July 30, 2007

As The Meme Turns

When the media began to portray Senator John McCain as the presumptive front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, many in the blogosphere scratched our heads and wondered what brand the punditry had been drinking. Later, as McCain's numbers started to drop during the immigration debate, the media published a series of political obituaries for McCain, even though he raised nearly as much money as Mitt Romney in Q2 and outperformed John Edwards. Some predicted that the media would shortly begin to write comeback stories, painting McCain as a courageous underdog, sometime in the fall.

Those predictions turned out to be incorrect -- in their timing:

John McCain has been campaigning in New Hampshire for months, but when he took the stage last week at a town-hall meeting in Keene, it felt like a reunion tour. Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" pumped on the sound system, and when the onetime GOP presidential front runner arrived, many of the 200 people packed in the room leapt to their feet, cheering. McCain railed against partisanship in Washington and attacked the free-spending ways of his own party. "It's getting harder to do the work of the Lord in the city of Satan," he said, prompting laugher and applause. A few feet away, a handmade campaign sign hung on the wall: THE MAC IS BACK! ...

A friend, who declined to be named while discussing private conversations, says the senator is in "better spirits than I have seen in months." The scrappy war vet was never very convincing as the Anointed One anyway. Now he's reverting to the formula that helped him win New Hampshire in 2000: a lean, insurgent candidacy heavy on retail politics and promises to take on Washington. (It's the same underdog storyline the media, which McCain used to call "his base," once found so appealing.) He's left the pricey Straight Talk Express bus at home. And when he flies, he's going commercial. "I'm starting from scratch," McCain tells NEWSWEEK. "But I believe we can do what we were able to do in 2000."

McCain never left. As Mark Twain once remarked, rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. Without doubt, his campaign has more than its share of problems, but the media managed to explode them into a catastrophe that lacked only McCain's ignominious withdrawal to cap the meme. And when that was not forthcoming, some pundits questioned his sanity.

They should question their own sanity. The life, death, and rebirth of McCain's presidential campaign has been almost entirely a media delusion. McCain had serious obstacles to the nomination at the beginning, and while Rudy Giuliani's resonance with the GOP base is surprising, no one expected McCain to gain the trust of the party without serious struggles. Those intensified during the immigration debate, and will remain with McCain throughout the rest of the primary campaign -- and no one knows that better than McCain himself.

However, he still holds a significant place in the polls, and he still can raise funds His $11.2 million in Q2 put him behind only organizational juggernaut Mitt Romney and Giuliani, the former by less than $3 million. His 16% puts him third in most polling, while Romney only garners half of that. He outraises and outperforms John Edwards, the #3 candidate for the Democrats, who has not had the political death watch applied to him.

And now, the media apparently has started its new meme, although one which McCain's campaign will welcome enthusiastically. Instead of trying to provide overarching narratives, perhaps the media should take a deep breath, gain some perspective, and leave the rest for retrospectives in 2009.


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Comments (13)

Posted by vet66 | July 30, 2007 10:23 AM

Do we dare dream of a Fred Thompson/John McCain ticket in 2008? Just over Murtha's mystical horizon is good news from the Iraq front and silence from Reid.

The shift against the left is beginning to have legs and we still have a long time until fall 2008.

Posted by Thomas Jackson | July 30, 2007 11:12 AM

Do we dare to dream of a Hildabeast-McCain ticket in 2008? This is the ticket that guarantees a GOP victory.

Yes the media created McCain just as it did the presidential campaigns of Collin Powell and Rice. McCain hasn't a chance in the GOP. He has expressed his esteem for the party's base and its time for him to feel the love.

Posted by Red Wolverine | July 30, 2007 11:40 AM

How is his support where its at? What base GOP voters are supporting him becasue of his 1.) violation of the 1st ammendment 2.) betraying us on judges 3.) betraying us on taxes. . .not to mention immigration. These are 4 pillars of our base. Please can someone tell me why they are still supporting.


Posted by LarryD | July 30, 2007 12:02 PM

I've been wondering that myself, Red. I suspect those polls include a lot of non-Republicans.

Posted by sherlock | July 30, 2007 12:18 PM

"The life, death, and rebirth of McCain's presidential campaign has been almost entirely a media delusion."

I propose that there are an essentially unlimited number of "things everyone knows" that can be inserted into the blank below:

" The _______________ has been almost entirely a media delusion."

Some quick examples:
1. The stupidity of Bush
2. The evilness of Cheney
3. The shredding of our civil liberties
4. The nobility of Ted Kennedy
5. The funniness of Al Franken

Posted by FredWM | July 30, 2007 12:22 PM

I never realized that 16 percent of the Republican party was looking for an unreliable maverick, who was soft on tax cuts, global warming, strict judges, amnesty and Freedom of Speech. Will wonders never cease! There is no way Senator McCain can win the Republican nomination. And if he runs as an Independent he can't win either (although, he could possibly play H. Ross Perot's part in helping elect a Clinton to the White House.)

Posted by philw | July 30, 2007 12:30 PM

I voted enthusiastically for McCain in the MA 2000 primary, mainly because I thought Shrub was a lightweight. I have since seriously regretted that vote. The McCain Feingold asault on free speech, prominent support for amnesty for ILLEGAL immigrants and non-support for the administrations judges (OK Miers was horrible) make McCain a no vote for me. That said, I am lovin' his recent straight talk on Iraq. Just not a candidate in 2008 on te national ticket.

Posted by Keen | July 30, 2007 2:30 PM


"I never realized that 16 percent of the Republican party was looking for an unreliable maverick"

I agree with you. Something is definitely rotten in Denmark. I would suspect some funds are coming from the Soros wing of the Democrat party. They'd like nothing better to have him run as an independent.

As for the polling, I think the answer is the same. You can get whatever polling numbers you want if the result is paid for.

Posted by ggeisel | July 30, 2007 7:27 PM

McCain sucks. 200 people cannot change that. He is anti-free-speech, pro-illegal immigrant. Why this site continues to suck up to him amazes me.

I hope the Repubs nominate McCain. I will stay home. How many others will? At that point, the Republican Party will give us NO CHOICE.

Posted by exdem13 | July 30, 2007 9:56 PM

The MSM can run all the McCain fluff pieces they feel like running. I am still NOT voting for him in the primary.

Posted by burt | July 30, 2007 9:57 PM

Greg Pierce's piece in today's Washington Times has Newt's view of McCain's chances.


"Mr. Gingrich is ruling out John McCain's chances among the Republican presidential contenders, the Associated Press reports. The Arizona senator 'has taken positions so deeply at odds with his party's base that I don't see how he can get the nomination,' Mr. Gingrich said."

I find it easy to agree with this assessment.

Posted by Rose | July 30, 2007 10:14 PM

The last time McCain lost, he managed to make sure he stayed strong enough as a losing candidate to be able to exact his pound of flesh from the GOP electorate.

One thing is sure - he never gives up - he ain't a quitter.
He will not even settle for just getting even.

Posted by burt | July 30, 2007 10:38 PM

ggeisel, I will not stay home. Join me and one other who intend to write in the Madison/Friedman ticket if McCain is nominated.