Writing Off McCain

John McCain Comeback Codger Max Follmer amuses himself with “A Media Retrospective On McCain,” which highlights the many people who wrote McCain’s campaign obituary last summer.

While I went out on a limb on December 12 and predicted McCain would win not only the nomination but the presidency, which looks much more plausible now than it did then, when he was fifth in the national polls, I was as guilty as most in writing him off early.

In a June piece, “McCain Done Before Primaries?” I wrote,

McCain has long been distrusted by the base but he at least had the support of independents, who thought of him as a “maverick” and a “straight talker.” Unfortunately for him, he is bucking the tide by backing the president on the two least popular issues, the war and illegal immigration. I just don’t see how he turns around the numbers given that.

In mid June, reacting to a Dan Balz piece on McCain’s staff shakeup, I snarked,

Balz notes the parallels with John Kerry, who seemed doomed, shook up his staff, and ran away with the nomination in 2004. The difference, though, is that McCain doesn’t have a wife who inherited a ketchup fortune.

The following day, agreeing with a Politico piece on “The McCain Meltdown,” I observed that the fact that the Republican nominating electorate dislikes and distrusts him “would have ultimately made it impossible for him to win all by its lonesome.”

More amusingly, I greeted a late October email from Patrick Hynes, McCain’s blogger relations guy, about his candidate’s plan to stage his comeback via New Hampshire by responding, “But McCain’s a distant third in NH. Is there a Plan B?” Turns out not to have been needed.

As prognostications go, I suppose it’s better to be wrong early and right late than vice-versa. But it’s all just guessing, really.

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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. John says:

    I find it interesting that McCain has been able to gain celebrity and political endorsements, while Romney has pretty much been left out of that loop. Romney is right, he is not a Washington insider, but in this case it is hurting him a little bit.

  2. just me says:

    I am not so sure the average conservative voter will pass up on voting for McCain, if he wins the nomination.

    I think many will realize at some point voting for McCain is still better than letting Hillary or Obama win. They may not come out as McCain supporters, but I bet they end up voting for him with their fingers pinching their noses.

    A year ago I would have said McCain was at the top of my “not voting for him” list. Shoot in the various straw polls over the last year I often clicked “unacceptable” by his name. But in the end I voted for him in the primary. Not because I love him or am extremely passionate about him, but because he seemed to be the best pick from the choices I was given.

    I am not sure if he will win the primary, much less the general election, but I do think he is a better candidate than the other choices, and he is much closer to the average voter in policy position than either democratic front runner.

  3. anjin-san says:

    The difference, though, is that McCain doesn’t have a wife who inherited a ketchup fortune.

    My understanding is that McCain’s wife, while not rich to the extent of Heiz, is wealthy and provides most of the family income.

  4. Anderson says:

    I’d heard the same as Anjin-san, via Yglesias. Beer, not ketchup. And lousy beer, whereas Heinz is really good ketchup. Lively drug-abuse history as well.

  5. Steve Plunk says:

    Just me is correct. I would consider myself part of the conservative base and while McCain isn’t my choice as the Republican nominee I will certainly support him over the Democratic offering. It’s not that tough of a decision either. If he picks up a good VP choice I would expect him to win over both Dem front runners.

  6. Steven Donegal says:

    McCain is too old and this will become more obvious as the spotlight shifts to him. He is also a crappy campaigner. The national media love him, but at this point, that’s his main strength. In a one on one matchup with either Clinton or Obama, he loses.

  7. grampagravy says:

    I think McCain can beat Clinton. The decision will be based on “more of the same” but “who’s going to do the least damage.”
    On the other hand, if it’s Obama, the Republicans can go home and forget all about the election. People who have never voted, or gave up long ago, will come out for Obama because (knock it all you like) “hope” and “change” are what they are looking for.

  8. FireWolf says:

    I am not so sure the average conservative voter will pass up on voting for McCain, if he wins the nomination.

    What exactly IS an “average conservative voter”? Because I have to say that I have a STRONG dislike for Hillary; it’s time to end the Bush/Clinton monopoly, and I wouldn’t exactly favor Obama, but if McCain gets the nomination….

    Hello Democrat President.

    No Lie.

    I would vote for Ron Paul before McCain EVER got my vote.

  9. just me says:

    What exactly IS an “average conservative voter”?

    By average I mean those who consider themselves conservative but aren’t necessarily political junkies or well known conservatives in the media or entertainment-but even then I imagine many of the political junkies would still vote for McCain over the democratic nominee if push came to shove come November.

    And I admit, I don’t grasp why somebody who strongly identifies as conservative would vote for Obama. What exactly does Obama bring that benefits conservatism?

    Staying at home, or voting for some as yet unnamed third party candidate is one thing, but casting a vote for the guy who doesn’t have an ounce of conservatism in him to vote against the guy who is at the very least conservative on some positions doesn’t make sense if you identify as a conservative.

    Right of center people I can see liking Obama, because chances are they may be in agreement on some things, but a conservative?

  10. FireWolf says:

    Your answer to that question is, if voting for a conservative candidate means I am sticking to my guns and I have either McCain or Hillary/Obama you tell me which candidate of any of these 3 are conservatives?

    I surmise that none of them are.

    So in essence I am “throwing” away my vote for the lesser of 3 evils? lol

    (psssssttttt…. there is no such thing)

  11. bains says:

    If nominated…

    The final irony will be on Nov. 2 2008, when the Republican base, by and large, writes off Sen. McCain. He will become President, or not, based upon votes from Democrats. If it is Hillary, he will win, if Obama, he’ll be crushed.

    If nominated, I’ll be sitting on the sidelines. McCain has thrown too many thumbs in my eye while in the scrum for me to expect he will actually fight for my team.

    Hillary, or Barak, is worse…

    Probably, but I’ve no energy to fight for a candidate that hates me so.

    McCain should have been written off long ago, but the coastal elites, quasi-right, are far too concerned with winning elections rather than winning wars (of ideas). A smaller and less intrusive government is all I ask for. McCain-Feingold, McCain-Kennedy, McCain-Liebermann does not cut it. McCain’s animus towards his own party seals the deal.

    Hail President Clinton!

  12. davod says:

    The Terminator has been sticking to the Republicans in California since he became governor. Just maybe, the California Republicans will see the primary as a way to stick it to the Terminator.

    Here’s hoping they vote for Romney.

  13. Koremori says:

    McCain’s “more wars” remark will be the Willie Horton slash Daisy Girl of this election if he is the GOP nominee.

    I agree completely with Pat Buchanan on this. McCain embodies the worst of George Bush’s policies (perpetual neocon war, amnesty for illegals, and free trade globalism). The policies that are bankrupting this nation.