McCain Running Different Race than in 2000
Jonathan Martin observes that John McCain is a much different man on the campaign stump than he during his 2000 run.
In 2000, McCain lost the Republican presidential nomination but established himself as perhaps the most arresting politician of his generation with a rollicking campaign style that mingled startling candor with towel-snapping humor and nearly inexhaustible high spirits.
This weekend in Iowa, McCain’s old ebullience was replaced by a mood that seemed to fluctuate between sober and downright morose as he and the voters he met kept returning to a single topic: Iraq.
This isn’t particularly surprising. We are now in the midst of a shooting war. In 2000, despite al Qaeda having declared war on us four years earlier, we thought we were at peace.
Further, McCain is now a clear frontrunner in a party that tends to give its nomination to the guy whose “turn” it is. As in sports, being ahead tends to lead to a much more conservative play-not-to-lose style. That’s boring and even frustrating from a fan’s standpoint–and anybody paying attention to the 2008 race at this point is essentially a fan–but perfectly understandable strategically. If you’re trying to make up ground, then playing free and loose can garner attention and enthusiasm. But it’s high risk, high reward. Ask Joe Biden.
Finally, McCain is eight years older than he was eight years ago. (You can look it up.) The man turned 70 last August. And he’s not a young 70, thanks to seven years of torture at the hands of the Viet Cong. It’s going to be hard to be energetic for a long campaign.