January 8, 2008


McCain and Romney: The Warrior and the To-Do List: The candidates make their last pitch in New Hampshire. (Byron York, 1/08/08, National Review)

Underlying Romney’s presentation was a reality that the several hundred supporters at the Elks Lodge didn’t see: the Romney campaign is divided. Those divisions have been present for quite a while but, as always happens when things go wrong, have intensified after Romney’s defeat in Iowa. The simple version of the conflict is that some Romney advisers had always seen his campaign as a super-competent, outside-the-ways-of-Washington appeal. Early in 2007, when the Republican frontrunner was John McCain, the Romney plan of attack on McCain was to portray him as a Washington insider, too old, tired, and deeply ingrained in the capital to be an effective president. But then, last summer, McCain’s campaign imploded and illegal immigration became a hot issue. Romney’s campaign took other turns, and the outsider stuff was left behind. Now, with McCain back, and with the example of Barack Obama’s success in Iowa, Romney has returned, very late in the game, to the old idea. If he had campaigned on that theme all along, he wouldn’t face accusations of desperation and opportunism today.

Twenty miles away, in the lovely town center of Exeter, John McCain’s Straight Talk Express — just one bus, instead of the normal two, because one had broken down earlier in the day — pulled up in front of the Town Hall. A few hundred people were waiting; it wasn’t a huge crowd, but it was a good turnout for an outdoor event, probably made bigger by the very mild temperatures.

Standing on the steps of Town Hall, McCain concentrated on just two issues: the war on terror and federal spending — numbers 1(a) and 4 from Romney’s to-do list. He went on at some length about the threat from al Qaeda, both in Iraq and around the world, and vowed again, as he had in an over-caffeinated moment at the first Republican debate in California many months ago, “My friends, I will get Osama bin Laden if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, and I will bring him to justice.” McCain also brought up the case of Adam Gadahn, the American who joined al-Qaeda and tore up his passport in a newly-released propaganda tape. “Someday, I’ll make that young man regret that he tore up his American passport,” McCain said, to great applause. You got the idea that McCain wouldn’t mind doing it personally.

“Please don’t forget this,” McCain continued. “If you forget everything I say to you tonight, al Qaeda’s on the run, [but] they’re not defeated. I know these brave young Americans are succeeding, and I know over time the Iraqi military will take over more of their responsibilities, and our men and women who are serving in Iraq will come home, but they’ll come with honor and not in defeat. Not in defeat!” The crowd cheered and cheered.

McCain turned to a few remarks about federal spending, vowing to veto pork-barrel projects. But unlike Romney, on this last night of the campaign he had no new pitch, nothing new to say, choosing to stick to the two issues that, even with the intensity of the illegal immigration question, are the ones most Republicans think are most important.

...and you can't help but appear opportunistic and desperate when you change your mind on everything from abortion to immigration just to make yourself palatable politically.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 8, 2008 12:19 PM
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