Requiem for a Dream

Posted: April 3, 2007 in 2008 Elections, GOP Primaries, John McCain

Photo from Reuters.

In what was probably the worst-kept secret in Washington, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was semi-quietly setting up a campaign operation to run for president again in 2008.

The problem with McCain is that he has tried to be all things to all people for so long, and under a glaring national spotlight in an energized electorate, it’s all coming out into the open.

While in 2000, he ran on an image of being a maverick willing to buck his own party. Eight years later, he’s running as the establishment candidate, trying to create a sense of inevitability with a political machine featuring some of the biggest GOP operatives and elected officials signing on to support him.

About a week ago, The Hill came out with a front page bombshell that McCain had been thinking about switching over to the Democrats in spring of 2001, and had made overtures to then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.). After Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) defected and gave Democrats control of the Senate, discussions about possible defections with McCain and Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) ended.

Following on the Hill’s lead, MyDD posted its bombshell from an interview with Sen. John Kerry: that McCain’s people approached him about getting on the 2004 ticket as his running mate.

The McCain campaign has denied both stories, but the fact that they’re coming on the record from three Washington insiders in Democratic circles is not good for McCain. If it had been anonymous sources, McCain could be more dismissive, but given that two of his fellow senators are making the claims gives them a certain amount of gravitas, regardless of how accurate they may be or not.

While McCain may not be trusted by some elements of the Republican base, both of these stories could torpedo any hope he had of winning the nomination. Only in a hyper-accelerated campaign season on steroids such as this year is raising $12.5 million in the first quarter considered NOT good enough.

The news cycle has not been kind to Senator McCain. Between his back-and-forth with the media at large and CNN’s Michael Ware over the coverage of the war in Iraq, followed by his visit/photo-op at a Baghdad market, the last thing he needed were two articles that raised questions about his commitment to his party. If the allegations are accurate, the implications – that he was a crass, calculating politician willing to say or do anything for his own benefit – would be devastating to his presidential ambitions.

It’s still early – things could change and I could be proven wrong – but I have a feeling that McCain is not going to be as competitive or significant a force in the campaign this year as he was in 2000. His time has come and gone, and he will not be the next president.


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