August 27, 2006


The McCain Makeover (Glenn Frankel, August 27, 2006, Washington Post Magazine)

DON'T LOOK NOW, but 26 months before November 2008 the race for president has already started. McCain and his potential rivals are out on the campaign trail virtually every week. They are raising money and support for federal and state candidates in the 2006 election. But they are also collecting chits, building name recognition and garnering backers for the presidential campaign to come.

"Teddy White must be turning over in his grave," says John Weaver, McCain's chief campaign strategist, referring to the late author of The Making of the President books. "I can't believe we're doing this so early."

But doing it they are. And no one more assiduously, nor with more apparent success, than McCain, who has vaulted to the front of the GOP field. Early polls indicate he gets twice as much support as any other likely Republican candidate except Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, who runs close behind. Even in liberal, blue-state strongholds such as Massachusetts, McCain runs even with or better than the two most recognizable Democratic names, Hillary Clinton and Al Gore. As a former Navy pilot who was shot down over Hanoi and spent more than five years as a prisoner of war, he's got impeccable military credentials and stature, and a reputation for bipartisanship and fierce independence that appeals to a broad spectrum of voters. He's also got star power: Turn on your television most days, and you'll find McCain on one of the morning talkfests or on "Larry King Live," "Imus" or "Hannity and Colmes."

Many of the Republican professionals who once wrote off McCain as the loosest of political cannons say they are surprised and impressed at the careful, disciplined way he and his staff have gone about establishing his as yet undeclared candidacy. He is laboring hard to become the presumptive candidate for a party that almost always nominates the presumptive candidate.

"He's very much where George W. Bush was in 1998 and '99 -- getting his team established, trying to create that same air of inevitability that Karl Rove tried to create around Bush," says Saul Anuzis, chairman of Michigan's Republican Party, referring to Bush's political Rasputin.

Still, there are many rivers to cross before November 2008. McCain has to vanquish a formidable cast of possible Republican opponents, which could include Sens. George Allen (Va.), Sam Brownback (Kan.), Bill Frist (Tenn.) and Chuck Hagel (Neb.), along with Newt Gingrich, Giuliani and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. He also faces a host of enemies among Republican interest groups and social conservatives who have not forgiven or forgotten his run as an iconoclastic insurgent in 2000 and who dislike some of the positions he currently holds on litmus-test issues such as the gay marriage amendment (he's against it) and stem cell research (he's for it).

As if he weren't a strong enough candidate in his own right, he's helped greatly by the featherweight nature of his opponents. Jeb Bush would obviously be a better president, but when he decided not to run the race was over.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 27, 2006 9:35 AM

He's on the record as being anti First Amendment and anti Second Amendment. He'll need to woo a lot of "independents" to make up for the vote deficit he'll accrue on the right.

Posted by: M. Murcek at August 27, 2006 11:10 AM

He's the Right's favorite pol--it's not a country that's friendly to the 1st.

Posted by: oj at August 27, 2006 11:28 AM

But it is friendly to the 2nd which protects the 1st.

He's too old.

Posted by: Sandy P at August 27, 2006 1:20 PM

McPain is a lost cause. One public flare-up of his temper and he's a goner.

Posted by: obc at August 27, 2006 1:49 PM

Temper always helps.

Posted by: oj at August 27, 2006 2:25 PM

Yeah, when you're tempering steel. He ain't no man of steel.

Posted by: obc at August 27, 2006 2:40 PM

Conventional Wisdom is seldom right. Thus neither McCain, nor Hillary will be their parties' nominees in 2008.

Posted by: ic at August 27, 2006 3:24 PM

Conventional wisdom has gotten every GOP nomination right in the primary era. It's a hierarchical party.

Posted by: oj at August 27, 2006 4:00 PM

The Southern primaries will spit-out McCain from its collective mouth. Mitt is the only choice palatable to the governing demographics of the GOP.

Posted by: Palmcroft at August 27, 2006 5:30 PM

To imagine a Mormon prevailing in the South is to betray a profound misunderstanding of reality.

Posted by: oj at August 27, 2006 5:55 PM


McCain doesn't like #1 or #2 - there's a word for that.

Posted by: Sandy P at August 27, 2006 8:31 PM


Rudy doesn't like the Declaration or the Constitution--he's anti-life and anti-liberty.

Posted by: oj at August 27, 2006 8:35 PM

Just as Kerry was the man who benefited from front-runner Dean crashing and burning, an acceptable second choice will take the nomination after McCain crashes and burns.

Who will it be? Despite his flaws, there is almost no one who doesn't like Giuliani.

Posted by: J Baustian at August 28, 2006 12:45 AM

And Rudy can read the polls as well as anyone else, he knows NY is out of step w/most of the country.

He can have a come to Jesus moment as well as anyone else. Besides, he's older and he has been forged.

Posted by: Sandy P at August 28, 2006 1:36 AM


Howard Dean and John Kerry are Democrats--the party of emotion often screws up its nominating process.

The GOP never has a front runner crash.

Posted by: oj at August 28, 2006 7:44 AM


A Mormaon will do just fine in the south, where they are seen as steady and conservative. What won't fly is a Mass. governor.


Posted by: randy at August 28, 2006 11:46 AM

Southern Baptists don't even consider Mormons to be Christian.

Posted by: oj at August 28, 2006 11:53 AM

OJ -

You need to be careful here - the knowledgable ones view McFein CFR as an encroachment on religion and the 2nd amendment. And while they might not go whole hog for Mitt, a large number will support Rudy based on his leadership alone. Ephemeral, yes. But if Rudy is patient and builds his organization such that it includes the Christian right, he can win.

McCain's hostility to the Christian right isn't going to be forgotten just because he hires Karl Rove, or even Michael Gerson.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 28, 2006 2:52 PM

"knowledgeable" means insiders, lobbysists and activists. McCain is only popular with voters.

Posted by: oj at August 28, 2006 4:16 PM


Speaking as a southern Baptist, we don't consider Jews to be Christian either, but we still vote for them.

Posted by: randy at August 28, 2006 4:32 PM

What state in the South did the Lieberman ticket carry?

Posted by: oj at August 28, 2006 4:39 PM