The only place left for McCain is to be the anti-Bush Republican.
Being the anti-Bush Republican would involve a) attacking Republicans for corruption and overspending, while b) arguing that in Iraq "Bush not only failed to win a winnable war, but that conditions in Iraq are so terrible that withdrawal is now the only reasonable alternative."
Hmm. Sounds as if McCain's only hope, according to the Huffington Post's analyst, is to start sounding a lot like Arianna Huffington. I'm not sure this is a promising way to win a Republican primary, even if the other Republicans split the Republican vote. And there's an alternative to turning against Bush. It's this: Turning against the media.
Republican primary voters don't much like the media, after all. They see reporters as hopelessly biased against the Iraq war and biased against Bush. Reporters were also hopelessly biased in favor of McCain--one reason Republican primary voters didn't much like him either. Or, rather, reporters were biased in his favor until he backed the war and embraced Bush. Now they're piling on the contempt and scorn--which gives McCain a double opportunity: he can bash the hated liberal press while casting himself as the embattled, principled defender of Republican policies even if it costs him his elite Washington friends.
McCain has a "rebellious persona," according to Edsall. I don't write good McCain, but what if he said something rebellious like this ...
"I know the liberal media. Heck, I was the darling of the liberal media. They're my friends, many of them. I like them. But I think I was only their friend as long as they thought I would undermine the President. When I defended the president, when I refused to surrender in Iraq and supported the surge that is only now bearing fruit--they turned on me like a pack of jackals. That's the way it is.
I could do no wrong before--when I blew my stack they said I was passionate, when I disagreed with them they said I was admirably principled. Now when I disagree with them they just say I'm wrong, I'm stubborn, I've lost. It's August and their idea of in-depth reporting is coming up with new ways of asking me when I'm going to give up my campaign. I think they're about to call in Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton to negotiate my withdrawal.
You know what? I don't care what they think. I like good press. I admit. But they can take a hike. I've made mistakes in this campaign--lots--but I'm going to say what I think. I'm not going to accept defeat in Iraq when victory is possible. And if Tim Russert and George Stephanopoulos don't like it, that's life. They're two votes. And they're ... there's a word for it. They're Democrats. I'm a Republican. I don't expect the Democratic media to love me. It was fun while it lasted. But the Democratic media isn't going to pick the Republican nominee."
I'm not saying I agree with these sentiments. After "comprehensive immigration reform" I'm certainly not for McCain. I'm saying the tactic has a good chance of working. McCain isn't running for the editorial board of the Huffington Post (yet). And in a Republican primary, media-bashing seems to hold out more promise than Iraq-bashing and Bush-bashing? ....
Wouldn't strategists agree? ...
P.S.: This is not my idea. I got it from a McCain-friendly friend. ...
P.P.S.: Emailer S.S. notes that "if there's anything the press loves more than a straight-talker, it's someone who bites the media's hand." So bashing the press would also get McCain ... good press! It's not win-win. It's win-win-win! ... 3:57 A.M. link
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