As John McCain prepares to re-launch his campaign, I thought I'd offer some suggestions. First off, it's smart for him to focus on winning the war in Iraq. As the Post points out, polls show that 70 percent of Republicans support winning the war in Iraq. To promise that you will fight for victory in Iraq is sound politics. Some other ideas for campaign themes:
- Promise to expand the size of the US military It's clear that the wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other strategic and regional commitments, are taxing the US military. As Iran, North Korea, and even Venezuela have engaged in saber rattling and inflammatory rhetoric, many believe that the US is unable to respond militarily given our existing commitments. An expansion of the armed forces would increase flexibility and enhance the credibility of threats of action. It would also bolster the argument that we're serious about winning in Iraq and winning the War on Terror.
- Don't propose the largest tax cut Rudy Giuliani is staking a claim to the mantle of biggest supply-sider and biggest tax-cutter. Mitt Romney seems to want to compete with him. Don't try to outbid. First, you lack credibility. Second, your line is that it's more important to win the war. Commit to extending and making permanent some of the Bush tax cuts, and say that you would like to do that for all. But say that winning the war comes first. Also, stress your bona fides on fighting pork; you have more credibility on that than anyone else in the race.
- Seize on a domestic reform issue - such as schools or health care
- Promise to fix entitlement programs
- Promise to serve only one term It seems that nearly every Presidential election, there is some candidate who kicks around the idea of promising to serve only one term - to address concerns about age, or demonstrate a willingness to tackle controversial issues with politically-difficult solutions. This works for you for both reasons. So tell voters that you are on a mission - to win the war in Iraq, lay the groundwork for victory in the War on Terror (which will last for many years) and address critical challenges. And serving only one term will free you from concerns about re-election that might impair your ability to act decisively.
- Pick a Vice President early (Fred Thompson?)
Because you will only serve one term, your VP will have a leg up in the 2012 race. So name him or her early. I pick Fred Thompson because he is reported to be a good friend of yours, might be willing to forego the race in 2008 in exchange for an advantage in the 2012 race, and because he is clearly very popular. There are a limited number of choices for you, since you really can't pick another sitting Senator. I might look at Mark Sanford (a rising star from an important primary state), Condi Rice, Haley Barbour, Tommy Thompson, or even Jeb Bush