October 25, 2008

The end game strategy for John McCain

It is often comical that the most accurate predictions of who the candidates will be before the Presidential election were those that simply focused on who was the most electable in the general election. After all, the prevailing narrative before primary voting began on the Democratic side was that Hillary Clinton had it locked up, but would most likely lose the general election, which Barack Obama, who was not going to win in the primaries, would have locked up. On the Republican side, everyone acknowledged that John McCain was probably the most electable combination of Republican and independent ideology - but that he would never make it to become the candidate. In less than 2 weeks we will get the Obama vs. McCain matchup that back before this season started seemed to be the best for both parties' chances of getting into office. It appears that the voters for both parties ultimately only care about electability, and not much else.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, factors have not broken their way. The Republican party's best shot of being elected after 8 years of President Bush was John McCain, but those odds have been greatly reduced, partly out of luck (economic problems) and partly out of choice (hiring the guy who got Bush elected in a season where Bush is toxic was not a good idea). With less than 2 weeks to go, McCain is down in the national polls and losing states that he cannot afford to, like Colorado and Virginia. He is limited by money and time and enthusiasm, all of which favor Obama. There is honestly very little chance that he can still pull out a win.

At some point McCain must look towards the future. This election cycle needs to be a rebuilding year for the Republican party. McCain has a chance to redefine the party in much the same way Barry Goldwater had the chance to during his election loss to LBJ. While McCain's loss might not be as great, it is likely to happen.

McCain's natural political positions are very much appealing to the electorate. His shift rightward was unnecessary and harmful to his chance of being elected. If McCain were to have run on a platform of his natural positions, he could have realigned his party to ensure that even though he might have lost this election, the Republicans would become extremely competitive in future elections. Sadly, he is avoiding this chance. While he might have lost the election while securing the future of the party, he is likely now to lose the election and the party's future as well.

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