Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What's John McCain's Plan?

As long as I've been watching politics, there's been a fundamental strategy for any Republican who wants to win the Presidency: lock up the conservative vote during the primaries, then tack to the middle. John McCain seems to be ignoring this.

In the last few months, what actions and decisions have gained McCain widespread attention? He helped avert a 'nuclear showdown' through his role in the Gang of 14. He's spoken at the New School Commencement, and the commencement at Liberty University. He's criticized Limbaugh, Dobbs, and Michael Savage. He's announced against the Federal Marriage Amendment. He's told Imus that he would rather have clean government than free speech. He's prominently worked with Ted Kennedy to pass an amnesty for illegal immigrants in the US.

John McCain doesn't look to me like someone whose trying to win conservatives.

Some of his prominent actions attract support from conservatives. In this brief list, they are the two commencement addresses. But they don't seem to be part of a 'strategy,' since McCain follows them up immediately by angering conservatives (FMA and immigration). John McCain appears still to be a candidate who wants to be who he is, even if it doesn't win conservatives.

Now first off, no one says he has to. If McCain would rather be right than be popular (with conservatives), that's great. I can respect that. We've always known that he believes things very deeply, and has a hard time 'trimming his sails.'

But that's probably not consistent with winning the GOP nomination in 2008. Now I'll add a caveat: it's early. Primary season doesn't heat up for more than a year. Maybe he plans to wait until the new Congress to more prominently feature his conservative views: cutting spending, fighting terrorism, and supporting right-to-life causes.

But if McCain seems committed to seeking the Presidency, and he doesn't seem constrained by a goal of winning the Republican nomination, then what are his plans? To the extent that there is a unifying strategy behind McCain's actions today, he looks to me like someone content not to get the Republican nomination. If that's the case, is he preparing to seek the White House as an Independent?

If you find this interesting, check out my look back at the 2008 Presidential campaign, or just look around.

No comments: