McCain’s Path to Victory
NBC News political director Chuck Todd outlines how John McCain could, despite problems with the Republican brand, win the White House against either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. He makes several key points:
- McCain is perhaps the only Republican who could win in this cycle. (Indeed, as some GOP staffers have noted, he’s running 15 points ahead of the “generic Republican” in private polls.)
- Even “if he were to lose the race he should be able to save a few Senate seats (say 2-3) and a handful of House seats (perhaps 10).”
- Despite conventional wisdom, the continuing fight between Clinton and Obama is bad for McCain.
- McCain “will run two very different campaigns depending on whom he faces.”
The last two points are especially critical:
Currently polls show McCain either narrowly ahead or even with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. It is impressive considering how poorly the GOP, and specifically the president, are viewed by the public.
But it is a faux lead. If the de facto Democratic nominee is clear within the next 4-6 weeks, that person will see a poll bounce. And according to GOP pollster Steve Lombardo, it could be one heck of a bounce, like post-convention. He anticipates the Democratic candidate will move up 10 points once the primary race is over.
Exactly right. Just as Republicans who favored other candidates in the primaries rallied to McCain after absorbing the reality, so will supporters of the loser mostly rally for the Democrats. While some Clinton supporters will switch to McCain, or sit out, if Obama wins and vice-versa, those numbers are likely to be negligible. The current polls reflect passion for candidates who still have a change; ultimately, partisans will revert to form.
He will either be the steady hand in uncertain times vs. Obama, or he’ll be the breath of fresh air and openness in a campaign against Clinton.
If Clinton is the foe, McCain will be using a target map that looks very similar to the one George Bush pursued in ’00 and ’04. The emphasis will be on the Midwest and West, as he may be able to pick off a few blue states like Oregon or Wisconsin.
If Obama is the foe, McCain’s geographic emphasis is likely to shift East to the Rust Belt, Michigan and Pennsylvania in particular, and even to the Northeast.
There are credible paths to victory for McCain regardless of his opponent. But the easier path — or the more comfortable one for McCain — appears to be a campaign against Clinton.
Then again, it’s looking exceedingly unlikely Clinton will pull off the comeback.
Obama is going to be the nominee, barring some major development. His charisma, youth, and energy is going to be hard to run against, especially with a public tired of eight years of a Republican president, tired of a war with no end in sight, and worried about their ability to make ends meet. McCain’s only real advantage will also be his greatest liability: His decades of experience/he’s older than the hills.