McCain Working for Dollars, Not Votes?
Andrew Malcolm has dissected John McCain’s schedule and concluded that he’s spending all his time scrounging for money rather than reaching out to voters.
Just 3 1/2 months out from the presidential election, McCain’s national campaign schedule is being driven by the quest for money, not by the hunt for votes in 50 individual state elections. All right, every campaign says it’s gonna compete everywhere. But they don’t. He’s always looking for votes wherever he goes. But wherever he goes is determined not by potential votes but by where his finance folks have found enough donate-able money to set up fundraisers.
For McCain for now his itinerary is built on the quest for dollar$, not votes. That helps explain the widespread sense of unease among many Republicans nationally who do not deny he’s working very hard. But they fear he wasted his three-month general election head start not defining himself and not driving home the all-important central message of why he wants to be president.
Do you know what McCain’s central message is? Do you know what his opponent’s central theme is? See the difference?
The worry that Barack Obama’s huge fundraising advantage has caused McCain to scramble to catch up is legitimate. McCain’s setting fundraising records and Obama’s still outraising him 2-to-1. This is mostly offset by much greater revenue flow and cash on hand by the RNC vice the DNC, but it’s a real issue. Obama may well have the luxury of spending money trying to win — or at least force McCain to spend resources defending — states where Democrats typically don’t bother campaigning.
The second argument — that Obama is doing a better job communicating his message — strikes me as silly, though. Obamas message is “The Change You’ve Been Hoping For” or some variant on that. Less poetically, it’s “I’m not George W. Bush!” McCain’s message is “It’s a dangerous world and you need a guy who’s demonstrated he can deal with danger to lead you.” Less pithy, to be sure, but it’s clear enough.
That McCain hasn’t closed the deal on this is hardly surprising. He’s a Republican and there’s a picture of him hugging the woefully unpopular President Bush out there. Further, while he’s different than Bush on a whole variety of issues, he wants to continue trying to win in Iraq, easily the least popular of the unpopular Bush’s unpopular policies. That’s not a messaging problem, though, but a product problem.
Beyond that, as I’ve maintained for months, McCain is overplaying the Vietnam POW card. While the image of him standing tall against torture in defense of his country and his honor is at the core of his message, he’s not going to win the presidency based on how courageous he was when his opponent was nine. He needs to be more foreward looking. As Stacy McCain (no relation) –observes that, “Appealing to patriotic geriatrics is all fine and good, but it’s hard to staff a campaign from the hip-replacement/coronary-stent crowd. McCain’s inability — or unwillingness — to consider the interests and concerns of younger voters is a major weakness, and not one that can be corrected in July.” And Stacy’s no spring chicken, I might add.
Amazingly, though, with all his disadvantages and all his opponent’s advantages — both in terms of personal qualities and external circumstances — he’s just barely behind. The RealClearPolitics average has him trailing by a mere 4.1 points. That the most exciting candidate in nearly half a century, running against an old man who doesn’t inspire his own party base and faced with an electorate itching to throw said party out on its backside, isn’t simply running away with the race at this point is astounding. Then again, everybody was writing John McCain off last summer, too.