McCain’s Gains, and Losses

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As Ana and others have been chronicling, John McCain has resurrected his campaign. He’s still struggling financially, but he’s stopped his slide in the polls and begun inching his way upward again. Building on a strong performance in the most recent GOP debate, McCain is riding his role as General Petraeus’ most ardent supporter straight back into the hearts of some of the voters out there who still believe there’s a way to prevail in Iraq. He also has a clever double entendre for a new campaign slogan — “No Surrender!”

But if McCain’s firmer-than-thou stance on the war is finally paying some dividends in a crowded Republican primary, it has also all but obliterated what was once an underlying rationale for McCain’s nomination — i.e., that his popularity among independents and wavering Democrats made him a formidable general election candidate. Back in 2000, when McCain used to say that he — but not George W. Bush — could “beat Al Gore like a drum” in a general election match-up, he was almost certainly right. If McCain were to somehow win his party’s nomination in 2008, his extreme hawkishness on Iraq would likely erase much of his old cross-over appeal.

Raw elucidation of this point arrived an hour ago in an email from an old friend who lives in a red state out west. He’s in business and is a political independent who, beginning with Reagan, has tended to lean Republican, although he has occasionally voted for Democrats. But George W. Bush and Iraq have changed him. Here’s what he sent me after coming across an op-ed McCain wrote for The State, the South Carolina newspaper:

I was reading McCain’s article which was interesting…until he started saying we needed to stay in Iraq for “honor” (whatever that means….christ)

Then he COMPLETELY lost me for good when he said: “We must never forget this simple fact: The terrorists we face in Iraq today are the same terrorists who struck our homeland six years ago on 9/11.

That is so misleading and factually untrue. It sounds like something the Bush administration would say. I just can’t believe a man I have so much respect for could actually think that…especially when it was our attacking Iraq for the wrong reasons, and replacing the government, that enticed the “terrorists” there in the first place! He has to know that. Depressing.

Short of a miracle in Iraq, it’s hard to see how McCain ever wins someone like him back.