Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Opinionator: A blog at the New York Times by Tobin Harshaw & Chris Suellenthorp

John McCain is in trouble in Iowa and nationally,” writes Des Moines Register political columnist David Yepsen. “He and his campaign seem flat. They lack the sparkle they had in 2000. Support for an unpopular war and immigration bill is hurting, and there’s talk he’ll have to fold.”

What happened? “McCain’s decline reflects a flawed campaign strategy,” suggests The New Republic’s John Judis. “He set out to become the ‘Republican establishment’ candidate.” Unfortunately, the Republican establishment didn’t like him. “As his poll and fund-raising numbers illustrate, this strategy appears to have failed,” Judis writes. “McCain has not been able to alter his image sufficiently to attract conservative donors or voters. Unlike, say, Mitt Romney, McCain has not been able to perform an ideological makeover.” Judis adds:

The absence of conservative support has left McCain as the candidate of independents and moderates, as he was in 2000. But McCain has had to divide this vote with Giuliani and, in the Northeast, with Romney. Most revealing is a Survey USA poll last month of California Republicans, where McCain trailed Giuliani by 32 to 19 percent, Thompson also at 19 percent. McCain bested his 19 percent share among voters who identified themselves as moderate or liberal, were pro-choice, were convinced that the threat of global warming was real, supported same-sex marriage, favored stem-cell research, and didn’t own a gun. Oh yes, he was also favored by 24 percent of Republicans who had voted for Kerry in 2004. Unfortunately, Giuliani did somewhat better among these voters, while he and Thompson did much better than McCain among the more conservative voters.

McCain’s disappointing money-raising so far this year, combined with his campaign’s overspending and overstaffing, should be judged as a management failure on McCain’s part, says Philip Klein on the staff blog of The American Spectator. Klein writes:

All three Republicans have argued that restoring fiscal discipline and making the government run more efficiently would be one of their primary goals as president, so I think it’s fair to look at how they are managing their campaign bank accounts as part of the overall analysis of how they would run the country. I’m probably more sympathetic to McCain than a lot of my fellow conservatives, but thus far his money management skills leave something to be desired. Let’s see if he can turn things around.