from a traditionally liberal state is leading McCain is every single public opinion poll, in some cases by as much as 15%. Did the primary season really make Obama stronger or was it McCain’s lack of messaging? Most likely a combination of both, but if McCain was on point throughout the contest, he would have realized that Obama was a near mathematical certainty and could have aimed his guns more consistently at him.
Also, many insiders seem to think it’s the fact that he didn’t take advantage of the GOP’s grass roots structure after he secured the nomination so early, but I actually think it has more to do with the fact that McCain’s “centrist” brand isn’t really playing well with the base.
Other insiders expressed frustration that there is a lack of consistency in defining McCain as well, pointing to the recent launch of an ad touting his challenge to the presidentâ€™s position on global warming â€” at the same time that McCain traveled to Texas to advocate lifting the federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling.
Do they not realize that McCain got the nomination in spite of the base coming out to vote against him? Seriously. He won the nomination on the backs of independents and moderate Republicans, not the die hards.
And then, last but certainly not least…there’s always the money…
â€œYou are going to hear a lot of complaints from state party chairmen,â€ one chairman said of his colleagues. â€œThey are used to the Rove-Mehlman model. They were very good at finding the place they needed to win, down to the county they needed in Ohio.
â€œThey are used to millions being raised for them, theyâ€™re used Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman providing a lot of infrastructure for state parties,â€ the chairman continued. â€œWhat people are being told is we are all on our own.â€
No doubt he’s definitely got an uphill battle, but if he can come out and define his record more succinctly as a principled conservative who always works for the best solution, I think he can make inroads.
Still, the lack of embracing the conservative grass roots is puzzling, given that it’s the only way Bush won a second term. And if Obama’s organization was strong enough to beat the Clintons, one has to think it’s strong enough to beat McCain.
More as it develops…