Reconsidering Sen. McCain (R) For President
Has he turned a corner? Should conservatives support him?
By Adam C Posted in 2008 — Comments (180) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
With today's announcement that Sen. Brownback is endorsing Sen. McCain, McCain continues his recent streak of surprisingly good news. As Thompson has not caught on, worries about Rudy continue, and fiscal conservatives reject Huckabee, some Republicans (including myself) are taking another look at Sen. McCain. Jerry Zandstra and Charles Bird announced on RedState that they are supporting Sen. McCain and why.
The strangest thing about John McCain's campaign for president is that it's supposed to be dead, but it isn't. This is a real nuisance for his competitors.
Why the sudden surge of support?
1) McCain polls better against Clinton than any other Republican, including Rudy. Any electability argument for Rudy applies to McCain equally well and fewer social conservatives are likely to jump to a third party candidate if the pro-life McCain is at the top of the ticket.
2) McCain staunch support of the mission of our troops in Iraq has rekindled some love (and muted some of the hate) that conservatives have felt toward the Senator. McCain's early argument for a change in strategy means he was not a go-along-with-Bush supporter as much as someone looking for a way to win the War. McCain can claim, legitimately, that he proposes the "surge" long ago and the administration came around to the successful strategy far later.
3) McCain's heroic story still lends him unrivaled credibility on military affairs and unequaled respect among those who disagree with him on some issues.
4) As the Republican candidates all seem to be flawed in some respects, Republicans seem to be reevaluating McCain. Instead of comparing McCain to some mythical Second Coming of Reagan, voters are considering McCain in relation to Rudy or Romney and realizing that all have things to like and dislike.
5) Sen. McCain is increasingly and surprisingly likely to be a candidate that doesn't cause a chunk of Republican voters to run to a third party. Rudy and Huckabee are facing (perhaps non-credible) threats from large groups of voters who say they will vote Hillary or nobody if they are nominated. McCain may not be most Republicans first choice, but he is not most Republicans last choice either.
Should Republicans reject the false choices being offered — and make a considered choice based on the man and the merits — a second look could give John McCain a second chance.
The final reason that Republicans are giving McCain a second look is that he has muted support for the major issues that divide him from primary voters.
On immigration, McCain always supported increased border security and a path to legalization for current illegal immigrants. This was unpopular with the base to say the least. McCain's response to the failure of comprehensive immigration reform was probably the best it could be. He didn't convert to an inauthentic position, embracing Tancredoism. He didn't continue to support the failed strategy.
He has the same goal (a secure border and earned legalization) but has changed his strategy on how to get there. He realizes that there is a huge distrust of the federal government on immigration (and other issues). Thus, he wants the state governors from border states to certify that the borders are secure before any earned legalization efforts proceed. This puts McCain in the Enforcement First crowd but not the Deport Them Now crowd. Sen. McCain has realized that you have to secure the border first to obtain the trust of the people before any efforts to deal with the current illegal immigrants in the country can proceed. That won't please Tancredo followers, but it may allow him to win over pro-lifers who are not happy with Rudy, don't trust Romney, and find Thompson uninspiring.
Finally, on pork and corruption, McCain has been the top candidate for a long time. Besides Sens. Coburn and DeMint, McCain has done the most to fight the pork-barreling culture. He ties this effort to his immigration views by saying we need to reestablish trust of government. The corrupt earmarking system has eroded the public's trust as much as the failure in law enforcement at the border. Sen. McCain can credibly say he would veto pork barreling and he would put the porkers under a national spotlight.
Sen. McCain is not the perfect candidate. But it seems that some voters are giving him a second chance to make his case. Is this too little too late? Or is the "surge" for real?"