Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I've seen several comments to the effect that McCain did the best a Republican could have done in this election cycle. I couldn't disagree more. I wholeheartedly agree that McCain did a fantastic job campaigning. Much better than I expected. He probably couldn't have done any better, but that's not the same as saying that somebody else couldn't have.

They day before Super Tuesday I vehemently opposed McCain primarily because I stated that he couldn't win the Presidency. He was great on Iraq, but horrible on everything else. And he was, in fact, so great on Iraq that after his policies were implemented in midyear Iraq became such a non-issue he had nothing to run on. My question on Super Monday was "Do we really want to stake the campaign on early support for the surge against optimism, youth, media support, and the promise of amorphous change?". It ends up I think the Republican primary voter answer was "yes, we do" (though from what I've read several of those voters ended up changing it to "yes, we can" by the time the general was finished).

I'm going to differ from conventional wisdom in that I think Palin was a great addition to the campaign. She was as much a Washington Outsider as you could get in a year when something new was extremely important. Her political inexperience and the fact that she had more executive experience than everyone else running combined should have highlighted Obama's inexperience. She drew huge crowds everywhere she went, frequently bigger than either candidate at the top of the ticket. If anything, the main problem with Palin was that she was being handled by McCain. The wardrobe fiasco, for instance, would never have happened if she had worn her normal red suits.

Obviously Obama benefited from the fact that he broke his promise to use public funds, that the major media were essentially operating as campaign adjuncts, and that he got huge numbers of donation (including huge amounts of credit card fraud and illegal donations which he intentionally didn't check into), but that doesn't let McCain off the hook.

Everybody knew going in that Obama would have the support of the media. They were practically running his primary campaign with their continual assertions that the rather close Democrat race was over and their former darling Hillary should concede. Either Romney or Giuliani would have handled that better, since they've both had to go against the media before. Most of the time when McCain comes out on a controversial issue, it's with the media and against the Republican base. He's really never had to pick a fight with the media before.

Additionally Obama raised a huge amount of money by breaking his promise to use public money. McCain would never have broken his promise, but Romney wouldn't have had to. I'll go ahead and admit that in 2000 I liked McCain's campaign finance reform idea. I've since come to my senses and realized it's both an Unconstitutional intrusion on the ability of private citizens to let their voice be heard about the election and an ineffectual way to limit campaigns, serving mainly to help incumbents and those supported by the media. As far as I know, neither Romney nor Giuliani ever supported it, so they could have entered fund raising on the same ground as Obama (and then Obama wouldn't have had to lie to the American people, since he said he would take public funds only if his opponent did).

Most importantly of all, as I pointed out nine months ago, McCain only had one solid position: Iraq. McCain is for the Constitution, but okay with suppressing political speech through campaign finance laws. He is all for limiting the wasteful purchase of $3000 projectors for some random local project, but also for spending $700 billion on an ill defined plan to buy up bad debt from corporations. He is for national security, but against a border fence. He's for strict constructionist judges, but not as strict constructionist as Alito. Like Obama, McCain is to a large extent a populist (as, unfortunately, Sarah Palin appears to be as well). He decides things not from a consistent world but from what seems to him right at the time.

There was a lot I didn't like about Romney and especially Giuliani, but they had a coherent platform and would have been comfortable fighting on any issue. I didn't hear Romney's speech at the convention, but I've heard him before and he could have annihilated Obama in the debates on healthcare, taxes, spending, and executive experience. Both Thompson and Giuliani gave far better convention speeches than any of the stump speeches (including the convention) I heard of McCain's the entire cycle. Additionally a Mayor or Governor paired with Sarah Palin would have been in a perfect position to truly eviscerate a couple of establishment Senators with no executive experience whatsoever.

This is not to say I think they could have won. Barack held all the cards in this election cycle and his Presidency was all but inevitable. I do, however, think that someone else could have done better.

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