June 25, 2007

Don't Bet On It

The Times of London lost track of the calendar yesterday in their analysis of the presidential campaign. Sarah Baxter claims that John McCain may drop out of the race after the latest fundraising numbers come out next week, as pundits predict another lackluster quarter for McCain's campaign. Did they notice that it's still only June?

THE former presidential front-runner, John McCain, may drop out of the 2008 race by September if his fundraising dries up and his poll ratings continue to drop, according to Republican insiders.

The speculation, vigorously denied by McCain’s camp, is sweeping Republican circles after a disastrous few weeks in which the principled Arizona senator has clashed with the party’s conservative base on immigration and also alienated independent voters by backing President George W Bush’s troop surge in Iraq.

Randy Pullen, chairman of the Arizona Republican party, said: “He’s a battler, so I’d expect him to carry on, but everyone is waiting to see what his new fundraising totals are. That’s pretty critical. If he doesn’t have the money, he won’t be able to run.” ...

Dan Schnur, McCain’s communications director during the 2000 presidential campaign, said it was “possible” that he could drop out: “There are all sorts of challenges McCain is facing, from fundraising to Fred Thompson and the Iraq war, but the biggest single boulder in his path is the immigration issue.”

Given the state of the race, I find these predictions rather odd McCain's support may have dropped over the immigration bill, but his position on immigration has always been widely known in the GOP. His numbers have drifted to the low double-digits, but he still remains in the top tier for Republican candidates, and with Rudy dropping, the race has widened, not narrowed.

McCain probably decided to push the bill now precisely to give himself more time to recover from the hit he knew he'd take with it. McCain wouldn't be alone in that regard, either; everyone on Capitol Hill wants this off the table one way or another before they have to start running for re-election, too. That's why the backers wanted such a rush on debate, and the opponents have slowed it down to increase the pressure on waverers to move away from the compromise.

We have almost seven months before the first primary. That's longer than the campaigns have operated thus far in 2007. No one has even reached the half-way wark, and one major candidate (Fred Thompson) hasn't even entered the race yet. McCain has plenty of time to regroup and attempt to make up lost ground.

Even more obviously, seven Republican candidates would kill for McCain's position in the race at the moment. None of the second-tier candidates have dropped out yet, nor have they given any indication of doing so. Why would McCain drop out when he's still outpolling and outraising Duncan Hunter and Mike Huckabee, let alone lesser lights such as Tom Tancredo, Jim Gilmore, Tommy Thompson, Ron Paul, and Sam Brownback -- combined?

I don't think McCain will get the nod, but he's not finished yet. McCain has weathered tougher situations than a mid-campaign slump. Anyone expecting him to quit while polling 11% nationwide in June is indulging in earlyitis. (via Memeorandum)


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Comments (10)

Posted by Lew | June 25, 2007 8:49 AM

Maybe its just that this little drama is taking soooooooo long to play out that the Times is getting desperate for a concluding scene. After all, most of our entertainments are packaged much more conveniently and usually resolve and conclude in time for the evening newscast. This is dragging on way too long and obviously needs the attention of a more capable screenwriter. Ok now, this is getting boring! Let's go here!

Thanks to the long term effect of television, politics is now our latest spectator sport. We can "participate" by just sitting back in our BarcaLoungers and sipping our Mocha Latte and pontificating on the internet. We don't have to actually engage our neighbors or get up and go to a meeting or get into a campaign or anything else. We can sit and watch and cheer and mail in our vote.

And NONE of those things requires that we actually do something or go somewhere or talk to anyone. Is there no one out there who sees a problem in this?

Posted by dougf | June 25, 2007 9:45 AM

It doesn't really matter if he 'quits' the 'race' at this point. The trend lines pretty much speak for themselves. And they are not pretty.

The 'race' has quit him.

He can indeed drag things out and be a slow-motion train wreck or just call it a day soon. Either way the result will be the same. It might be 'only June' but there are really only 6 months effectively to go (maybe less) ,and the summer doldrums will eat up at least 2 of those.

With all respect to the Senator it's fork-sticking time.

Posted by Roxane | June 25, 2007 9:48 AM

McCain is pro-Amnesty, he is not getting the GOP nomination. He can leave the race now or he can leave later.

Posted by Angry Dumbo | June 25, 2007 9:54 AM

McCain will turn on the Iraq War and be the keynote speaker at the Democratic Convention in 2008 (his script will read something like this, yes, you can be patriotic, serve your country AND be against the war)...

I made this prediction after McCain formed the Gang of 14 in June 2005. I repeat it today. And no, I'm not drinking THIS morning.

Posted by Bambi | June 25, 2007 10:09 AM

Since he seems to have a penchant for revenge, I also worry about what damage he can do to the President, that we haven't already done, but in spades.

Posted by The Yell | June 25, 2007 11:05 AM

Good points. Since the party is making perfectly clear that the 2008 Presidential race is totally separate of the Congressional races, McCain the failed Presidential candidate becomes McCain the cherished incumbent Senator--with a total apparatnik pardon for whatever method he uses to ease his excess bile. I don't doubt if he did do a Zell Miller at the DNC convention, he'd still draw Republican support in 2010 for re-election as "our guy".

Posted by Adjoran | June 25, 2007 11:58 AM

I must disagree: while 11% in a four-man race is respectable at this point in the campaign, there's a big difference between a guy like Romney who has worked his way up from single digits and is bringing in truckloads of money and one like McCain, whose support has dwindled to less than half what it was seven months ago, and who is having trouble raising money.

Now, sure, McCain could "recover" and "catch fire" again to win the nomination. And monkeys could fly out Hillary's butt, too, but don't hold your breath waiting to see either actually happen.

The reality in politics is that when your money dries up, so does your campaign. Donors want to be on the side of a winner, and if your fundraising numbers are weak and falling, they can read the handwriting on the wall - it's like a self-fulfilling prophecy when donors see others deserting the ship and think, "Why should I be the last rat to go down with this mistake?"

McCain's 11% doesn't come "with a bullet!" but rather with a whimper. Remember he just had a couple of strong debate performances, and has been on a fundraising barnstorming tour the last few weeks. If his poll numbers and finance numbers continue to drop anyway, that should tell you something.

The only truly "damaged goods" candidate to make a real "comeback" and win the nomination in the modern era of primaries was Bill Clinton. Those who could not include George Romney, Ed Muskie, Gary Hart, and Howard Dean.

Unlike the Democrats, Republicans aren't insisting our candidates stick to the letter of the party line as set forth by the activist base, but there is only a certain number of times you can get away with a gratuitous slap at the base before they slap back.

Truth be told, McCain would never have performed as well as he did in 2000 without crossover Democratic votes intended to damage or slow down Bush. The Democrats have their own contest this time around, and won't be their to help out their pal.

Posted by EzOnTheEyez | June 25, 2007 4:24 PM

Trajectory, Trajectory, Trajectory

The 7 Republican candidates polling below McCain may crave his numbers, but certainly not his trajectory. If they had his numbers, it would show that momentum for their campaigns was catching on like wildfire. However, if those campaigns had McCain's trajectory, they'd be left with no one but themselves and their wives, children, and possibly extended family voting for them.

McCain's pride would cause him to pull out before displaying dismal Q3 numbers, I would imagine. At least he could remain a relatively respected senator. If he tries to slog it out until the day before the primaries, McCain will become a laughing stock on Capitol Hill.

Posted by Zydeco | June 25, 2007 4:31 PM

Agree with the general feeling here, that McCain ain't through but I can't figure out what would happen that would keep him in much beyond September.

True, Kerry was trending down for a while in '04 (and Mickey Kaus was even running a 'when will Kerry drop out' running commentary, which later looked silly of course when Kerry won), but McCain is strongly associated with two big failures, the Iraq surge and 'comprehensive' immigration 'reform' (the latter is a failure for McCain whether it passes or not).

So that's why the establishment is dusting off Thompson, I think.

However, I'm still putting my money on Ron Paul, odd as that sounds. He's the one with the buzz.

Posted by Lew | June 25, 2007 9:44 PM

Ron Paul has all the "buzz" of a rotting corpse! From time to time the gas from his advanced decomposition builds up inside and makes an embarrassing noise as it escapes. Buzz???

You're dead right about McCain though. He's got more scabs on his political future than a leper, especially if you add the ever-popular McCain-Fiengold Campaign Finance Reform Act. In combination with Immigration Reform and the Gang of 14 and a few other catastrophically dumb moves, our darlin' Johnnie has pretty successfully blown both feet off. The only thing left to do now is fill in the hole!

The only one's worth the time now are Giuliani and Fred. If Rudy stays angry enough and Fred stays folksy enough, either one or both will do fine. The rest are just decorations.