Schwarzenegger, Giuliani and McCain Republicans
RealClearPolitics‘ John McIntyre reminds us that the 2004 convention gave President Bush a large bounce in the polls, while the Democratic convention did next to nothing for John Kerry. He’s got an interesting theory on why that was:
Who did Karl Rove and the GOP strategists chose to put front and center on prime-time television for the American people? Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Zell Miller.
These prime-time speaking slots were not an accident. For a President who was struggling with sub-50% job approval ratings (ratings that many pundits felt would ensure his loss) these four speakers were meant to send a clear message to Independents and moderate Democrats that they were welcome – and wanted – in a big tent, majority Republican Party.
Starting Tuesday in the state that delivered George W. Bush the presidency in 2000 and in California yesterday and today with the Giuliani and Schwarzenegger endorsements, the Bush/Cheney baton has been passed to John McCain.
Many on the more conservative side of the Republican Party are balking now that the Schwarzenegger, Giuliani, McCain faction looks likely to be the standard bearer in 2008. But with President Bush’s approval ratings hovering in the low 30’s (as opposed to the high 40’s of 2004) and after the wipe out in 2006 where the GOP was annihilated in the Northeast and basically everywhere outside of the South, the Republican party is putting forth – either through luck, serendipity, or design – its most competitive general election candidate, by far.
With the country screaming for change and very ready for a Democratic president, George W. Bush would not win a third term. But if the Democrats nominate the divisive Hillary Clinton over the inspiring Barack Obama, John McCain will be in a very strong position to keep the White House in Republican hands, with one caveat.
Without Schwarzenegger, Giuliani and McCain voters in 2004 George Bush would have lost to John Kerry and without Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and evangelical voters in 2008 John McCain does not have a chance against Hillary Clinton.
He’s right on both counts.
With Michelle Malkin saying she wouldn’t vote for McCain over Hillary Clinton and the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, and Bob Novak questioning McCain’s conservative credentials, McCain clearly has a lot of work to do to persuade staunch conservatives that he has far more in common with them than they think.
At the same time, though, McCain’s strength as a general election candidate is that he’s not viewed as an extremist. The hard-line Republican platform on torture, immigration, and the environment is a sure-fire loser in November. Not only does it ensure the GOP will never again be a strong contender in places like California and New York but it means that purple states like Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, Ohio, and elsewhere are likely to slide into the blue column.
McCain needs the support of staunch conservatives to win the election. They’re a critical part of his base. But they’re a damned sight short of a majority.
Photo: Charles Dharapak, AP