Hillary Clinton

The Welch Effect


Future historians at work in their hyper-labs at level H-6 in the Ian McCulloch Moon colony will inevitably come up with that name for the ongoing tumble of John McCain, battered by former Reasonoid Matt Welch and now by DC's insiders. National Journal regularly asks a panel of powerful Democrats who they think would make the most formidable GOP candidate. Since the last installment, McCain fell by fifty-six points. From Political Wire:

Rudy Giuliani: 39% (12%)
Mitt Romney: 20% (11%)
John McCain: 17% (73%)
Chuck Hagel: 9% (0%)
Fred Thompson: 9% (0%)
Mike Huckabee: 2% (1%)
Tommy Thompson: 1% (0%)
Don't know (volunteered): 3% (3%)

It is quite possible that I'm overstating Welch's effect on this. Actually, in his feature Welch didn't predict that the acceptance of McCain's lusted-after troop surge would hurt him quite so much.

By enthusiastically endorsing McCain's approach, the lame duck president all but finished the job of anointing the senator his political successor. McCain had already spent the previous three years lining up Bush's campaign team, making nice with the social conservatives he railed against in the 2000 primaries, and positioning himself as the most hawkish of all the nomination-chasing Republican hawks. For the purposes of the 2008 campaign, Bush's surge announcement was almost the perfect gift: McCain got to solidify his case with primary voters even while giving himself operational deniability. ("We've made many, many mistakes since 2003, and these will not be easily reversed," he said on January 11, while reiterating his call for even more troops.) The sheer unpopularity of Bush's move did knock the previously front-running McCain a notch or two behind Rudy Giuliani in the polls. (Both men have consistently finished ahead of Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in head-to-head competition.) But it also allowed McCain to recapture some of his lost reputation as a straight-talking independent.

It did do that last thing, and if you trawl through the tapes of Sunday and cable shows in January you'll hear the media praise for McCain. But unless the surge works,* it did damage to McCain's image among independents that'll never get fixed. Add to that his age and his skunk/garden party reputation with the GOP base and you've got most of the rationale for his sinking numbers.

*insert your own sarcastic bon mot!

NEXT: A Wrinkle in the War on Video Games

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  1. McCain doesn’t want the job. His appearance on Letterman was dispirited and tired. Most of his appearances have shown him tired and lacking any gusto for the job.

    His disdain for the Republican Party and Bush have not helped. But his fatigue and lack of drive come across. His voice lacks timbre. There is no conviction in anything he says…

    If he doesn’t belive in himself and what he’s saying, why should we?

  2. You’ve gotta hand it those “powerful Democrats.”

    It’s only March 2007, and they’ve already figured out that agitating for the continuation and escalation of the Iraq War is unpopular.

    Sharp as a light bulb. Bright as a tack, I tells ya.

  3. McCain’s ‘authoritarian maverick’ act really has very little to recommend it to a lot of Republicans and many independents.

    He’s been cruising on his biography and status as a media darling. But I think we’re seeing (again) that these aren’t enough to get you all the way home in a Presidential race.

  4. It is probably the same “powerful Democrats” that are going to nominate Clinton, and end up losing what would otherwise be a gimme presidential election.

  5. Besides the problems Dave Wygh?l points our, McCain is admitting that he’s been slow off the mark in the fundraising department. In a year when the Conventional Wisdom has it that the nomination may be settled fairly early in the primary series, that could be fatal.

    The link I made is to an AP story. On the same page they have one about the danger of trying to recreate the “Straight Talk Express” in the accelerated media cycle of YouTube World. McCain could gaffe himself right out of the race.


  6. Ithink its more that McCain is seen as more of the same tired ole washington bullshit. And he has incredibly bad luck. With Rudy and Barrack, we get the thrill of the relatively unknown. “Sure they seem kinda sketchy, but we prefer that over a proven screw up.”

  7. McCain??? Not a chance. Where’s Ronnie Paul on that chart??? Why, since he formally announced his run, has there been no big media outlet??? I know that the internet is the wave of the future, but there are a lot of old farts that dont know what the internet is. We need to make more noise about his candidacy.

  8. Isn’t it obvious, Shawn? He’s being crowded out by Chris Dodd.

    He’s got Dodd-ertia.

  9. Help me out here…why would a panel of powerful Democrats want to give GOPers advice on who to nominate? Perhaps they just want us to think that they don’t think that McCain is the most formidable candidate.

    Or perhaps they want us to think that they want us to think that they don’t think that…aaarrrghhhhh

  10. George Steponallofus gave JMcC a big, wet sloppy one on Monday’s Nightline. A saving grace is that they no longer keep to one topic per show, so the frenching only went on for about 6 or 7 minutes. Gahd, but the new format of that show is awful. It’s like the old one was crossed with Entertainment Tonight and Live at 5. It’s brutal.

    At least I had the sense to tape Letterman’s Larry “Bud” tribute show.


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