Sunday, September 16, 2007

McCain Back From The Dead?

Basically written off a couple months ago, with pundits openly musing whether he would drop out by the fall, John McCain is starting to show signs of life, and the strangest part, Iraq is breathing life into his campaign. A quick sampling of recent news items, to give a flavor:

"Sen. John McCain Resurges in Iowa":

"Republicans are giving him a second look," said Rich Lowry of the National Review. "They're reminded about what they always liked about John McCain, his stalwartness, his credentials on national security."

"I have seen a significant increase in enthusiasm and the turnouts in townhall meetings, and from my experience that's kind of a precursor in increasing traction in a campaign," McCain told ABC News.

"Iraq Report Gives McCain a Boost":

WASHINGTON (AP) — Gen. David Petraeus' high-profile report on Iraq is pumping new life into Sen. John McCain's presidential bid, his backers say, making the Arizona Republican appear prescient and courageous on the campaign's most vital issue.

Whether the new dynamic in Iraq can salvage McCain's troubled campaign is far from certain. But he is wooing voters with a sense of momentum not seen since he drastically reduced his staff and spending two months ago.

"Can New Hampshire Revive McCain?":

A recent uptick in national polls and a strong performance in last week's New Hampshire debate has the campaign hopeful that the Senator's decision to, as an internal memo framed it, "own the surge" will reinvigorate McCain's chances...

McCain own surge in the polls is admittedly modest: he's gone up six points in the CBS/New York Times poll, four in USA Today's, and just two in a survey by the Washington Post and ABC. Those results predate Petraeus' Capitol Hill performance, but they do coincide with start of McCain's tour, and with his testy rebuttal to Mitt Romney's assertion during the most recent G.O.P. debate that the surge is "apparently working": "The surge is working, sir, no, not apparently," McCain scolded. "It's working."

You don't want to get carried away, but in a field that has generated no enthusiasm, McCain the "comeback kid" might just be plausible, particularly with an American media that loves to tear people down, and then hypocritically resurrect them.

I don't want to argue the merits of the Iraq war, or whether or not the "surge" is responsible for an apparent decline in violence, but it is clear that McCain's steadfast opinion is gaining traction. McCain has been arguing for years, in contrast with other Republicans, that the Americans needed to increase the troop levels in Iraq to have any chance at success. McCain's stubborn devotion looked more and more an albatross, a man who was out of touch with the mainstream. Funny thing happened on the way to the funeral, the Americans increased troop levels and there is now room to make a credible case that the tactic has worked.

In a strange way, McCain looks ahead of the curve, as the military and Bush play catch-up to an idea he has argued tirelessly, no matter the political climate. McCain's opinion might still not resonate with moderates and independents, but in a Republican primary, with the faithful looking for reasons to jump back on the war wagon, McCain is uniquely positioned.

The polls give reason for cautious optimism, McCain is still in the game, with plenty of time for a revival. In fact, if the notion that the "surge" is working actually takes hold in the Republican psyche, the "No Surrender" rallying cry McCain has adopted might just work. McCain's line, when he seemed out of touch, "I'd rather lose an election, than lose a war" looks more and more a statement of conviction, rather than resignation. The old man still has life, and the strangest part of all, Iraq may prove to be his trump card. Go figure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have always liked John McCain, and actually knew two people who worked in his senate office. There are many stories about the personalities of the DC elite (elected folk), be they centrist, right-wing, or left-wing. As you would expect, some are adored and some are hated (behind the scenes) by their staffs. McCain is universally respected as being a man of his word, and a good man in the best sense of that description. He is straight-forward, has strong beliefs, and has respect for individuals even when he disagrees with them.

The only complaint I've ever heard is he has a little love of the camera and microphones (but then what politician doesn't. with the exception of maybe Dion who I wish would find a camera more often when he needs to be more outfront on issues; ).

But McCain is respected, even when folks disagree with him.

I'd like him to do well. I think he could be a good president. I trust him more than most any other Republican in the race right now.