Can McCain Win?
It is official—John McCain is the Republican nominee. Mitt Romney represented the only conceivable obstacle to his nomination, and his withdrawal from the race has made McCain a lock for the nomination.
John McCain is in good position to win the White House—I am not sure that he could hope for better. He emerged relatively unscathed from the primary process. As the rest of the candidates battled it out, McCain’s lack of frontrunner status served him well. While the frontrunners took heat from all sides, McCain stood out of the fray, emerging as a favorite after many of the candidates had been eliminated.
Helping McCain even more was Mitt Romney’s mature and well-considered decision to withdraw from the race. It was nearly impossible to envision a scenario in which Romney could have won the nomination, but he could have hurt McCain’s chances in the general election by hammering home the theme that McCain is not a conservative.
However, his withdrawal gives McCain time to attempt to win over conservatives. In addition, while the Democrat nominee takes relentless fire from his (or her) opponent, McCain will have the luxury of attacking his opponents while they are distracted, as they attempt to win the nomination of their party.
McCain’s signature issues are turning into the dominant ones of the campaign. The Iraq War, earmarks and pork barrel spending, and corruption in government are all key issues in this election. McCain advocated the surge long before anyone else, which will be a significant advantage in the general election. McCain has been a crusader against pork spending and corruption. The Democrats promised to end these practices—and failed miserably. McCain can reasonably expect that voters might give a member of the other party a chance.
There is one enormous obstacle in the way of McCain: conservatives. Some will gravitate to him simply because he is the Republican nominee, others will move towards him after the inevitable media attacks overemphasize his conservatism. These folks will figure anyone attacked by the mainstream media cannot be all bad.
But there are a large number of conservatives who with seriously consider withholding their vote from McCain. McCain will have to win these individuals over.
One move that would attract conservative support would be to nominate a rock-solid conservative as his running mate. Someone like, say, Fred Thompson. Thompson is a longtime friend of McCain, and has unquestionable conservative credentials. If McCain nominates Fred, then a great many conservatives will bury their doubts and vote for McCain.
Another thing that McCain absolutely must do is to make his peace with Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh is intelligent, entertaining, and fair, but he also has a large ego. He sees himself as the standard bearer of conservatism, and he probably is. But as long as McCain retains his dislike for Rush, he will receive little support from talk radio.
He needs Limbaugh’s support. If John McCain wants to become President of the United States, he will have to find common ground with Rush. This will be difficult, but probably not impossible. Limbaugh probably does not wish to see Hillary Clinton in the White House, and may agree to support McCain, provided that he feels McCain will govern at least somewhat conservatively.
If he can, he will be in excellent position to win the election. Hillary and Obama will probably fight well into April, and possibly beyond. If Hillary wins the nomination, as seems likely, McCain he will get a huge number of anti-Hillary voters.
In order to have a realistic shot at winning in November, John McCain will have to appoint a conservative running mate, make his peace with Rush, and hope that Hillary gets the nomination. If all of these things occur, John McCain could very easily win the Presidency