McCain Cornering Guru Market

John Broder notes in today’s NYT that John McCain is assembling the most impressive team of expert advisors and organizers of the putative 2008 Republican presidential wannabes.

Senator John McCain is locking up a cast of top-shelf Republican strategists, policy experts, fund-raisers and donors, in a methodical effort to build a 2008 presidential campaign machine, drawing supporters of President Bush despite the sometimes rocky history between the two men.


His still-informal network includes Richard L. Armitage, the former deputy secretary of state; John A. Thain, chief executive of the New York Stock Exchange; and Sig Rogich, who directed the advertising for the 1988 and 1992 presidential campaigns of Mr. Bush’s father. He is reaching out to Christian conservatives, who helped sink his 2000 presidential bid, by enlisting the aid of figures like Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah and former Senator Dan Coats of Indiana, both of whom have strong evangelical followings. His growing kitchen cabinet spans an array of issues and backgrounds, and includes James Jay Baker, a former lobbyist for the National Rifle Association; Niall Ferguson, a historian at Harvard; and Barry McCaffrey, who was the drug czar under President Bill Clinton.

This leads to inevitable talk about McCain’s frontrunner status and the GOP nominating electorate’s penchant for turning to the guy whose “turn” it is.

Dan Drezner wonders “Who’s going to McCain McCain?” That is, “[W]ho’s going to play the role of insurgent outsider to McCain’s front-runner?” He invites readers to chime in with suggestions and points to Doug Mankiw‘s observation that only McCain and Rudy Giuliani have garnered any significant momentum on TradeSports and other online political speculation markets.

Indeed, Broder notes that Giuliani seems to be trying to keep pace with McCain:

There is a whiff of opportunism among those signing on early with Mr. McCain as loyalties begin to migrate from the president to those who would succeed him, and Mr. McCain’s potential rivals for the Republican nomination are all scrambling to keep up with him in the hunt for money, expertise and ideological credentials. Rudolph W. Giuliani’s political action committee signed Anne Dickerson, who ran Mr. Bush’s Pioneer and Ranger fund-raiser program. Senator George Allen of Virginia has lined up Ed Gillespie, the former chairman of the Republican Party and a Bush backer; Mary Matalin, a close adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney and to the first President Bush; and Frank J. Donatelli, a consultant and former Reagan aide. And Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts is working with Ron Kaufman, who was a political adviser to the first President Bush and a major fund-raiser for the current president.

McCain and Giuliani are the only two of the bunch that have any substantial name recognition at the national level, so it’s not surprising that they’re leading the pack this far out. Allen and Romney have surrounded themselves with top notch folks as well but they’re not going to get too many commitments until they can demonstrate that they have a legitimate shot at emerging as credible contenders.

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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. Steve says:

    The idea that R’s tend to nominate “the guy whose turn it is” is thinly supported.

    Since 1940 the R’s have nominated:

    1940: Wilkie. Dark horse. Not HIS turn
    1944: Dewey. Sacrifical lamb.
    1948: Dewey. HIS first real turn
    1952: Ike. Unknown political qty. Not HIS turn
    1956: Ike.
    1960: Nixon. Incumbent VP. HIS turn.
    1964: Goldwater. DRAFTED by all accounts.
    1968: Nixon. Had his turn once before.
    1972: Nixon.
    1976: Ford. Incumbent, ran with Bob Dole
    1980: Reagan. If it was HIS turn, there were sure a lot of R’s who did not agree.
    1984: Reagan.
    1988: Geo HW Bush. Incumbent VP. HIS turn.
    1992: Geo HW Bush
    1996: Bob Dole. Yes, it was HIS turn.
    2000: Geo W. Bush. It can’t be your turn if you have only been in politics six years.

    Nominating a sitting VP is not really giving somebody their turn. It’s smart politics.

    If you deduct the sitting VPs from the equation what do you have left? Dewey, Dole and maybe Reagan. Although I would argue ’til the cows come home that Reagan was every bit the outsider that Carter and Clinton were. Popular with the rank and file, but not with the party elites.

    Nominees whose primary qualification is patience and party loyalty don’t win the Presidency.

    Politics has changed dramatically since the ’60s. I think the better hypothesis is that sitting Senators don’t win the Presidency. That’s not good news for McCain or Hillary.