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Saturday, April 19, 2008

McCain's triangulation strategy

Mind boggling commentary from my favorite blog, Hullabaloo:


. . . despite the fact that many of the radio and TV bloviators are pretending that McCain has a problem with the base, he doesn't:
[ . . . ]
Bill Clinton famously said that Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line. There you have it. The Republican party is behind their nominee, just as they always are. The problem is whether they can get the independents and swing voters who have come to loathe Bush.

And that's where the media gasbags come in. They need to convince the independents that McCain isn't really a conservative. And the good news for the Republicans is that the free media believe it. They think he's the "coolest guy in school."
[ . . . ]
I have never bought this public loathing among the conservative cognoscenti for McCain. They're professional political operatives. They want to win. The whole show they put on at CPAC and on talk radio struck me as bizarre. Indeed, Coulter saying she would vote for Clinton should have been enough to tip us off that this was some kind of elaborate performance art piece.

It's not that they don't care about McCain's heresy on campaign finance reform and illegal immigration, or despise him for his sanctimony. But they don't care about that more than McCain's national security policy, which is their obsession, and raison d'etre. McCain is their best hope to win and continue the glorious GWOT.

He kissed all the right hems and he made all the right pilgrimages to the social conservatives and that is what they require. (In fact, like many petty tyrants, they actually prefer it when the person requesting an audience is insincerely seeking their favor. It's a sign of their power.) McCain embraces the conservative label and will let them have their way as much as he can get away with --- certainly on judges ---because he just doesn't give a damn about them. They know this. It's all about war with him. It's what he does.

Now, I'm not saying that there aren't some in the GOP rank and file who do hate him. But the radio gasbags and the religious poohbahs don't work independently of the party's wishes. When I heard Bill Bennett railing against McCain on CNN as he wound up the primaries even though he'd maxed out for McCain in contributions, it was clear to me that this was a strategy. (Bennett is an out and proud supporter now.)

The Republicans know the brand has been severely damaged by Bush. They can read polls as well as anyone. So, they helped the supine media brush off their 2000 narrative and pretended that despite everything he's done in the past eight years, McCain isn't a Real Republican. They continue to perpetuate the myth that he's mistrusted by the Republican base in order to help him triangulate against Bush. What better way to do it than to trot out Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh's to call him a traitor to conservatism? That's music to the independent swing voter's ear in 2008 and they know it.

The conservatives never get enough credit for being pragmatic. They are. When faced with the total repudiation of their most precious ideals in the wreckage of the worst presidency ever, they picked the one guy in their whole party who any voter could possibly believe wasn't a loyal Bushie.


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