McCain Bouncing Back?

South Carolina political analyst Lee Bandy thinks John McCain may be this season’s “Comeback Kid.” The former frontrunner was written off a few months ago and his campaign organization looked to be in shambles. He’s still not setting any fundraising records, but his campaign suddenly looks viable. Why?

McCain was helped by progress in Iraq and a strong showing in a recent New Hampshire debate.

Also, the John McCain of old is back, saying what he means and letting the chips fall where they may. He is much more comfortable campaigning as an insurgent than as an insider. […] “What we are seeing is a genuine John McCain on the stump,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a longtime McCain supporter.

That’s right, I think. More importantly, though, the immigration debate — on which he was on the opposite side from the overwhelming portion of the Republican base — has moved from its former fever pitch to seemingly forgotten status.

Also, frankly, McCain benefits from the public finding out more about his opponents. Fred Thompson arrived on the scene with much fanfare and has, thus far at least, looked rather unimpressive in his formal campaign. Mitt Romney, despite superior organization in key early primary states, still hasn’t caught fire. Rudy Giuliani maintains his position as frontrunner but looks increasingly like a one trick pony.

Still, McCain has some pretty daunting problems. Most notably,

Recent public opinion surveys show McCain is viewed less favorably by voters today than he was four years ago. “Polls show that he isn’t that well liked,” Woodard said. “His negatives are too high.”

Recall, too, that McCain lost badly in 2000. He won a handful of early primaries, notably Michigan and New Hampshire, almost entirely on the strength of Democrats crossing over to vote in the GOP primary. McCain was never particularly popular with the Base and he’s done much since then to alienate them.

Guys like McCain and Joe Biden, who seem to shoot from the hip and give honest answers to questions, appeal to intellectuals and journalists but not so much to ordinary voters. Those of us who are political junkies pay close and constant attention to campaigns and get tired of the same old stump speech boilerplate. That rhetoric, though, has been focus-grouped to appeal to those who hear the sound bytes only once or twice.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Diane C. Russell says:

    McCain’s record shows that:

    he does not believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights

    he does believe the federal government should interfere in local decisions and force unfunded mandates upon state and local governments

    he does not believe in fiscal responsibility

    I’ve never voted for a Democrat for national office, but Hilary scares me lass than McCain does.

  2. McGehee says:

    The last time the GOP nominated an over-70 Senator for president, it didn’t work out. I don’t think McCain is any more electable than Dole was.