McCain Narrative 1: The Heroic Fighter vs. the Quitters
As mentioned before, I’m posting excerpts from the NY Times article about the McCain campaign and its shifting narratives. For the intro to the piece, start here.
And so starts McCain’s 1st narrative…the one that captured the nomination for him when his campaign looked all but over.
Virtually all of his senior staff members, Schmidt and Davis among them, had been begging McCain to focus on the economy, health care and tax policy. Anything, really, except Bushâ€™s war. But according to several senior advisers, the candidate felt a deep sense of responsibility to cheerlead for the troop surge, which he believed would turn the tide in Iraq. It began to dawn on Schmidt that McCainâ€™s stubborn patronage of an unpopular war wasnâ€™t impeding the campaignâ€™s quest for narrative â€” it was the narrative.
â€œSir, is the surge working?â€ he said he asked McCain one day. â€œAre we winning?â€
â€œYes,â€ McCain said.
â€œThatâ€™s not what youâ€™re saying on the trail.â€
â€œNo, sir. Itâ€™s not. Youâ€™re saying things are getting better. Do you believe weâ€™re actually winning now?â€
McCain indicated that he did.
â€œWell, going forward, thatâ€™s what you should say,â€ Schmidt replied. He encouraged McCain to denounce the Democrats for advocating a withdrawal of troops â€” a kind of surrender in the face of victory. Thus did Schmidt initiate the No Surrender Tour late in the summer of 2007, a push through the early primary states that saw John McCain surrounded by war veterans while he lashed out at weak-kneed war critics.
And it worked. McCain’s and Schmidt’s gamble on pushing his position on the surge helped him gain credibility with Republican primary voters, and it was nearly a cake walk to the nomination.
But then the general election came, and that’s when things started getting tricky…