Wednesday, January 30, 2008

McCain's Surge is a bad sign for Republicans

During a victory speech following Tuesday’s Presidential Primary in Fl., Sen. John McCain told his supporters that “we have a ways to go, but we’re getting close, and for that, you all have my profound thanks.”
While analysts are still questioning McCain’s ability to win over the Republican base, there’s no doubt that the momentum is behind him going into Super Tuesday’s 22 contests. With all of the excitement surrounding McCain’s recent ascent into front-runner status, it is easy to forget that just one month ago his name was barely being mentioned, and five months ago he was scoring his lowest polling numbers since announcing his candidacy in February, 2007. The rapid pace of McCain’s emergence is even more likely to be overlooked because dramatic highs and lows are nothing new in the race for the Republican nomination.
In an August USA Today/Gallup Poll, Rudy Giuliani had the support of 34 percent of likely Republican voters, but his popularity never transcended to the party’s base who strongly disapproved of his liberal positions on social issues. He is expected to endorse McCain when he officially drops out of the race on Wednesday. McCain now finds himself in the same predicament as Giuliani, but for different reasons. How can he gain the support of the Republican base when he has had such a long history of pissing them off?
His work with Ted Kennedy on immigration reform has received the most criticism, because among other measures, it provided a path to legalization. He was one of only two Republican senators to vote against the “Bush tax-cuts” in 2001, and despite his pro-life voting record, has been quoted in the past as saying that he would not support a repeal of Roe v. Wade. His status as a political “maverick” has frequently been the source of conversation. In 2001, rumors surfaced that he was considering leaving the Republican Party, and in 2004 it was speculated that he would be John Kerry’s running mate. Both claims were denied by the McCain camp, but his negative perception amongst conservatives has continued.
The good news for McCain is that his Republican opposition is out of time. Fred Thompson dropped out of the race earlier this month, and Mike Huckabee, who came from no where to win the Iowa caucuses, has been falling in the polls after his highly criticized comments on Pakistan caused a senior aide in his own campaign to admit that he had “no foreign policy credentials”. Despite his pledge to go “all nine-innings”, most pundits are considering this to now be a two-person race between McCain and Mitt Romney, who in my opinion, has never been a serious contender. In fact, Romney has never exceeded 14 percent of Republican support in Gallup Polls, although he could benefit if Huckabee were to drop out of the race.
So what do all of these seesawing numbers mean for the Republican Party?
With record Democratic turnout in all of the early races and Bush ratings at an all-time low, things aren’t looking good, to say the least. The Republican Party is divided, and McCain’s reentrance into the spotlight seems like an afterthought. While there is no doubt he has the most extensive resume of all the Republican nominees, he is often characterized by his age, boring speeches, a quick temper and the occasional racially charged remark. His has capitalized off of his support of the troop surge in Iraq, but the majority of the country still views the war unfavorably. While Republican hatred of Hillary Clinton is no secret, McCain is having trouble convincing his own party that he represents their values. If the general election becomes a question of whether conservatives dislike Clinton enough to go out and vote for someone else they don’t like, they better get used to the phrase, Madame President.

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