Here’s a quick word from an independent-minded and terribly shrewd Democrat to Republicans who watched the returns from New Hampshire:
You just gave yourselves a solid chance in a presidential year when you shouldn’t have a shot.
John McCain is clearly your man.
There are the simple reasons why this is true (his name recognition, his humor, his apparent honesty, his personal history). And there are the reasons that might be less apparent to you.
First, regardless of differences about Iraq, Democrats and Independents perceive John McCain as someone who thinks of W as an incompetent. And that makes us happy and it makes us connect with McCain. In New Hampshire, McCain dominated among those who are disgusted and/or disappointed by Bush. He is the one and only person in the GOP race who can escape the Bush drag.
Second, you simply cannot over-estimate McCain’s military service when it comes to a general election. Sure, we might disagree with him on several issues, but in our gut, we believe he has earned the shot to be president. The dude landed in the Hanoi Hilton with two broken arms and a broken leg and remained a POW for five and half years. Think that buys you a few free screenings in the White House movie theater?
Third, we are as tired as anyone else when it comes to the Democrats politicization of post-invasion Iraq. The time to stand up was before Bush shocked and awed, but that was deemed to be too potentially damaging with the 2004 campaign right around the corner. Now that we are in it, we should be looking for solutions.
Fourth, McCain took a pro-surge position when it came to Iraq (before Bush) and he spoke nonstop of that position no matter how much it hurt his career. And let’s face it, it nearly destroyed his presidential aspirations (and still could). But he stuck to his guns. Compare this to the Democratic race where John Edwards uses an apology for his Iraq vote as a major selling point.
Fifth, McCain has an unyielding, well-informed and dead-on position when it comes to the torture question. That might irk you, but Dems and Indies love it. This is our idea of morality (as opposed to picking on a social group because that’s the way the wind blows).
Sixth, John McCain has the perfect resume to support his membership in the current GOP vogue by ripping the patriotism of those who take opposite positions. That’s just not his thing.
Seventh, your other candidates turn the stomachs of Indies and Dems. I don’t know a single Democrat who would shed a tear if John McCain got sworn in January of 2009. You may think that’s not important (or even a real downer). But you need support outside of the party to win.
McCain is the one guy you have who could beat the frontrunners on the other side, pull in Indies and Dems, and who is reasonably ready to be president. Are you smart enough to see it?