February 6, 2008


McCain's political rebound defied popular wisdom (Elisabeth Bumiller and David D. Kirkpatrick, February 6, 2008, NY Times)

McCain's big victories on Tuesday night, which gave him a commanding lead in the race for his party's nomination, represented one of the most remarkable resurrection stories in recent American politics. How it happened has as much to do with events beyond McCain's control — the success of the troop buildup he supported in Iraq, Rudolph Giuliani's decision not to contest New Hampshire — as it does with the stubbornness of McCain, a former prisoner of war, to stick it out.

But McCain was also helped by factors that defied conventional wisdom. His support for an overhaul of immigration law rallied Hispanic Republicans pivotal to his success in Florida. His decision to narrate a television commercial about how moved he was when one of his North Vietnamese captors drew a cross in the sand for him at Christmas helped him win over many conservative Christians in South Carolina, even as national evangelical leaders denounced him for voting against their causes.

A critical factor in his comeback was his campaign's decision to pour almost all of its scarce resources into trying to make an early splash in New Hampshire, a small state that fit McCain's budget and his style of campaigning in intimate town hall meetings.

...can an opinion that ignores the entire history of Republican nominations in the open primary era be considered "wisdom"? Disbelief in history might better be termed extraordinary popular delusion and the madness of pundits.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 6, 2008 10:47 AM

I meant to ask you this earlier - how was George W. Bush the next in line for 2000? It seems that McCain was the next in line, what with all of his years as Senator and Bush was just a 1.5 term governor of TX.
Obviously, you were right, but I'm trying to figure out why.

Posted by: Bryan at February 6, 2008 12:08 PM

Because it's the New York Times and they're about as clueless as it gets. Their election analysis is laughable. It's as if they were trying to always be wrong.

Posted by: Mike at February 6, 2008 12:24 PM

Next in line in the Republican Party does not necessarily mean seniority in age. It means, based on a number of factors (executive experience, legislative leadership, electability, other candidates), who is the best candidate to lead the Party in the next election?

(Please note that I said the Republican Party, not the conservative movement. Hell, for all I know, the movement conservatives might think that Santorum is the next in line for the leader of the conservatives.)

Posted by: sam at February 6, 2008 12:32 PM

A poll right after the 1992 election showed Jack Kemp as the first choice among Republicans for the 1996 nomination, and George Bush as the second choice. He consistently did well in these kinds of polls for several years prior to 2000; McCain did not yet have the same level of name recognition nationwide.

W solidified that advantage by doing a good job as governor of Texas, doing more to build the Republican Party of Texas than anyone had before, and communicating a compelling national message early and consistently. That's how he became "next in line".

Posted by: James Haney at February 6, 2008 12:52 PM

Bush was ahead of McCain in executive experience but behind in legislative leadership and electability.

Posted by: Bryan at February 6, 2008 12:55 PM

Aristocracy. McCain's father was only an admiral and he's only a Senator. W's was a President and his grandfather a Senator and he a governor of a big southern state. Recall that as early as '94 Jeb was thought to be next in line, until Lawton Chiles's hijinks delayed him a year. McCain would have lost to Jeb this time.

Posted by: oj at February 6, 2008 1:01 PM

Ohhhh...I get it. I didn't even know that George W. Bush was being mentioned in polls in '92.

Posted by: Bryan at February 6, 2008 1:58 PM

As soon as he won TX in '94 he moved onto the short list. Recall that in '00 he was thought to not even have any competition, until McCain won NH.

Posted by: oj at February 6, 2008 3:15 PM


Not in '92.

Posted by: oj at February 6, 2008 3:17 PM


Well, the poll I'm referring to really happened in '92, a month or so after the election. (Or maybe it was January '93.) I read it in one of the three newsweeklies--probably U.S. News and World Report, but maybe Time or Newsweek. The accompanying blurb emphasized how premature it was to conduct such a poll.

It shocked the pollsters who conducted the survey; they thought that people were confusing him with his dad. At that point, they probably were.

So it's just an empirical corroboration of your "aristocracy" answer.

Posted by: James Haney at February 6, 2008 5:21 PM

I'm dubious. No one even knew he existed then.

Posted by: oj at February 6, 2008 7:10 PM